January 17, 2018

Creating a Valuable Patient-Provider Relationship

By Ange Delgado

Ange Delgado leads the product team at Force

Implementing value-based care means improving or maintaining quality while reducing costs and variation. Given that many unnecessary costs occur when the patient is in the hospital, (and that shorter hospital stays decrease risk of infection) reducing length of stay is a priority. However, the less time patients spend in the hospital and around the care team, the more important it becomes to extend patient - provider communication outside the hospital.

The transfer of information from provider to patient is a critical element of successful care. Traditionally, that transfer occurs through in-person visits, hours of phone calls, and a paper packet of information that gets sent home with the patient. Providers remain a key source of patient instruction and direction, but intermittent phone calls and few in person office visits are not sufficient across an episode of care.

Many organizations are looking to technology to help them keep in touch with patients outside the hospital. The obvious solution is to use messaging tools to bridge the gap between patient and provider. While this is a good first step, simply opening up more access to 1:1 conversation might actually add work for providers rather than decrease it.

Building a messenger alone doesn’t replace the large educational paper packet that patients are sent home with and told to read. And it doesn’t help provider have better context for patients’ questions. Tech platforms have a unique ability to effectively answer questions before they need to be asked. Here are some important features for scaling communication:

Asynchronous messaging and telecommunication

Telehealth has been a buzzword for strategies in implementing value based care. While real-time video visits give providers a great sense of a patient’s progress, they are criticized for not actually saving providers much time. A solution to that problem is asynchronous video. Patients can send video updates demonstrating wound healing, range of motion, gait -- all without the need for the patient and provider to be sitting down at their computers at the same time. With asynchronous video, providers can review videos on their own time.

Real time data collection

Responding to patient concerns and questions about their progress can be difficult and inefficient without insight into their progress. Collecting and displaying data points including step count and pain level helps care team members understand the context for their patients concerns. This reduces the need for follow up questions and allows for swift, thorough responses.

Phased, digestible education

While it’s important to manage patient expectations and explain the care plan well ahead of the surgery, attempting to understand every detail at once can be overwhelming. Paper packets can be long and confusing, and long conversations during in-office visits can vary and be forgotten. Standardizing and delivering the details at the right time, and in the right medium, makes a big difference.

If the goal is truly to scale the most important and underutilized member of the Care Team -- the patient -- then care delivery itself has to change. Innovating around the way clinical information is shared is part of that shift. As care continues to move online, there is opportunity to create a new transparency and connectivity within the patient-provider relationship. Providers who adopt the right technology, can offer unprecedented levels of clarity to patients and Care Teams.