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Targeting Health Literacy & Digital Patient Engagement to Improve Outcomes

Posted by Debra Zalvan on Jan 17, 2020 8:09:49 AM
Debra Zalvan
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Patient Education & Innovative Communication Strategies Drive Success

At UbiCare, we often refer to research showing that medical care has only a 10% – 20%  influence on health outcomes, while patient behaviors and self-care have a 40% – 50% influence. With healthcare providers increasingly pressured to shorten hospital stays and reduce office-visit time, how do you increase the influence a hospital, health system or medical practice has on improving health outcomes outside the hospital or medical office?

Melanie Iannace, Muskuloskeletal Service Coordinator at AtlantiCare joined me recently to tell a  success story in which AtlantiCare and UbiCare collaborated to target health literacy and patient engagement.

The story begins with a study that UbiCare engaged in with a prominent Midwest-based hospital system in 2018. Examining the study, AtlantiCare recognized the value of digital engagement and launched an initiative to educate patients and engage them more fully in their care. The initiative resulted in improved health outcomes for joint replacement surgeries.

“When I came to Atlanticare in 2017, we didn’t have the staff or resources to really push patient education,” Iannace explains. “Yet, there was a real need for our patients to feel a stronger connection to their surgeons and to AtlantiCare. They also needed to improve their health literacy to prepare for their procedures, and they needed to know how to set appropriate expectations for recovery and rehab. On the other hand, we needed to be more effective in influencing behaviors before and after surgeries to optimize health outcomes.”

“The Muskuloskeletal Institute performs over 500 surgeries per month, and an increasing number are same-day surgeries,” Iannace says. “We started performing same-day surgeries in 2016, with five such surgeries. The next year, it was 23. We performed about 100 in 2018 and more than 250 in 2019! To accomplish this, we have to optimize our efficiency and the effectiveness of patient education and ensure that patients are fully engaged in the process both before and long after the surgery.”

UbiCare worked with AtlantiCare to implement our digital patient engagement program for Total Joint Replacement Surgery. Enrollment is integrated into the scheduling process to ensure that all patients are part of the program. Then, email and text messaging are used to reach out to patients from the time they’re enrolled through recovery and rehab. The program consists of evidence-based communications specifically tied to the needs of the patient and his or her healthcare professionals at each stage of a care episode. The messages cover a variety of topics, including:

  • What to expect before, during and after surgery
  • Preparing the home for post-op and recovery
  • What to expect from pre-admission testing
  • Setting and reinforcing post-surgery expectations
  • Important information about a patient’s pain medication
  • How to recognize complications, and when and how to contact the healthcare provider with concerns

These messages are much more than the standard transactional messages that might come from a patient portal, such as scheduling and billing information. The series is designed to be interactional, a digital conversation that is both interactive and influences patient behaviors. And with real-time data available for each of these patient interactions, healthcare providers can identify any patients who might be at risk of complications or require intervention.

New call-to-action“Digital patient engagement is one of the reasons why we’re having successful same-day procedure outcomes,” explains Iannace. “Not only are patients empowered to play a critical role in their own care, it’s also making us more efficient and reducing the cost of care. For example, when our patients get their pre-admission testing scheduled, they go to the doctor’s office and these doctors get question after question. A 15- to 20-minute visit turns into a 35- to 40-minute visit. With digital patient engagement, patients have their questions answered earlier in the process, so these visits are more efficient. What’s the value to your hospital, healthcare system or medical practice of reclaiming 20 minutes on 500 procedures a year? And that’s just one visit!”

Other benefits that contribute to a digital patient engagement strategy’s quick return on investment include shortened length of stay, reduction in hospital readmissions, and a reduction in emergency room visits. In our Midwest hospital study, for example, the hospital saw a 25% reduction in length of hospital stay and a 50% reduction in post-op emergency room visits by highly engaged hip replacement patients. The volume of provider-patient communication necessary for success is impossible to achieve without a digital strategy. In just one year, AtlantiCare exceeded 72,000 digital patient interactions. Most hospitals simply don’t have the resources, but the volume and quality of UbiCare’s content, combined with the efficiency of the digital platform helped AtlantiCare to target health literacy and digital patient engagement to improve outcomes.


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Topics: Improving Patient Outcomes, Patient Engagement, UbiCare, SmarteXp, patient education, joint replacement, health literacy