Even though value-based care is one of the biggest challenges in healthcare today, a survey of health system CEOs found that 37 percent are still in the investigative stage. However, value-based care is becoming more crucial as fee-for-service reimbursement is dropping; it’s estimated to take up only 34 percent of payments by 2020. Health executives can begin preparations for value-based care by focusing on improving clinical communications – an essential factor impacting value-based care.
Christina Thielst, Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE), says that effective communication is imperative to value-based care as it can help to reduce the risk of adverse events and medical errors in healthcare settings. In this Q&A, she discusses tactics that executives can consider to help improve communication and ease transitions to value-based care.
Q: What are some current obstacles you see impeding communication between healthcare staff members and with their patients and caregivers?
A: The greatest obstacle is the estimated 77 million people in the US with low health literacy. The next is the limited amount of truly patient-centered communications. This stands in the way of being able to convey all of the information patients and their caregivers need, in a way they can understand and at the points in time when it is needed most. Instead, too often, communication is delivered within the constraints of the organization, at the times and locations where it is most convenient for staff.
Q: What actions can executives make to foster improvements in communication within organizations—between providers and between patients and their families and providers?
A: Healthcare executives should assure that their organizations are looking at communication mechanisms, processes and flows to identify gaps and barriers and improve performance. They must also consider whether today’s technologies can facilitate more patient-centric communications, since simply adding more staff isn’t a realistic solution given the pressures to contain costs.
What are the first steps for healthcare systems to transition to value-based care? Thielst and others give their opinions on how to initiative a value-based care transition on the Medical Imaging Talk Blog.
Q: Why is improving communication important when it comes to value-based care?
A: Any risk manager knows that communication issues are the top cause of lawsuits, and these can be quite expensive for the healthcare organization. Beyond this, reimbursement (incentives) will increasingly be tied to risk on patient satisfaction and outcome measures. If we don’t get the right information to the right person at the right time and in a format that they can understand and act upon, we may experience increased risks for decompensation and poor outcomes.
In addition, penalties will apply to those facilities with certain poor outcomes, such as hospital-acquired infections and readmissions within 30 days. Patients and their family caregivers are part of the care team and they can significantly contribute to improved outcomes.
Q: What are some emerging technologies you see being valuable that can help?
Texting, secure messaging and social technologies, including the avatars of virtual worlds and social networking. Innovative providers are using:
- Facebook to help teens assess their risk of an asthma attack.
- Social networking for the management and support of those recovering from addiction.
- A virtual discharge advocate to deliver instructions to patients and highlight areas needing more attention from the real discharge advocate.
- Texting to connect with hard-to-reach populations to help improve outcomes and reduce admissions and appointment “no show” rates.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: The possibilities are endless if healthcare executives take the time to rethink their communication processes and envision new ways to not only communicate but to connect with patients and their family caregivers.
To read additional insight from Thielst and other experts, download the eBook, “13 Insights for Conquering Healthcare Challenges in 2015.”