Over 2/3 of all Americans own a Smartphone and use text messaging as their primary communication method. It turns out text messaging can be good for your health, especially if you have just been discharged from a hospital surgery. If you work for a hospital, text messaging can be good for your bottom line. In fact, over half of all hospital revenues come from Medicare and avoidable readmission is a multi-billion dollar problem that hospitals are increasingly being fined millions of dollars each for not addressing.
One easy solution: Engage patients with text messages post discharge.
Sixtyfive percent of all Medicare readmission are avoidable. The treat ’em and street ’em mentality has become too costly. One solution is to engage patients post-discharge and staying in touch via SMS text messages. Text messaging patients (or their caregivers) after discharge to track their recovery process and intervene before things go south is an evolving best practice with some very good clinical evidence behind it.
Wait a Minute. What About HIPAA? Texting PHI is a NO NO.
Texting protected health information in the clear is likely a HIPAA violation, but as it turns out there is a new technology available that enables hospitals to start a conversation with a patient using an SMS text message and pivot to a secure conversation on their Smartphone. No app to download, just send the patient a secure URL to continue the conversation. It is brilliant.
Now clinicians can reach out to a patient with an easy to use dashboard interface. The clinician can send an ad hoc message or choose from a menu of pre-canned messages and send a patient a SMS text message. When it is time to discuss personal health information, the conversation can switch to secure messaging mode with a click:
The patient’s post-discharge progress can be tracked and if things start to become a concern like a potential infection or increasing pain, instead of waiting until things are bad and require a patient ER visit, a nurse can triage via secure text and intervene before things spiral out of control by setting a clinic appointment.
There is $17 Billion a year at stake and avoidable readmission could save the Medicare program from going bankrupt. Adding text messaging to post discharge care costs about $1 per patient discharge. It is an absolute no brainer. Hospitals can even try it free for 30 days.
Secure texting is available as a cloud service so any hospital or physician’s practice with a browser can add the service without investing in special equipment. The system can be interfaced using HL-7 to any EHR system so messages can even be added to a patient’s record with relative ease.
One day the folks at Medicare and Medicaid may mandate this type of solution, but until then hospitals have a huge incentive to implement text messaging on their own. Not only does the system work to avoid readmissions, it also improves patient satisfaction on CAHP surveys earning the hospital a 1 to 2 percent bonus payment from CMS. Patients win because they avoid painful complications that can increase morbidity and mortality. Hospitals win with lower costs, better HCAHPS scores and bonus payments from CMS. Taxpayers win because Medicare payments go down freeing up desperately needed money taken from each of our paychecks. Who would have thought health care costs could be so dramatically reduced with a simple text?
Look for my article in July that will show use cases for population health management and cite proven clinical outcomes. For more information, feel free to message on Twitter @rq1958 or email email@example.com.
#HIPAA #BringItOn #Patient Engagement