By Stericycle Staff | Mar. 26, 2015

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Forbes recently published a piece covering several of the biggest trends in healthcare that are creating financial risk for various stakeholders in 2015. Not surprisingly, two top-of-mind common threads for healthcare executives weave through most of the trends covered: access to care and cost containment. In some way, better patient communication could address both of these threads and, ultimately, reduce healthcare organizations’ financial risk.

Here we list some of the risks presented in the article and ways in which improved patient communication could mitigate those risks.

Risk 1: Shrinking Access via Medicaid

The article points out that the Affordable Care Act increased Medicaid payments for primary care physicians in 2013 and 2014 but that rates are reverting to their previous levels in 2015—limiting access to care for many.

How better patient communication could mitigate the risk: Healthcare organizations can use several services to increase patients’ access to care when they don’t have the financial resources they used to have. These services include Answering Service, Appointment Scheduling and Triage Services.

Risk 2: Higher Out-Of-Pocket Expenses

The ‘metal’ tiers of plans for which patients can sign up through the new online health care exchanges represent a different mix of subsidies and out-of-pocket expenses. Many Americans who have enrolled have never been insured and thus never had to pay for medical insurance or care before. As a result, they may be in for a rude awakening when the bills come due for their medical exams and procedures.

How better patient communication could mitigate the risk: An access-enhancing service such as Triage Services can be a lower-cost option for patients and eliminate the need for an office visit in some cases. Other services that support patients’ engagement in their own care such as Patient Portal Support and Class and Event Registration can also make for healthier patients and reduce their healthcare expenses in the long run.

Risk 3: ACOs’ slowly developing cost-containment capability

The article notes that Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) were formed with the idea of providing better clinical outcomes at lower prices. Still, ACOs have not yet significantly reduced total health care costs.

How better patient communication could mitigate the risk: One of the major concepts behind the ACO model is eliminating gaps in care. Solutions such as Post-Discharge Follow-up services and Appointment Reminders reduce the odds that patients will delay or completely forego care after hospital discharge or after making an appointment with a physician.

Risk 4: Minimal impact of new technologies to date

  • Despite the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) mandate of Meaningful Use of electronic health record (EHR) technology, only a few health systems have achieved it so far, according to the article. This is true despite the fact that CMS requires only 5 percent utilization of patient portals.
  • Forbes also points out that, despite the reduced patient costs and added convenience that telehealth can provide, the fee-for-service reimbursement system does not give physicians much added revenue.
  • Big data’ have not proven to be a ‘magic bullet’ in healthcare, either, according to the article. The ability to increase the understanding of diseases via Big Data has not seen a breakthrough, nor has the federal government yet been able to identify physicians who have accepted money from pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers in a reliable fashion.

How better patient communication could mitigate the risk: Portal Services can help health systems and physicians to maximize patient utilization of their portals and qualify for CMS incentives. A little technical support can go a long way in that regard. Also, patient communication has a technology component: Automated Solutions provide patients with the ability to gain access to physicians at times, places and via a wider range of communication platforms for purposes of scheduling appointments, for example.

Greater insight

Contact Us if you would like more insight into how better patient communication can both increase patient access to care and reduce the cost of their care.

Stericycle Staff

Author: Stericycle Staff

Stericycle has been delivering communication services to North American companies for over 25 years. Since 2011, we’ve been blogging about how to deliver best-in-class communications to patients and consumers – providing practical advice and current best practices for both healthcare and commercial organizations. We hope you enjoy and keep reading!
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