Efficient Doctor-Patient Communication

The single largest budget item for hospitals is labor costs, which can represent as much as 50% or more of the expense budget.  In small practices staff salary and benefits account for up to 30% of overhead expenses.  To get the most out of their largest line item, large and small healthcare organizations alike should be focused on staff efficiency, especially in doctor-patient communication.

A big opportunity to improve efficiency is to improve communication — doctors are still using pagers for goodness’ sake.  The problem is that most organizations find the prospect of implementing new technology daunting.  The transition to electronic medical records left scars on many practices who were forced to fundamentally change their workflow, but the transition to technology that enhances communication is actually pretty easy.

Texting technology doesn’t require providers and staff to change their workflow.

Secure texting is the best way for practices to both engage with their patients and communicate internally.  Most doctors are already texting with their colleagues, staff and referring providers, and providing a secure channel to maintain that flow of communication will help avoid costly HIPAA fines.  It’s a no-brainer.  It’s the part about texting patients that gets practices really worried.

“Why would I want to open that floodgate?”  

“I don’t want my patients to be able to contact me directly.”

“My staff already have enough to do.”

But the reality is that providing a secure texting channel built for healthcare can actually solve these problems.  Secure texting makes doctor-patient communication more efficient.

It’s like a phone call, only easier.

Most physician practices and hospital groups that use OhMD implement a workflow that mimics their phone call workflow.  Because the majority of patients preferring texting to calling, many practices see a reduction in call volume by up to 30% in the first 12 months.  And since phone calls take more time to answer, triage and follow-up on than a simple text message, the reduction in call volume represents a huge increase in staff efficiency and productivity.

Patients are likely to text practices about a whole range of things, from scheduling appointments, to prescription refills, to more clinically significant questions. This means that doctor-patient communication more often ends up being practice-patient communication, with the physician only fielding a small percentage of patient texts.

Doctor-Patient communication for the 21st century.

Medical practices should be thoughtful about the technology they implement; there is too much on the line when it comes to security, patient satisfaction and efficiency for practices to chase every technology fad.  But texting isn’t going anywhere.  Practices who value efficiency and patient engagement need to implement a secure texting solution to optimize communication.

Texting for Care Coordination

Roughly 85% of healthcare spending currently goes toward the treatment of patients with chronic conditions, and two thirds of all Medicare dollars spent are on those with 5 or more chronic disease states.  For chronically ill patients, effective care coordination is essential to producing positive outcomes and reducing costs.  An mHealth Intelligence article published in May reported that poor care coordination can cost an extra $4,500 per patient over three years, which adds up when we’re talking about 133 million patients with chronic disease.

The treatment of chronic illness often requires the collaboration of multiple care providers — PCPs, hospitalists, home health or nursing agencies, and specialists. — and there is an opportunity for texting platforms like OhMD to generate significant healthcare savings among this patient population.

How does texting create value in care coordination?

  1. Texting = faster communication.  No phone tag, no answering service, no antiquated pager system.  Patients receive care and critical health information when they need it, and referrals can be made quickly and easily.
  2. Protect PHI.  Providers can protect the health data of their patients and avoid costly HIPAA violations.
  3. Fewer mistakes.  Many texting applications provide read receipts so senders know when a message has been received.  Conversations had via text are also automatically documented in clear language, so that participants in the care conversation can re-review information or instructions at a later date, leading to fewer misunderstandings among patients and providers.
  4. Value-based payments.  Groups who can leverage texting effectively in their practice, ACO or PCMH can take advantage of increased payments from Medicare Shared Savings and other value-based incentive programs.
Dermatology practice consultant Amelia Coleman

Written by Amelia Coleman, Physician Practice Consultant

Texting gives healthcare providers a platform to quickly and seamlessly communicate about patient care.  Doctors can share PHI and exchange ideas about diagnosis, prescriptions, and treatment plans.  Care providers can follow up directly with patients, and provide discharge instructions to avoid hospital re-admission.  Providers can also include specialists, on call resources, patients and family members in group messages.  Use secure texting allows for efficient escalation of referrals, prescriptions and lab orders, and ACOs and health systems can enhance Patient Engagement and Meaningful Use outcomes.

Can providers get reimbursed for care coordination via text?

Since 95% of office visits still reimbursed on a fee-for-service basis, doctors worry about blocking out time to deal with text messaging, for which they are not reimbursed. We’ve found that the value that OhMD delivers to providers by cutting out the time and hassle associated with phone tag adds up to substantial savings of time and overhead costs.

In addition to the reduction in overhead costs associated with less efficient means of communication, some practices may also be able to bill for time spent coordinating care via text in the Fee For Service model.  CPT code 99490 can be used to bill for “non face-to-face care coordination services.”

If you have questions about OhMD or how texting can improve the efficiency of care coordination for your team, contact us.