Making stronger connections for better population health

April 8, 2015 | Reply More

Terry_WebBy: Terry Edwards, CEO and Founder, PerfectServe, WLSA Member

 

We live in a time of quick and constant communication, where you can share a photo of your meal with millions of people even faster than you can take a bite. Despite the ease of communication in our everyday lives, as an industry, we in healthcare are still far behind the times.

My organization recently commissioned Harris Poll to conduct a survey of 955 medical professionals[1] to take a closer look at the way health care professionals collaborate with one another, and found that 71% of responding physicians[2] indicate they have wasted time trying to communicate with their broader care team, and 69% of clinicians[3] feel patient care is often delayed while waiting for important information about the patient.

This lack of connectedness can have real and negative results for patients and their providers. According to the Institute of Medicine[4], fragmented care and other inefficiencies cost the healthcare system at least $130 billion annually, and AHRQ reported that poor communication during care transitions can lead to duplicate testing, medication errors and lack of follow through on referrals[5].

Now that care teams are trying to communicate across a variety of care settings and through multiple patient transitions, these issues will only be exacerbated unless we begin to address the underlying issues of communication and collaboration. In order to improve population health, healthcare organizations must take the following steps:

  • Assess the situation. Providers should start by identifying the weaknesses and gaps in the way they coordinate and collaborate on patient care. Are transitions to skilled nursing facilities moving efficiently? Are care teams keeping primary care providers updated on patient conditions? What about patients and their families?
  • Fix workflow problems. Sometimes small changes – like automating the delivery of lab results, or sending discharge notices to primary care physicians – can make a big change in fixing inefficiencies and improving collaboration.
  • Don’t rely on the EHR alone. While the Electronic Health Record (EHR) has been helpful in presenting a better picture of a patient’s health, our survey revealed only 53 percent of physicians say the EHR is sufficient to address care coordination and collaboration. Make sure that all clinicians have the tools necessary to connect with one another and get all of the data they need easily so that they can deliver better care.
  • Build relationships. Workflow and technology changes are critical, but you can’t skimp on fixing the culture. Clinicians should be encouraged to think about the internal and external colleagues they need to collaborate with most frequently, and then begin to build those relationships. Even small conversations set the stage for better relationships, and better coordinated care.

Population health holds a lot of promise, but for that promise to be realized, providers must make it easier for clinicians to connect.



[1] The survey of 955 medical professionals represents a broad cross-section of the healthcare provider ecosystem:  physicians (hospitalists, primary care physicians in large offices, specialists in both hospital and office settings); nurses in hospitals; case managers; and hospital administrators and office managers

[2] “Physicians” includes all hospitalists, primary care physicians and in-hospital and office-based specialists surveyed

[3] “Clinicians” includes all physician categories surveyed, nurses and case managers, and excludes hospital administrators and office managers.

[4] Institute of Medicine, “Hidden Costs, Value Lost: Uninsurance in America.”

[5] Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, “2013 National Healthcare Quality Report.”

 

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