With the healthcare and insurance industries changing at a dizzying pace, consumers can easily be left confused about an important aspect of their lives. Some hospitals and health systems are finding that helping them understand how it all works can improve patient satisfaction and even quality of care.
At the same time, the hospital can inform the community of its quality improvement achievements.
Day Kimball Healthcare, a non-profit, integrated medical services provider comprised of Day Kimball Hospital in Putnam, CT, Day Kimball Medical Group, and four medical centers, has undertaken a campaign to educate patients about changes in how healthcare is delivered and patients’ growing role and responsibility in their own care, along with its quality projects. It taps traditional and social media to reach patients, from local advertising and facility posters to its website blog and Facebook posts.
Day Kimball’s relatively small size — the hospital has 63 beds — makes it more agile when implementing any type of institutional changes or launching community outreach, says John Graham, MD, chief medical officer and vice president for medical affairs and quality.
“Once we decide to change, it can take place over a shorter period of time because the connections that need to be made to implement the change are not as extensive as a much larger system,” Graham says. “It’s an advantage for us when we’re making quality improvements.”
There are few greater mysteries than how insurance works, so Day Kimball combines education with a growing range of non-clinical patient services, including payment programs and assistance in applying for health insurance. Successfully engaging patients as consumers can create an ongoing relationship, especially if you help remove financial barriers by offering financing options and payment plans, Graham says.
Among the education efforts are a new patient estimation tool intended to provide patients with a better idea of expenses so they can make informed choices, and an infographic titled “Health Insurance Math Simplified (kinda),” which helps consumers understand key steps in the process. The text accompanying the infographic is honest, beginning with “Full confession. The graphic included with this post took about a dozen rounds of revisions to finalize — and we work in healthcare. Candidly, we’re hoping (but not 100 percent convinced) it helps to clarify the complicated math of health insurance for the general public as we know it’s not easy to understand.” (The infographic and additional information are available online at http://bit.ly/21hWTln.)
Other blog posts and infographics have addressed “Five terms to know about health insurance,” “What a patient-centered medical home is, how it improves your care and saves you money,” and “Sick vs. well model of healthcare — and why you should care.”
Day Kimball also uses its education outreach to promote its quality achievements. The hospital has the lowest 30-day readmission rate in the state, notes Sharon Sawyer, director of quality and risk management. The hospital recently implemented a rounding program in which the head of case management meets with the quality director of the Day Kimball medical group four or five times each week to analyze patient admissions and coordinate discharge plans, she says. In addition, they study population and health trends in the community to better understand how the hospital can prepare and respond. The inpatient directors of med-surg units and the intensive care unit also join the meetings on a regular basis.
“It has already borne some fruit. We found some gaps in our prehospitalization care, discharge planning, and transition of care,” Graham says. “It’s a different way of looking at healthcare that goes along with population health and the effort to coordinate care and keep people out of the hospital.”
Another quality initiative addressed ED throughput, which is down to about 5.5 hours for admitted patients. One part of the throughput measurement is how long it takes for a patient to be seen by a physician after arriving, and Day Kimball has the fastest time in the state, Sawyer says.
“These are issues that concern the community, things they worry about and consider when they decide where to go for care,” Sawyer says. “We’re proud of these numbers when we see that the efforts of a lot of different people have paid off, and it’s equally important to inform the community.”
- John Graham, MD, Chief Medical Officer and Vice President for Medical Affairs and Quality, Day Kimball Healthcare, Putnam, CT. Telephone: (860) 963-6598.
- Sharon Sawyer, Director of Quality and Risk Management, Day Kimball Healthcare, Putnam, CT. Telephone: (860) 963-6598.