Why hospital systems need wellness programs

The Affordable Care Act has led to a massive surge in the number of insured Americans. In fact, nearly 9 in 10 now have health insurance. Naturally, this has introduced new challenges in the healthcare marketplace, and with physicians in particular.

With over a billion patient encounters per year, according to the Center for Disease Control, it is almost impossible for physicians to provide their patients with all the care they need. As doctors continue to increase patient volume out of necessity and demand, it is becoming more difficult to help patients stay healthy between appointments. Additionally, The Physicians Foundation 2014 Biennial Physician Survey found that 53 percent of doctors in the United States work in hospital systems. As a result, wellness programs are becoming a more valuable resource for physicians and hospitals.

Let's take a patient we'll call Mark – a 43 year old, Philadelphia resident – as an example. Mark has just been enrolled in Medicaid. After undergoing a basic physical at the local hospital, he is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Based on this diagnosis, Mark's doctor prescribes a daily dose of medication to achieve a target blood sugar level.

Unfortunately, Mark had difficulty remembering to take his medication and as a result, his condition worsened. This might have been prevented had his doctor or his doctor's staff had the capacity to check in on him as planned, but their workflow and time are inundated with other Marks. There simply is not enough time to keep tabs on every patient's course of treatment when they're not at the office for an appointment.

Cases like Mark's have become commonplace across the United States. To combat this, hospitals, and even independent practices, are utilizing wellness programs to facilitate quality careand patient health.

If Mark's physician's hospital system had implemented a wellness program, he might have:

Been fully educated about his diagnosis: After Mark's short appointment, his only resources to educate himself about his diabetes were pamphlets and, perhaps, Google. Had a hospital wellness program been in place, Mark would have had access to healthcare minded agents who would have provided him with additional information, walked him through his care literature and answered questions.

Set future appointments: Wellness programs make setting a patient's next visit easy and efficient for both the patient and the provider – even going so far as arranging transportation for the next visit. Furthermore, reaching out a day or two after an initial visit to confirm the next appointment helps people remain cognizant of their care, and reinforces the relationship the patient has with the provider and his or her hospital system.

Received proactive reminders: Patients are busy, and often stressed after receiving a chronic condition diagnosis. It can be difficult to keep track of medications and upcoming appointments. Receiving reminders from a healthcare call center can help patients stay on top of their medications and ensure that courses of treatment – like Mark's – are followed correctly. This in turn raises satisfaction and reduces the cost of that patient's care in time and money.

Had helpful follow-up discussions: With such high patient volume, direct follow-up and casual check-ins are difficult to manage. With a wellness program that aims to simply follow up and discuss, Mark's forgetfulness with his medications might have been identified sooner, and his health would have been preserved as a result.

Wellness programs are more than just a great way to boost ratings and patient satisfaction. They keep America's patients healthy. Such programs – even small exploratory ones – are worth the consideration of hospital systems and their affiliated physicians everywhere.

Tom Gleason is Vice President of Business Development at DialAmerica, a privately owned domestic call center company with contact centers located across the U.S. Tom is an expert in all facets of onboarding, account management and contact center operations, with 22+ years of experience. Tom's focus is on the healthcare industry, where he has helped implement and grow numerous healthcare enrollment and service programs.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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