A Comprehensive Communication Plan to Streamline Care Coordination Improves Patient & Physician Satisfaction

Value-based healthcare is at the core of sweeping changes facing our healthcare system. A multi-tier approach is needed to move the needle on value-based programs, with many healthcare organizations plotting their own course starting from patient experience, to quality outcomes, to satisfaction and everything in between. But one element that remains constant as we transition care delivery models is that hospitals have two primary customers: the patient and the physician.1

The patient experience looks at the external customer's satisfaction, which is in large part driven by the internal customer's satisfaction — the physician. Physician satisfaction is the only lasting foundation for patient satisfaction. It takes happy doctors and staff to have happy patients — in that order.2

Physician engagement is becoming ever more important, as one of the most significant structural changes in healthcare is the consolidation of hospitals and independent medical practices into larger entities that seek accountable care. Hospital systems are merging, and medical practice acquisition continues at a rapid pace. Today more physicians are employed by hospitals than are in private practice. This shift from affiliation or even having no relationship at all with the hospital to full ownership poses the opportunity to showcase the value provided to the physician, and a need for continuity and engagement.

As we continue to navigate through these changes, coordinated care becomes an engagement tool and the foundational catalyst to achieve both physician and patient satisfaction. Without cohesion, fragmentation threatens the physician and patient relationship.

Fragmented care leads to high costs of care and low satisfaction due to additional episodes and additive redundancies for both the patient and the provider. The leading culprit of fragmented care, especially in a multi-provider model, is gaps in communication across sites of care, which undermine care coordination and integration.3

A comprehensive communication plan supports and streamlines care coordination while satisfying the two very different, yet very important customer groups. Achieving a valuable experience for your internal and external customer base "is a team effort requiring coordinated action and collaborative effort to ensure the outcomes you desire."4 Whether gaps lie in organizational communication, hospital-to-physician communication or physician-to-patient, all hinder the physician and patient experience but can be solved through a coordinated communication plan.

From internal communications for processes and physician involvement in leadership and decision-making to patient outreach support and solutions, the key to satisfaction is delivering seamless information needed for physicians to do their job and ensuring patients receive the information and streamlined communication expected when interacting with the organization, all empowering the stakeholder to feel involved and contribute to quality care coordination. A streamlined communication plan drives value to physicians through new patient acquisition, which also drives downstream revenue into specific service lines for the organization and keeps patient satisfied by getting them the information and care needed to get well and carry on. In the end, "the patient experience begins and ends with good communication…if you can't communicate, it doesn't matter what you know."4

Within this emerging healthcare landscape, there is a need for a comprehensive plan that supports patient and physician engagement to satisfy clinical and business objectives. Healthcare industry pain points and proposed solutions yield lively conversations amongst healthcare leaders, but selecting a few areas to focus on is like only treating the symptoms, whereas filling communication gaps in care coordination signifies eliminating the illness overall.

Nicole Nicoloff is vice president of market strategy and innovation at BerylHealth, a technology-based patient experience company. Previously, she served as the network director of exceptional patient experience and family experience at Community Health Network.

Footnotes:

1  BerylHealth. "Balancing Consumer and Physician Influence: Finding the 'Sweet Spot' in Healthcare Marketing." September 2008.

2  KevinMD.com. "The Key for Patient Satisfaction is Physician Satisfaction." March 14, 2013.  http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2013/03/key-patient-satisfaction-physician-satisfaction.html

3 The Commonwealth Fund. "Patient Centered Care: What Does it Take?" Oct, 2007. http://www.commonwealthfund.org/usr_doc/Shaller_patient-centeredcarewhatdoesittake_1067.pdf

4 Latha Raja Shankar MD, MBA; Jason A. Wolf, Ph.D. The Beryl Institute. "Physician Perspectives on Patient Experience." http://bdcimpact.com/docs/TrendsinHospitalPhysicianIntegration.pdf

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