How to improve care variation and win market share using data & technology — 2 experts share insights

Health systems have to walk a fine line when trying to optimize care team efficiency and improve the patient experience. If done incorrectly, the resulting product can result in staffing shortfalls that endanger patient outcomes and contribute to care variation.

Dr. Mary O'Connor, Director of the Center for Musculoskeletal Care at New Haven, Conn.-based Yale School of Medicine and Yale New Haven Health; and Bronwyn Spira, Co-founder and CEO of Force Therapeutics, discussed how efficiently controlling the home can help providers improve clinical outcomes during a Sept. 19 webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Force Therapeutics.

The state of healthcare
The healthcare market is changing. Patients want their healthcare experience to resemble the types of convenient, personalized experiences they find in other consumer-centric industries. Additionally, reimbursement from both private and public payers is increasingly linked with quality instead of volume of services. These two trends are pushing providers to put patients at the center of the care experience like never before.

Amid the rise of consumerism and value-based care, providers need to rely on data to prove to patients and payers that they can deliver the best outcomes at the lowest cost. While facilities can have similar patient volumes, the facility that embraces efficiency and quality can leverage data to identify shortfalls in their hospital and work to improve them.

One of the most urgent challenges health systems face today is the inability for care teams to effectively manage patients outside the hospital. The resulting impact is variation, which drives up the cost to run your business. Hospitals, particularly, might be able to improve quality by hiring more employees, but current financial headwinds makes hiring challenging. Instead, hospitals should invest in customizable technology to engage patients at the point of potential complications and provide real time analytics for care improvement. “If these organizations want to implement strategic initiatives across any aspect of the care continuum, managing variation is the most important thing they can do,” Dr. O'Connor said.

Improving the care continuum
Health systems should focus on three key areas to manage variation in the care continuum: identify essential touch points, standardize care teams, and optimize the episode with technology.

Touch points can occur at any point in the care continuum, according to Ms. Spira. "These are the three or four most important, or irreplaceable interactions you may have with your patients," she said. “Facilities should analyze data to identify places to invest time and resources.”

For example, if the data shows that a hospital receives an influx of patient calls 10 days preoperatively, service line administrators should identify that as an essential touch point and work to develop proactive resources around it.

After identifying the most important touch points, health systems need to standardize care teams and processes. By optimizing and standardizing the most essential touch points with the resources currently on hand, providers can maintain a positive relationship with their patients and set realistic expectations towards a positive experience and outcome.

This process will not only identify trouble areas, but could also show areas where health systems have overallocated resources. Concerning these areas, Ms. Spira recommended a customizable technology solution "to fill the space between your most impactful touch points." 90 percent of the recovery process occurs when a patient is at home. By implementing patient engagement technology, providers can stay in contact with patients throughout the entire episode and address concerns before they become costly complications, which is essential given health systems are reimbursed based on consistent outcomes.

Real-world implementation
Dr. O'Connor and the Center for Musculoskeletal Care at Yale School of Medicine and Yale New Haven Health have embraced such a process. To optimize the care continuum, they worked to achieve three goals: engage everyone, extend the emotional connection, and understand the whole experience. When analyzing their limitations, it became apparent that the organization's physical team couldn't achieve these goals without extending their reach into the home, so they turned to Force Therapeutics.

"You can only utilize your people, your physical care team, so much," Dr. O'Connor said. "There's only so much they can do to extend to patients and create meaningful connections, and if you want to do more than that you either need to hire more people or embrace technology to make meaningful connections."

By pairing Yale’s human workforce with Force’s platform, the organization is able to optimize its resources to have its employees better support its operational efforts. These technological efforts are helping patients feel more connected to their care team and, as a result, become more active in their own recovery.

"We don't expect technology to create the care continuum, but rather technology will digitize your own workflow and make it repeatable, measurable and reproducible," Ms. Spira said.

To view this webinar, click here.

More articles on health IT:
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VUMC awarded $1.5M to analyze EHR data for care coordination patterns
New York HIE regulators issue info request for medical records aggregation software

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