Key performance indicators such as readmission rates and HCAHPS scores now seem to pale in comparison to the urgencies presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as addressing surge capacity, having enough life-saving equipment, and ensuring staff is equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE).
While COVID-19 protocols may be taking priority right now, post-discharge follow up is still important, perhaps more so than ever. Communicating with patients post-discharge helps address the challenges they are facing during these uncertain times, especially when their hospital experience may have been atypical.
“Patients need additional support during this crisis and by continuing to follow up with them after discharge, you reduce the risk of them returning to the emergency department or requiring rehospitalization.” — Lyndsey Lord MBA, BSN, RN, Vice President, Clinical Services, CipherHealth
Modifying Post-Discharge Follow up Procedures in the Time of COVID-19
As hospitals focus their efforts on addressing surges in capacity and the needs of patients testing positive for COVID-19, staff members who normally assist in following up with patients may have reduced availability.
The following are some ways our hospital partners have modified their post-discharge follow up processes to adapt to their changing staffing needs and ensure patients still receive valuable care after leaving the hospital:
Update Alerting Methodology to Accommodate Changing Staff Availability
Our customers are prioritizing patient concerns that indicate an immediate clinical need, such as the inability of a patient to acquire their medications. Users of CipherHealth’s Post-Discharge Follow Up programs can prioritize the automated alerts that require manual intervention so your team can focus their efforts on patients who indicate they are at the highest risk of an adverse event.
Modify Automated Program Scripts to Reduce the Need for Staff Intervention
For organizations that use automated outreach to call or text patients post-discharge, one method of reducing the number of inbound calls is to provide more educational guidance within the automated responses. Changing the responses within the script should have the goal of limiting alerts to staff members that may already be overwhelmed with tending to existing patients. For example, only alert staff members for a patient feeling unsafe at home and/or not having access to medications, food or the supplies needed to help them recover and ensure your scripts reflect these changes.
Change Messages to Include COVID-19 Information
In addition to changing the questions or responses a patient can choose on automated calls and texts to help healthcare workers flag the most urgent matters, some CipherHealth customers have opted to update their closing message to specifically address the current crisis. These updates can include any major changes to the organization in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, such as a reduction in elective appointments and procedures.
With shorter lengths of stays, and limited or no post-procedural appointments available, follow up is a crucial aspect of ensuring patients can recover optimally and avoid having to return to the emergency department or hospital.
To learn more about how CipherHealth customers are adapting their post-discharge follow up procedures, download our overview. If you have any of your own practices you’d like to share, please contact us or email firstname.lastname@example.org.