How We Helped Sharp Rees-Stealy Drive Improved Quality Measures with More Efficient Patient Engagement

Looking at the time and cost of an agent, or sometimes a nurse, making the calls to a patient, it was clear that Sharp Rees-Stealy needed a more cost-effective way to conduct this outreach. Sharp implemented a new patient interaction strategy leveraging automated communications to increase patient engagement results.
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For years, the healthcare industry took a quantity over quality approach to reimbursing providers for care delivery. However, newer payment models (whether ACO, Meaningful Use, Medicare Star, or other programs) connect financial incentives and reimbursements to key clinical quality measure (CQMs), which motivate healthcare organizations to engage with patients in new ways.

It’s no longer about volume. It is often about how patients can improve their health and well-being, and take a more active role in their own care. A big piece of this is encouraging patients to come in for immunizations or get screenings for early detection and wellness.

However, with so many different quality and clinical initiatives, patients are likely to be contacted to come in for more than one test or exam. This strains limited resources and funds within the healthcare organization. That’s why we are working with one organization – Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Centers – to enhance the patient experience and streamline its patient engagement efforts.

“Smile and Dial” is Not Enough

Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Centers deployed Varolii’s patient engagement solution last year to reduce missed appointments, increase engagement and drive patients to schedule important clinical screenings. In the past, Sharp Rees-Stealy didn’t have automation for quality measures. The organization attempted to reach patients the old-fashioned way – through mostly manual phone calls.

The biggest hurdle was making time for the calls in an already extremely busy call center. Oftentimes, Sharp Rees-Stealy resorted to bringing in people on Saturdays and work extra hours to make the calls, or ask agents to stay an hour or two after their shift. They loved the extra money in their paycheck but it wasn’t good for Sharp Rees-Stealy’s budget.

When Sharp Rees-Stealy was making the calls manually, the time the agent spent could be anywhere from a couple of minutes to more than five minutes. Whether or not the patient answered the line, agents still had to look up the patient’s information and make notations of the outcome of the call. This was an extremely time consuming process.

Looking at the time and cost of an agent, or sometimes a nurse, making the calls to a patient, it was clear that Sharp Rees-Stealy needed a more cost-effective way to conduct this outreach. With the help of Varolii’s patient interaction technology, Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Centers implemented a new patient interaction strategy leveraging automated communications to increase patient engagement results around appointment reminders and a few, carefully chosen CQMs.

New Approach, Increased Patient Engagement

So far, Sharp Rees-Stealy has seen a 126 percent increase in their patient engagement rate with Varolii applications in the first seven months, saving $1.9 million in equivalent agent productivity value. In just over half a year, Varolii has reached more than 174,000 patients, engaging with an astounding 62 percent. And, patients are happy – some have even called in to rave about the quality of the automated voice applications.

Improved Quality Measures at One Quarter the Cost

In the past year, this automated approach has also helped Sharp Rees-Stealy improve CQM results, using Varolii to reach out to patients regarding colorectal cancer screenings, mammograms, flu shots and more. With the current number of patients who have been screened for each measure, Sharp Rees-Stealy is already ahead of its 2012 results, seeing up to a nine percent improvement in compliance rates for some screenings.

And, while Sharp Rees-Stealy was driving higher compliance rates, increased preventive screenings and healthier outcomes for its patients with Varolii CQM applications, they estimated that they were doing so at one-quarter the cost of using live agents.

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Vance Clipson

About Vance Clipson

Vance Clipson, senior principal, industry solutions focuses on the healthcare and insurance verticals for Nuance Communications. Clipson brings 25 years of experience translating industry needs and data into market strategy and programs. Prior to joining Nuance, Clipson held positions with Milliman, PacifiCare Health Systems, United Dental Care and the American Cancer Society.