Physicians are always seeking ways to provide a better, more comprehensive way to care for their patients, especially if that means less actual work. As one of the latest buzzwords in the medical community, “digital empathy” is quickly showing promising results using programs like those developed by HealthLoop.
With nearly one in five Medicare patients being discharged from the hospital only to be readmitted an average of 30 days later, the need to monitor and track medical procedures or conditions is vital. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the cost of readmitting patients is approximately $26 billion – resources that might be used elsewhere by increasing the effectiveness of a patient’s recovery.
Automating Empathy One Email at a Time
Essentially, HealthLoop’s system of automated emails reaches out to patients who have been discharged, but are still in need of following specific instruction to maximize their procedure’s effectiveness. Each message received is addressed from each patient’s doctor or physician with personalized information, as well as providing a daily dose of “digital empathy.”
It might sound oxymoronic to display one of our most human qualities through the screen of handheld mobile devices or computers, but studies have shown that patients who receive reminders both before and after surgical procedures actually experience a better rate of success. This is particularly important for increasing patient satisfaction – another critical factor in securing higher reimbursements for Medicare.
Even more beneficial is the patient’s ability to log details about their recovery, which is then sent directly to a physician’s or hospital’s EHR system to be accessed by administrators or care managers. Such information is valuable in determining whether or not a treatment has been successful, if there were any complications, and how compliantly each patient is responding.
An Industry “In the Loop”
HealthLoop is currently being used in 40 hospitals and medical practices around the country. According to the company’s marketing and business development officer, Ms. Beverly Miner, the program can generate more than 150,000 automated email check-ins. Reportedly, this has lead to a 25% reduction rate in readmission rates with an 11% boost in HCAHPS scores.
Whether or not such a program is actually producing empathetic responses and feedback may be subject to debate, and yet 86% of patients who have used HealthLoop would recommend it to others.
There is also a specific program designed for comprehensive joint replacement care, providing patients with supportive information on how to care for themselves post-surgery, remove their bandages, and when to stop using crutches. It is also possible to make bundled payments through Medicare for eligible patients, a highly convenient feature for people in recovery.
The rising popularity of things like home-based physical therapy, telemedicine, and digital patient feedback are all areas HealthLoop has the potential to be integrated with. It may be some time before we figure out a way to artificially produce empathy via computer software, but this seems like one of the most applicable attempts thus far.
To see how HealthLoop might be integrated into your hospital or practice, check out the company’s website for a demo and in-depth information on the program.