“Digital empathy” and fewer readmissions

“Digital empathy” and fewer readmissions

Automated e-mails may also boost satisfaction scores

April 2016
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Published in the April 2016 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

IN THE PUSH to reduce readmission rates, a company based in northern California that specializes in messaging technology is marketing daily patient check-ins as a way to provide better continuity of care.

HealthLoop was founded several years ago by a Bay Area primary care doctor, Jordan Shlain, MD, who wanted to keep better track of his patients’ progress after they left the hospital. The company has evolved to sending automated e-mails—what Bevey Miner, HealthLoop’s chief marketing and business development officer, calls a “virtual patient engagement solution”—to patients following a surgical procedure or an acute exacerbation of a chronic illness. (Patients having surgery receive preop e-mails as well.)

The e-mails, which arrive daily, are addressed directly from the patient’s physician or hospital. They provide not only a dose of “digital empathy,” says Ms. Miner, but specific instructions according to the post-discharge care plan for that patient’s condition or procedure: when patients should remove a bandage or stop using crutches after joint replacement.

The e-mails also elicit details from patients about their recovery that may indicate treatment failure, a lack of compliance or a complication. Responses are flagged in a dashboard integrated into the physician”s or hospital’s EHR system and accessed by administrators or care managers.

“That allows them to better manage patients,” says Ms. Miner. “Without that insight, care managers are just calling all their post-surgical patients, many of whom don’t need that kind of daily personal follow-up.”

The system is being used in 40 hospital systems and medical practices around the country. In any given month, says Ms. Miner, HealthLoop generates more than 150,000 automated e-mail check-ins. With current partners, HealthLoop is tracking a 25% reduction in readmission rates and an 11% boost in HCAHPS scores.

HealthLoop plans to play a major role in the CMS’s comprehensive care for joint replacement (CJR) program, which debuts this month. That program mandates bundled payments for Medicare patients undergoing knee or hip replacement in 67 metropolitan areas, and it will drive the develop- ment of new care models, says Ms. Miner.

“CJR’s emphasis will be on discharging patients to home, not to SNFs,” she points out. “You’ll see many new models where care man- agers will be setting up home health visits and home-based physical therapy and telehealth. HealthLoop will be integrated into them all.”

More information is online at www.healthloop.com.

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