Grow Market Share and Healthier Communities Through Community Wellness Screenings

Population health management has become the goal for many hospitals and health systems seeking to provide more accountable care and improve patient outcomes and experiences. In order to truly manage and improve the health of a population, hospitals need to get involved in getting and keeping people healthy instead of solely treating patients who are already sick.

 

"My focus as a cardiologist is to do the right thing and have it be cost effective. In my experience that is the same vision hospitals have. It's not just a system for providing care to sick patients, but to be engaged in prevention," says Mukul Chandra, MD, director of Premier HeartWorks at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio, and a practicing cardiologist.

One way hospitals and health systems can start getting engaged in disease detection and prevention is by providing wellness screens in the community to detect chronic and life-threatening diseases early, something Miami Valley Hospital, a Premier Health Partner hospital,  has started doing with the help of Life Line Screening, a preventive screening company.

Detect disease, cut cost

The main purpose of providing wellness screenings in the community setting is to detect diseases early on in high-risk individuals. Patients can be screened for everything from diabetes and osteoporosis to stroke and heart disease. "The key to a successful screening program is providing the right screening to the right person at the right time," says Chris Smith, executive vice president of sales and business development for Life Line Screening. Life Line Screening partners and coordinates care with hospitals and health systems to provide clinically appropriate screening services. Of the roughly 8 million people that Life Line has screened since 1993, 8 to 10 percent were identified with previously undiagnosed moderate to significant cardiovascular disease, and approximately 1 percent had critical cardiovascular problems requiring immediate follow-up care, according to Mr. Smith.

When conditions like cardiovascular disease are caught early, not only does it allow patients to become more engaged and change their lifestyle, but it can also result in significant healthcare savings. "The goal is to detect chronic disease early on and then refer patients for follow-on care," Mr. Smith says. "Early detection provides an excellent opportunity to treat chronic conditions at a lower cost and before a catastrophic event occurs."

Build patient loyalty

Not only do community wellness screenings promote wellness and healthier communities, they also can help hospitals and health systems maintain and grow their market share. At the screening events, in addition to prominently displaying its name, the hospital can provide a directory of all of its physicians and set up call-in phone lines that patients can call to find a care center or physician they can see for follow-up care. Also, the hospital can provide educational material on various diseases and how to stay healthy, Kellie Privette, Life Line Screening's senior vice president of hospital and provider services, explains.

"Once the opportunity is there for the patient to seek the local healthcare system, it builds a connection," says Dr. Chandra, and a preventive wellness program in the community that is sponsored by a hospital is a great way for that organization to get its name — and the names of its physicians — in the view of the public and build a connection. Once the patient feels connected to a hospital or system, he or she is more likely to continue seeking care from that organization.

Why partner?

Many hospitals and health systems can run their own screening events in the community, but often it makes more sense to seek help and contribution from an experienced partner. "It really comes down to looking at core competencies," says Mr. Smith. Hospitals and health systems tend to be apt at providing care inside their four walls, but not many organizations have the resources and mobility to go directly into the community to provide preventive services.

"The hospital has limitations based on the fact that we can't go into the community [easily]," Dr. Chandra explains. Additionally, it can be difficult to properly staff a preventive screening event because its skilled technicians need to be at the hospital working.

So, be it independently or through a partner, both hospitals and patients benefit when a hospital provides preventive wellness screens in the community: the patients can find out if they are at risk or are already developing a potentially life-threatening disease, and the hospital promotes improved population health, and insures proper follow-up treatment, ultimately reducing the overall cost of care to everyone.

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