Improving Home Health Care Through Communication Technology

Current research has shown that communication plays a vital role in health outcomes for patients. Not only that, but communication play a large role in patient satisfaction, which is strongly tied to reimbursement for healthcare organizations. So, whether you are a patient, family member, or healthcare organization, the better the communication is between patients and providers, the better off every party is.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, more easily understood as HIPPA, was instituted in 1996 to protect patient’s medical information. In an effort to better protect medical information on patients, HIPPA simultaneously made communication between providers and patients more difficult. This is making communication even more troublesome and frustrating. Recent advancements in technology have allowed for improved communication between healthcare organizations and the clients they serve. How can home healthcare agencies leverage communication technology to improve the relationship between caregivers and clients?

Advancements in Communication Technology:

With advancements in healthcare information technologies has come secure e-mail communication between patients and providers, mobile apps, personal monitoring devices, and other platforms for communication. All these platforms allow for increased information sharing and communication. Adding this technology allows for a plethora of benefits that improve the relationship between caregivers and clients including:

  1. Increased communication: when communication is made fast and easy it increases the amount and frequency of communication. This means that clients will be more likely to communicate with caregivers, thereby providing them with valuable assessment information as well as answers when clients need them. Frequent communication helps to foster a relationship of trust with caregivers and clients alike.
  2. Seeing your patient: caregivers generally are not at the client’s home 24/7 in most cases. This means that making clinical assessments can be difficult by phone or messaging. New technology has enabled video capabilities that allow caregivers to actually see their patients when they are not physically with them. From a caregiver perspective that holds amazing power. Being able to see your patient on a device that they have can prove to be invaluable when determining whether or not an intervention needs to happen. Not only this but allowing the patient to see the face of the caregiver helps to build a bond between the caregiver and client much more so than a phone call or email. A positive bond between a caregiver and client leads to increased satisfaction in both parties.
  3. Patient monitoring: patients can wear/keep devices that monitor vital lab values such as blood glucose level, blood pressure, heart rhythm, pulse, and many others. Instead of the patient needing to go through the process of calling the providers office to report the value, or having to fax results to the caregiver, they can simply use technology that will communicate the information to their providers or they can enter their values into a system for their providers to access at their convenience. Not only is this convenient for clients but it saves an enormous amount of time and effort for healthcare staff. These devices can help to eliminate frequent and often times unnecessary trips to medical facilities when these services can be done accurately at patient’s homes. A huge benefit to patients who live busy lives or have to travel long distances to get to the nearest medical facility.
  4. Access to medical records: many clients have multiple providers. One patient could be followed by a primary care provider, a home health provider, and multiple specialists. Obviously, patients can’t (nor should they) be tested by each individual provider for the same tests. This requires a lot of information sharing between the providers. With a patient portal, clients can easily access their medical records then share their records with their respective providers. Again, this saves the patient time. It is a standard procedure for patients to fill out an authorization form to allow patients medical records to be sent to another healthcare facility (HIPPA regulations). This process adds workload to the healthcare organization with no reimbursement for services. Many patients like to keep a copy of their own medical records, which they can now access anywhere they have an internet connection and can print and store their medical records without needing to contact anyone.

How To Utilize Communication Technology Effectively:

Having technology alone won’t ensure that the caregiver/client relationship is enhanced. Caregivers and healthcare organizations can do a lot of things to help make the most of the communication technology. Here are 3 practices that will aid caregivers in getting the most out of communication technology. 

  1. Reinforce the use of communication technology: technology will only be utilized by clients if they are encouraged to use it. Make every effort to reinforce the use of communication technology at every opportunity so clients know it is an efficient and quality way to communicate. If you don’t reinforce the use, many clients won’t give it a second thought and will rely on alternative, more traditional methods.
  2. Educate clients on how to use the technology: communication technology, whether it be a secure email system or app, will only be as good as its users. If clients are not familiar with the technology or confident in using it, they probably won’t. Provide education materials and make sure the technology is user-friendly for all people.
  3. Use it well: If the clients notice that it takes their caregivers longer to respond on the mobile app than it does when they call, they will not default to using the mobile app. On the opposite side, if they know you will be quick to respond to the method you are reinforcing, they will be much more likely to use it.

Patient-centered care can become more of a reality for home health care agencies with the use of communication technology. Using technology will help to engage clients in their care and allow them to communicate more effectively and frequently with their caregivers. Thus, leading to better outcomes for clients and more efficient work for caregivers.

The author, Ryan McEniff, is the host of the podcast The Caregiver’s Toolbox and owner of Minute Women Home Care, a home health care company located in Lexington, MA.

LEAVE A REPLY

2 × 3 =