Social Media: Pinch Hitting Medical Home Runs

With discussions of healthcare reform permeating our hospitals and clinics, I’ve been on a quest to read “success stories” to gain insight into how organizations have achieved improved care with reduced costs.

My quest uncovered an article in Health Affairs by Arnold Milstein and Elizabeth Gilbertson who highlighted four care sites in the United States that constituted “medical home runs” because their patients incurred 15-20% less spending than patients treated by regional peers, without evidence of reduced quality.

Exceptional caring promises

According to the authors, the organizations that achieved quality with cost-savings had several or all of the five, what they termed, “exceptional caring promises” embedded in their practices:

  • We will take enough time during your office visits to fully understand your illness and self-management capability and fine-tune your treatment.
  • Between office visits, we will directly provide or mobilize the help you need in implementing your self-management plan, with special emphasis on medication management.
  • We will respond promptly 24/7 when you ask for urgent help between visits.
  • We will link you with a small group of carefully selected specialists with whom we actively coordinate.
  • We care personally about protecting you from health crisis.

Social media tools can be instrumental

After reading the authors’ exceptional care promises, I immediately thought about how instrumental social media tools could be in helping practices achieve these “exceptional caring promises.”

As part of the first caring promise of understanding patients’ “self-management capabilities,” practitioners can also assess the patients’ access to the Internet and their comfort with online tools. If the patient has both online access and comfort using online tools, then the second caring promise (the self-management plan, including medication management) could be augmented with online capabilities.

Using online tools (such as online health communities, secured email, text messaging, dedicated chat rooms or message boards) makes the third caring promise of 24/7 access easier and more cost effective. Linking patients to specialists, as the fourth caring promise suggests, could also be augmented with online access to those specialists.

Online tools can reinforce caring promises

I am not suggesting that online tools can take the place of the dedicated practitioners who embed these caring promises in their practices. I am, however, suggesting that practitioners pressured by time restraints, staff limitations or resource limitations can more easily and cost-effectively embed these caring promises into their practices with the use of online tools.

How we help

Hive Strategies helps health systems create HIPAA-compliant online communities for better health, lower costs and greater loyalty.

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