The January 2017 Issue

MedCall Plus: medical support center

Happy New Year!

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

In the last issue of Medical Call Center News, I encouraged you to work hard so you could finish 2016 strong. I hope that was the case and you were able to complete projects and tick items off your to-do list.

Though I accomplished much as the year wound down, I did not complete my number one goal for 2016. And this was despite blocking out the week between Christmas and New Years to wrap up my project. Alas, the time filled up with critical yearend activity and work on my goal languished. I hope you had a different outcome for your projects (or your scheduled time off).

While I am disappointed over not completing all of my goals for last year, I’m happy for what I did finish and know that it’s important to set challenging goals that stretch me. And I was stretched in 2016, but it also shaped up to be a great year.

For 2017, I have again set challenging goals and will push myself to achieve them. In doing so, I hope that this year will be even better.

And may you be able to say the same thing!

Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D., is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Medical Call Center News. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

Addressing Health Literacy Challenges in Telehealth Settings

By Dr. David Thompson

For the estimated 89 million people in the United States who have limited literacy, managing everyday healthcare needs can be confusing and complicated. Health literacy, as defined by the Institute of Medicine, is the ability to obtain, process, and understand basic health information, services, and instructions. A person’s health literacy can be affected by their general literacy, age, job, insurance status, education, income level, or familiarity with English.

Physicians and healthcare professionals may have trouble identifying patients who have limited literacy, especially in telehealth encounters where clinicians and patients aren’t face-to-face. Cues that can alert providers to patients who may need extra help understanding their situation and care plan include missed appointments, lack of follow-through with laboratory or imaging tests, lack of response to referrals, and noncompliance with medication regimens.

Healthcare providers can make their office environment more supportive for all patients—not just those with limited health literacy—by considering the following factors:

  • Be Willing to Help: Telehealth and clinical staff can foster health literacy by offering assistance and providing information.
  • Schedule Appointments: Have real people schedule appointments, help patients prepare, and collect only essential information.
  • Office Check-in: Provide patient forms in easy-to-read formats and language, and be willing to help them complete forms.
  • Referrals and Supplementary Tests: Review referral information with patients, provide directions to the referral site, and offer guidance on insurance issues. It may also help to implement a telehealth platform that provides printable summaries of patient encounters for other physicians.
  • Provide Clear Instructions: Review important information and provide easy-to-read education materials. For telehealth providers, diagnostic platforms can immediately connect patients to aftercare instructions and informational resources.

Healthcare providers should also follow universal health literacy guidelines and consider licensing a telehealth platform that uses patient-friendly, plain language that can be coded into medical terminology. Such tools enable patients and providers to understand the telehealth encounter and related information in familiar terms.

David Thompson, MD, serves as CEO and chief medical officer for Health Navigator, Inc.

Survey Finds Increase in Mobility Planning but Gaps in Critical Infrastructure

Spok, Inc. released the findings of their fifth annual mobility strategies in healthcare survey. The survey is designed to assess mobile workflow enablement progress and trends in hospitals across the country. More than 550 healthcare organizations responded to the questions about mobile strategy documentation, bring your own device (BYOD) policies, communications infrastructure, and information security.

“The majority of hospitals and health systems are formalizing a mobility strategy, which helps define the goals and framework for all mobile-related projects,” said Vincent D. Kelly, president, and chief executive officer of Spok Holdings, Inc.

The survey shows that mobile strategy plans and use cases continue to grow, with an emphasis on smartphones and apps. It also reveals there is a large gap in the infrastructure necessary to support these strategies and devices, including wireless network coverage and enterprise mobility management (EMM) solutions. “Fifty-four percent of respondents answered that Wi-Fi coverage is a current challenge for mobile device users, and 47 percent cited cellular coverage challenges. This gap will be critical for hospitals to address in an effort to mitigate security risks and enhance communications,” said Hemant Goel, president of Spok, Inc.

Survey findings reveal that the diversity of mobile devices is increasing as new types of devices (such as wearables) are added to the mix and existing tools remain firmly entrenched in clinicians’ workflows. “As the survey demonstrates, pagers continue to play a major role in communications,” added Kelly. “That’s why, as part of our portfolio, we maintain support for the paging demands of the market, including the introduction of our encrypted pager.”

The survey also showed that more hospitals are hiring outside experts to help with clinical mobility, from planning through technology implementations and rollout. “Mobility enablement is far more complicated than just giving users an app,” Goel said.

Healthcare Call Center News

Health Navigator Partners With ERatHome: Health Navigator announced it has partnered with ERatHome, a network of retail clinics and home-based urgent care services, to expand access to providers and control the flow of medical information between patients and clinicians. As part of the collaboration, Health Navigator will support ERatHome’s Hive application, which is designed to share medical records and treatment history among care teams, provide patients with 24/7 access to doctors, facilitate appointment scheduling, send automated reminders and alerts, and share patient education resources.

Patients in the ERatHome network can use the Hive app to call or schedule a virtual visit with a doctor. Doctors use patient information to make a preliminary diagnosis based on symptoms and suggest the next steps to take. Health Navigator provides a diagnostic decision-support platform that features clinical codes, symptom checking intelligence, and process analysis for clinicians. By integrating Health Navigator’s comprehensive set of codes and analytics, ERatHome provides a more accurate, efficient diagnostic process, which can produce improved outcomes.

Andrew Mellin Named Chief Medical Officer for Spok: Spok Holdings, Inc. announced the appointment of Andrew Mellin, M.D. as Chief Medical Officer. In this new role, Dr. Mellin will be responsible for representing the physician’s needs for communications software solutions to drive improvements in provider efficiency and patient care. Dr. Mellin joins recently appointed Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) Dr. Nat’e Guyton, in creating a clinical leadership team focused on using communication technologies to enable more effective workflow approaches that complement a health system’s investment in electronic records.

“We are delighted to welcome Dr. Mellin to our team,” said Vincent D. Kelly, president, and chief executive officer of Spok Holdings, Inc. “He is an industry veteran, who brings over twenty years of healthcare experience—both as a physician and executive—to the position, and will play a key role in executing our long-term strategy to achieve growth in all healthcare markets.”

A Thought For Today

“A career is wonderful, but you can’t curl up with it on a cold night.” -Marilyn Monroe