Dan Ablett

Omni-channel, automated digital communication technology has the potential to improve health outcomes and lower costs across almost every sector of the long-term care industry. Skilled nursing homes, continuing care retirement communities, assisted living and independent communities all have the opportunity to enhance quality of care, streamline care coordination and strengthen cost containment programs with these technologies.

Purposeful deployment of these tools helps operators, owners and clinicians empower patients and their agents, including family, to make informed decisions about their care, while creating a positive experience and improving health outcomes. And, in a world dramatically transformed by COVID-19, effective communication has never been more central and vital to care delivery and risk management. 

The adoption of automated omni-channel digital communication practices is imperative, particularly for LTC facilities whose populations include a significant number of Medicare beneficiaries.

These systems are key tools in achieving the Quadruple Aim.

Optimize effectiveness

Omni-channel communication employs different ways of communicating: letters, SMS texts, emails, calls, self-test packets, and even facsimiles. Successful program implementation ensures the right information is delivered to the right recipients in a mode and sequence that supports optimum outcomes. Recipients include patients, their agents, care providers, pharmacy and administrators. Effective communication systems save money, streamline processes, reduce time needed to deliver critical information and improve experiences by meeting rapidly changing needs.

Ensure compliance

Communication platforms serving healthcare consumers who are Medicare or Medicaid enrollees carry a high burden for compliance, particularly patient privacy HIPAA and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid regulations. Using omni-channel systems, LTC operators can provide customized communications that fulfill these requirements. Previon’s solutions, for example, address all of the essential elements of CMS-regulated enrollee communications including translated languages and alternate communication formats (e.g., braille, audio, large print, ADA section 504 compliance). All communications are delivered in a HIPAA-compliant manner.

Improve experience and outcomes, reduce cost

Thoughtful communication integration directly impacts quality, cost of care and the critical measurement metrics for Medicare and Medicaid payers. Four specific use cases come to mind:

  • Medication adherence: Data-driven targeted communication campaigns can be established for the benefit of specific LTC populations in alignment with specific disease states, medications and care coordination programs. These campaigns can be managed in a manner that yields continuing quality performance improvement.
  • Medication therapy management: Medicare payers implement MTM programs that are communication-intensive for enrollees, pharmacists and providers. Effective program design can reduce friction and cost, while supporting outcome improvement.
  • Provider empanelment: Outcomes and experience for patients paneled to, and having an established relationship with, a primary care provider is generally improved relative to those without a PCP. Omni-channel communication campaigns that facilitate the process of provider empanelment are an effective tool for achieving this at scale.
  • Opportunities through continuing health education: Solutions that include access to information on virtually any disease state/medication, including all of the 12 key conditions tracked by Medicare, simplify development of ongoing education campaigns to residents and agents. They also can address commonly asked questions and reinforce the physician-directed care model.

COVID-19 change drivers

The pandemic has triggered a sea change with respect to care coordination. Organizations that have implemented communication practices via platforms capable of rapid adjustment and adaptation to care needs already have seen the benefits. For example, when health systems stopped elective procedures as an outflow from the redirection of care resources, a robust communication platform would have enabled LTCs to inform patients and their agents, and provide reassurance and counsel on managing conditions in the interim. These automated systems provide a key tool to enable the virtualization of communications in the manner best for the recipient.

Benefits of omni-channel communication platforms

Comprehensive omni-channel communication systems that are implemented holistically drive continuing quality performance improvement and lower cost of care, while enhancing patient experience and supporting care system metrics and payer star ratings. Consistent use leads to a range of benefits including:

  • Contributing to improvement in care quality
  • Optimizing the effectiveness of communications
  • Increasing administrative efficiencies
  • Delivering higher patient satisfaction
  • Supporting preventive care practices

There is no doubt that employing automated omni-channel digital communication enables a holistic approach to individual healthcare needs that positively impacts quality of care. This is evident among the many stakeholders strategically important to LTC providers that already leverage digital communications systems to elevate outcomes – think providers, payers, pharmacies and pharmacy benefit managers. The convergence of  technological capability, the pandemic, the 21st Century Cures Act and coming interoperability rules create a unique opportunity for LTC operators, providers and payers to partner in data-driven communication for the benefit of LTC Medicare patients.

Dan Ablett, president and board member at Previon, has continually pursued the application of information technology to production and business systems and client-facing solutions.