Using telehealth data to improve patient care

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David Thompson, MD, CHC, FACEP, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Medical Officer, Health Navigator

Understanding what drives patients to your medical practice can help you educate and prepare staff, which improves the patient experience. And, while you may have a gut instinct as to your patient’s chief complaints, have you ever crunched the numbers? Health Navigator has. Our experts recently explored approximately 20,000 medical call center patient interactions to identify the top reasons patients call, how urgent their symptoms were, and peak call times.

The analysis included information for patients from all age groups and found that the top chief complaints across the board included: fever, vomiting, stomach pain, cough and head pain. Patients with the most urgent needs were babies or infants three to 24 months old (nearly 35 percent of calls), while the least urgent calls involved children (2-12 years).

Why coded chief complaint data matters

Understanding why and when people contact nurse advice centers allows telemedicine providers to manage staff expectations and prepare for common interactions. This can be accomplished by using a diagnostic telehealth platform that codes the chief complaints. This serves as a starting point to analyze the most common interactions at a hospital or health system.

If health care professionals and call center staff know what to expect in the average telehealth experience, they can:

  • Prepare a standardized call flow format and follow-up questions for their system’s top complaints;
  • Calmly and consistently handle patient calls and manage expectations; and
  • Plan workflow and staffing needs, based on patient prioritization and time of day.

Diagnostic platforms can also provide data that health care professionals can use to determine the suggested treatment protocol for common complaints and to enhance staff training by:

  • Teaching incoming staff the most common chief complaints,
  • Documenting follow-up protocol and questions to ask, and
  • Preparing educational information about recommended treatments.

Consider the patient who contacts a medical call center about a persistent cough. The responding staff member recognizes this as a common chief complaint and asks follow-up questions suggested by the telehealth platform. This allows staff to consistently communicate the most common treatments for a cough and care instructions for the patient. The telehealth platform can also provide easy access to printable aftercare instructions that can be shared with patients.

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This more efficient workflow can ultimately create a more effective environment for staff and contribute to patient satisfaction and retention efforts.

The needs of your patient population may change over time, but data about common chief complaints can help you understand these cycles and market your services accordingly throughout the year.

 

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