Features

Michael Hunt – St. Vincent’s Health Partners Inc.

Keeping an IT on patients

For many patients, clinical care is daunting. Check in. Fill out paperwork. Wait two hours. Meet with a physician. Hope against hope it’s the last time you’ll have to do any of it. (By the way, you’ll have to come back next week.)

This is especially true for those with chronic illnesses like diabetes, where more visits don’t always correlate with improved outcomes.

Dr. Michael Hunt knew there had to be a better way. As CEO and president for St. Vincent’s Health Partners, Dr. Hunt has witnessed how inefficient processes—seemingly systemic, but preventable—can negatively impact the patient experience.

“We decided to leverage technology to fundamentally transform how we engage our patients,” Dr. Hunt says. “And we did that by moving away from the classic population-health paradigm to a customer relationship management model.”

Human resources

In lay terms, that means making it easier for the network’s myriad health care providers to share information across the network in real time.

How does that look?

Say a late-night illness brings you to one of St. Vincent’s emergency rooms. Once you’re checked in and treated, third-party software created by PatientPing makes the information available to both your primary care provider and participating health care team members.

Afterward, St. Vincent’s discretely tracks all of your subsequent visits and treatment, making that information available to everyone who gives you care, all while facilitating care coordination between providers.

Having already partnered with dozens of health care providers throughout Connecticut, the team at PatientPing saw in St. Vincent’s an ideal proving ground.

“They understood immediately how real-time clinical event notification can facilitate high quality, more supportive, compassionate patient care,” says Jay Desai, PatientPing’s CEO. “The success of a platform like this depends on the capability of providers, and in this instance, St. Vincent’s outstanding clinical capabilities came together with our technology really, really well.”

According to Dr. Hunt, the goal is to improve the patient experience while decreasing the number of preventable hospitalizations across the system. The strategy also provides an opportunity to improve management of chronic disease, giving timely attention to preventive interventions in an effort reduce unnecessary hospitalizations and emergency room visits.

“What this does is take pressure off the primary physicians to figure out the proper road map for a patient based on a single visit,” Dr. Hunt says. “Increasing available information to the physicians that is relevant, comprehensive and current, helps those making local decisions to better support the patient care plan.”

Gathering the data is one thing; figuring out what to do with it is another matter entirely. To that end, Dr. Hunt solicited the help of SymphonyRM, a health care-centric data software company. Through the company’s eponymous platform, St. Vincent’s can gather data from PatientPing (among other sources, including payer data and emergency medical records) to provide relevant, real-time actionable information to physicians and nurses.

“What our platform gave Michael and his team was a way of prioritizing that data such that the staff would, at any given time, know what to recommend as far as scheduling appointments and treatment,” says SymphonyRM cofounder Vipul Viyas. “This allows entities like St. Vincent’s to be much more proactive.”

More broadly, the technology allows St. Vincent’s to direct its patient outreach efforts more efficiently—specifying which phone calls should be made when, better targeting text message alerts, and the like.

Conducting the orchestra

Through a dynamic dashboard, Symphony also helps St. Vincent’s to improve care, decrease risk and lower the cost of care. According to Dr. Hunt, this is all part of a broader effort to successfully participate in new models of reimbursement that focus on value and quality of health care delivery, while improve funding models for sustainable medical management and care coordination.

For the last three years, St. Vincent’s has participated in what’s known as a bundled payment care improvement program, whereby St. Vincent’s Medical Center and its network partners have accepted a certain level of risk in order to achieve total care benchmarks over 90 days of care.

However, due to inefficiencies in managing patient transitions of care through the 90-day period, along with a lack of detailed patient information resulting from transitions within St. Vincent’s Medical Center, the entity would often exceed CMS’ target pricing.

Now, because PatientPing allows more precise coordination of care through each transition between providers, the network is in a better position to achieve CMS’ target price, thereby avoiding having to reimburse CMS.

“We’re trying to manage patients as soon as we can,” Dr. Hunt says. “That puts us in a better position to meet our target pricing.”

As providers improve their data capabilities through PatientPing and SymphonyRM, Dr. Hunt says communication with patients and their providers will improve in tandem. One idea is to develop a mobile app, through which patients can securely communicate with their care coordinator and health care providers, both to improve information portability and comply with a coordinated treatment care plan.

The hope is, that as people become more engaged with their treatment, providers can more effectively interact with those who might otherwise slip through the cracks. “As we begin to look at socioeconomic barriers to accessing care, the trend is to make health care more responsible for mitigating those barriers,” Dr. Hunt says. “And you do that with data, and you do that with engagement.”

In time, patient interaction could be used to generate data beyond the four walls of St. Vincent’s. Indeed, Dr. Hunt says, there’s been anecdotal correlation between patients who are properly engaged—that is, diligently tracked throughout their St. Vincent’s journey—and rates of readmission, which indicate how well conditions are being identified and treated.

He also sees a connection to the system’s bottom line, with more patients meeting the “target pricing” laid out by insurers. In fact, it’s helping bring non-St. Vincent’s patients into the network.

“The thread through all these initiatives is how we’re engaging patients,” says Dr. Hunt. “We’re trying to find that balance between helping providers deftly treat each patient, while fulfilling the contractual payer requirements, but without inundating them with too much unneeded information. That means using the information to direct the right resources for that patient engagement at the right time in the most appropriate patient care environment.”

Published on: July 3, 2018

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