With the passage of the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act, as of August, 2013, there were 488 total Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) across the country with 52% being Medicare ACOs. (1) Estimates indicate that there are 25-31 million Americans receiving care from an ACO.(2)
Physicians, hospitals and other providers which make up an ACO are challenged to provide more efficient, higher quality care while reducing costs. The metrics of how quality care will be measured will likely shift over time. While there is some degree of uncertainty regarding payment models, the one constant in the ACO discussion and evolution is the critical role that communication will play in achieving success.
Meeting the objective of improving care and saving money will require a high degree of communication and collaboration among providers, staffs, care managers and patients. Today, however the discontinuity of care and wasteful redundancies in healthcare run contrary to the goals of an ACO.
Secure text messaging can help ACOs survive and thrive by closing communication gaps which will streamline workflow, save time and reduce costs while improving care coordination and patient outcomes. The following are 10 ways that ACOs can benefit.
1. Allow Real-Time Communication:
Healthcare communication is typically one-way and is inadequate to support collaborative team-based care. Inefficiencies lead to lengthy waits by the staff and pharmacy for answers to simple questions or clarification leading to delays in patient care.
Secure messaging enables real-time communication of PHI, images, documents and encounter notes between all members of the ACO care team, improving coordination and quality of care while saving time.
2. Streamline Workflow:
More than 50% of a physician's time is spent completing documentation, communicating with colleagues, prescribing and administering medications and responding to staff inquiries and patient questions. Multiple studies confirm that more than 90 minutes of a physician's time is wasted each day on activities unrelated to direct patient care. Additionally nurses spend an average of 60 minutes each day tracking down physicians to answer simple questions and pharmacists play phone tag for hours just to get a quick clarification from a doctor.
With secure messaging, nurses and staff save hours per day in getting answers to questions, prescription refill time is dramatically cut, patient concerns can be answered in seconds, physicians are able to devote more time to direct patient care and hospitals experience a reduction in patient wait time.
3. Improve Care Coordination:
Efficient communication and collaboration among health care providers is critical to the coordination of care and patient outcomes. Rapid, coordinated care however elludes healthcare providers today due to communication inefficiencies which can lead to duplicative and misapplied treatments, medication errors and readmissions.
Secure messaging allows a single group message to be sent to the ACO team to ensure that all participants are updated on a patient's care, with time stamped and dated confirmation that the message was read.
4. Optimize Value-Based Reimbursement:
In a value-based reimbursement environment, any investment in streamlining operations, improving efficiency and eliminating costly redundancies will be essential for improving margins.
Secure, real-time messaging can significantly impact ACO margins. Consider that within a single hospital, secure messaging can save over 25,000 hours and $918,000 in patient admissions, emergency response and patient transfers alone. (3)
5. Reduce Costs:
Paging systems, faxes, and other modes of one-way communication are inefficient and time consuming and result in an endless cycle of missed calls and interruptions, impacting provider productivity, disrupting workflow and negatively affecting quality of care.
Secure text messaging can eliminate the need for asynchronous time wasters by providing a real-time, two-way communication channel to the ACO care team which can be sent from from mobile devices or desktops.
6. Enhance Inpatient/Outpatient Collaboration:
According to a study in the Journal of Internal Medicine, patient care coordination in the transition from hospital to home often suffer due to poor communication between hospital and community based providers. The discontinuity of care from the inpatient to the outpatient setting is high with close to 50% of patients experiencing one or more errors related to medication, tests pending at discharge and work ups. (4)
Secure messaging provides a rapid and direct way for hospital based providers to share with the entire ACO care team the medications prescribed and tests pending at discharge along with discharge summaries through the convenience and speed of text.
7. Improve Population Health Management:
5% of the population accounts for 49% of total healthcare expenses. The fifteen most expensive conditions account for 44% of total healthcare expenses. Patients with multiple chronic conditions cost up to seven times as much as patients with only one chronic condition. (5)
Secure text messaging can facilitate communication between the ACO care team and chronically ill patients to engage them to improve their health and compliance with the care plan and, when necessary, can identify the need for timely interventions to reduce avoidable ED visits and readmissions. Text messaging prompts and reminders can also make a patient an active partner in the healthcare process.
8. Circumvent Lack of Interoperability:
While EMR/EHR systems will play a vital role in gathering, interpreting and exchanging data within an ACO, this will only be beneficial in homogeneous networks in which providers are using the same system. ACOs which have providers using non-standardized EMR/EHR systems will be limited in their ability to aggregate data and most likely will need to invest in a host of additional services to accomplish this necessary requirement.
A secure messaging platform allows patient notes and plans to be sent through the secure tunnel and uploaded to any EHR, allowing information exchange between providers in the ACO even if they are using disparate systems.
9. Reduce Physician Response Time:
Time sensitive issues often cannot be conveyed through asynchronous modes of communication. The Joint Commission identified that the primary root cause of more than 70% of treatment delays and sentinel events was caused by a breakdown in communication. (6)
Secure text messaging allows the ACO care team to exchange detailed information and convey urgency, which is not possible through one way communication, resulting in improved physician response time, quicker patient interventions and better outcomes.
10. Remain HIPAA Compliant:
Caregivers have long recognized that phone calls, pagers and emails are totally inefficient ways to communicate. 92% of physicians and their staff today have turned to texting. It's fast, easy and efficient but it also is non-compliant with regulations under HIPAA. Non-secure communication by providers can lead to a $50,000 fine for a single violation and a $1,500,000 fine for repeated violations within a single year.
Secure messaging provides an encrypted, secure, HIPAA compliant platform that allows physicians, their staff, care managers and patients within an ACO to exchange patient data safely and openly.
Secure messaging enables physicians, hospitals and other providers in an ACO to provide more efficient, higher quality care while reducing costs associated with communication inefficiencies. Real-time, HIPAA compliant, two-way communication improves care coordination, streamlines workflow and improves operating margins. Procedural costs and avoidable ED visits are reduced and costly readmissions minimized while improving patient outcomes and satisfaction.
For further information on IM Your Doc, visit www.imyourdoc.com or call 1-800-409-8078
1) Beckers Hospital Review, August 20, 2013, “The Critical Role of Communication in Accountable Care Organization Success”
2) Accountable Care Facts
3) “The Imprivata Report on the Economic Impact of Inefficient Communications in Healthcare”, Ponemon Institute, June, 2014
4) “Medical Errors Related to Discontinuity of Care from an Inpatient to Outpatient Setting”, Journal of Internal Medicine, 2003, August 18 (8):646-651
5) “The High Concentration of U.S. Health Care Expenditures”, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Research in Action, Issue 19
6) Joint Commission,” Improving America's Hospitals, Annual Report on Safety and Quality”, 2007