Guest Column | May 29, 2018

How UC Is Helping ACOs Integrate Comms For Better Care

By Perry Price, Revation Systems

Will EHRs Be The Bridge To Integrated Care?

Today’s healthcare system is marked by transformation — whether it’s new models of care stemming from changes in our nation’s administration or innovative digital technologies evolving in response to shifting patient expectations. Over the last five to seven years, one of the most influential changes has been the creation of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) that seek to treat populations of patients in a holistic manner with seamlessly coordinated care from all aspects of the healthcare system. One of the goals of ACOs is to achieve the “triple aim” of healthcare — defined by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) as the simultaneous pursuit of improving patient care as well as the health of populations and reducing the per capita cost of healthcare.

As the cost of care in the U.S. rises and communication becomes digitized, the need for coordination increases every day. The ability to quickly and securely coordinate between all providers involved in a given patient situation is crucial within provider groups and health systems today. This need for coordination will only increase as more health systems form ACOs, and reimbursement comes from value-based care rather than fee-for-service care. When aiming to increase the value of care for any patient, engagement is key.

Connecting Data To UC Can Bridge The Gap

A common focus of many healthcare organizations is the need to close the gap in quality healthcare. Gaps in follow-up care or medication adherence do exist in today’s healthcare system and can be costly to both the patient and healthcare organization. Amid healthcare’s current digital transformation, creating innovative ways in which care can transcend the traditional clinical setting — i.e., in-person appointments with a provider — is of the utmost importance in the ACOs’ mission. Unified Communications (UC) solutions may be just what the doctor ordered to bridge these gaps and provide better care to patients. UC technology is one of the many ways healthcare organizations are seeking to increase the value of patient care through simplified communications, since it can help increase patient engagement as well as satisfy increasing expectations for flexible and convenient modes of communication.

As a result, healthcare organizations are at a unique advantage in being able to use UC solutions to enhance the quality and experience of care. One way organizations can utilize UC to integrate communications for better care is to connect unified communications to patient data in Electronic Medical Records (EMR) to drive better patient-provider communication. Data that is connected to unified communications is incredibly powerful — unlocking real-time analytics on a population of patients managed by an individual physician. Artificial Intelligence (AI) within unified communications solutions will also be a major influence for ACOs integrating communications in the years ahead.

UC-Enabled Proactive Patient Engagement

Connecting EMR data to UC solutions can completely transform a provider’s ability to communicate and engage with a population of patients. Consider the following, for example: Dr. Cruz is a physician at a clinic that is part of an ACO treating a population of patients with chronic illnesses. With such a large number of patients, proactively connecting with them to provide follow-up care and communication between visits can be difficult. With one provider responsible for maintaining engagement and communication among a vast number of patients, caring for them outside of scheduled appointments poses a real challenge that can have negative implications for both parties involved. By using digital unified communications technology, such as interactive voice response (IVR) or artificial intelligence (AI), however, proactively engaging with a population of patients to provide better coordinated, consistent care suddenly becomes much more manageable.

UC technology like outbound dialers that use IVR to rapidly and proactively connect with a large number of patients can make all of the difference when it comes to providing follow-up care, medication adherence or reaching out to a demographic of patients who have not visited a clinic recently. Unified communication tools that enable providers to select a couple of basic factors — such as demographic, age, condition, length of time since last seen — to engage with that group of patients can rapidly fill appointment slots, send appointment reminders, schedule follow-up appointments, etc. As a result, proactive patient outreach creates a stronger patient-provider relationship and enhances the quality of care overall.

Seamless Communication Means Better Care Coordination

While unified communications technology can improve patient-provider communication resulting in a healthier population of patients, it can also enhance internal communications in healthcare organizations — resulting in better care coordination. As these organizations experience acquisitions and mergers, communication between internal staff becomes even more challenging. With a variety of specialty clinics, and so many points of care today, juggling communication between clinics is a real challenge that threatens seamless, quality care for patients. Inefficiencies in communication within organizations that exist today steal precious time from physicians and nurses; and, even worse, they hinder the ability to provide quality care to patients. UC solutions can drastically improve efficiency of communication between providers and translate into better coordination of care for patients.

At the end of the day, ACOs extend care interactions outside of traditional clinical settings —a great way to add unique value to patient care. However, this is only of value if the communications experience is made seamless for both the patients and providers, which is why UC plays such an integral role for successful ACOs.

About The Author

Perry Price is CEO/president of Revation Systems. In this role, Price builds and grows the customer base, recruits qualified talent, and streamlines internal operations. Price utilizes his deep domain expertise in IP networking and communication applications, including telephony, unified communications, call-center technologies, and messaging.