Wasteful spending in healthcare amounts to incredibly high costs for U.S. hospitals. Preventable hospital readmissions and unnecessary emergency department (ED) visits alone account for $25 billion and $14 billion, respectively, in excess healthcare spending each year, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute.
This means that funds hospitals could use to make improvements or buy new equipment are lost to avoidable healthcare costs—excess spending that can be compounded by regulatory penalties levied against hospitals by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for failure to lower the cost of care.
Better Communication Ultimately Means Lower Costs
We recently studied patients at a 4-hospital system and saw a direct and positive correlation between digital patient engagement and improvements in cost metrics such as post-op emergency department visits, readmissions, length of stay, discharge destination and day-of-surgery cancellations. Patients who have a better understanding and clear expectations of their care are less likely to be readmitted or visit the ED. In other words, constant, clear communication between patients and healthcare providers results in better care that costs less.
Traditionally, there are large gaps in provider-to-patient communications. These exchanges typically take place at in-person, sporadic appointments throughout the care episode. But patients often have questions, fears and anxieties that aren’t always addressed in these appointments. Many of their questions come to mind while they’re preparing for surgery, or after an operation has taken place. Dynamic patient education that reaches patients in real time, before, during and after a hospital stay, is therefore crucial for preparing them and preventing avoidable post-op complications that can lead to ED visits and hospital readmissions.
Mobile Devices: The Key to Empowering Patients
Did you know that more than 77% of Americans have smartphones? Mobile devices have become indispensable; 64% of us already use them to manage our health. This is a massive opportunity for hospitals to reach patients where they are and make cell phones an indispensable health tool.
Delivering information to a device already in patients’ hands allows hospitals to share constant, consistent support and guidance. Digital information reaches patients instantly, during their treatment or recovery when they’re most vulnerable. The information can even be stored to review again later or shared with others, empowering patients with the knowledge to stay on track whenever they need it.
Informed Providers Perform Better
In addition, providers need data about how the patient is preparing and recovering. With few patient touchpoints, providers are unable to help a patient know what to expect or how to prevent or spot potential complications and “get back on track” until it’s too late, and that patient has had to return to the hospital.
Digital communication tracks and simplifies these interactions. Healthcare providers can use it to monitor patient progress and “speak” with patients instantly, as needed. They can efficiently anticipate potential problems and help patients confidently manage their own care, thereby preventing costly ED visits or readmissions.
Mobile, early patient engagement brings the provider to the patient, instead of the patient to the provider. It helps patients manage their own health throughout the care episode, ultimately lowering excess hospital spending.