Why Healthcare Professionals Need to Take Health Advocacy More Seriously

The United States healthcare system is extremely complex. Even people who work in the field might not fully understand all the systems involved with delivering and paying for healthcare. This is a major problem since the average patient might not know how to ensure that they’re getting the care they need or how to make sure their medical bills are paid.

All healthcare providers are busy, but if you’re working in the field of medicine, it’s important to understand what kinds of obstacles patients face and how to address them with health advocacy. Many people simply don’t have the health literacy to navigate the system, which leads to poorer outcomes, lack of access, and other consequences.

People getting substandard care because they don’t know how to submit bills properly or due to a language barrier, for instance, is unacceptable. Healthcare professionals need to fully understand the role of health advocates and take them seriously.

What is Health Advocacy?

Health advocacy is all about helping patients get the healthcare services they need. A health advocate helps people get through any aspect of the healthcare delivery process they have trouble with. Advocates must understand the individual patient’s needs and work to remove obstacles that could affect their health outcomes.

An advocate might perform many tasks on behalf of the patient, which might include:

      •         Taking notes during an appointment
      •         Asking questions on the patient’s behalf.
      •         Calling the patient’s insurance company
      •         Helping patients understand their health conditions and treatment options
      •         Completing difficult administrative tasks
      •         Reminding patients to take their medications and follow their doctors’  instructions.

Who Can Be a Health Advocate?

Essentially, anyone a patient trusts can be their health advocate. Personal advocates are often family members or close friends. A caregiver can also act as a health advocate. As long as a person is trustworthy, has basic health literacy skills, and is able to easily understand written and verbal communications, they should be able to take on the role of a health advocate.

There are also professional health advocates who might be hired by a healthcare organization or individual. Professional advocates do not need special training or licensing, but they usually have a background in the field of healthcare. Because there is no regulation on the healthcare advocacy field, it’s important for patients to choose a professional advocate with appropriate experience and references.

The Benefits of Health Advocacy

The benefits of health advocacy for patients are clear: with an advocate, patients can communicate more effectively with their providers, ensure that they are getting the care they need, and take care of administrative tasks that might be difficult or impossible for them to complete on their own.

There are benefits for healthcare providers, as well as patients. Working with an advocate as a liaison can help reduce misunderstandings. It can also help ensure that patients follow their provider’s directions in managing their health.

Advocates save time on both the patient’s side and the provider’s side. Doctors will need to spend less time explaining health information, allowing them to stay on schedule. Patients will have to wait less for their appointments, making the experience of going to the doctor less frustrating and more efficient.

Patients Who Might Need a Health Advocate

Older people often need the help of a health advocate. They might struggle to use the technology needed to make appointments, view test results, and submit paperwork. They might also struggle with mobility and other obstacles to getting proper care. As people get older, their health needs become increasingly complex and difficult to manage, so a health advocate can be a major asset.

People with complex health needs and those with conditions that affect cognition, communication, mobility, and other functions might also need a health advocate. People who do not speak the same language as their healthcare providers or have trouble navigating the healthcare system due to poor health literacy can benefit greatly from a health advocate.

Public Health Advocacy

Although individual advocates are extremely important for patient outcomes, public health advocacy is another critical activity for improving community health. Public health advocates primarily focus on healthcare access for underserved communities. Not only does this help create healthier communities, but it also helps increase trust in the healthcare system.

How Healthcare Professionals Can Help Boost Advocacy

Health advocacy is a win-win for healthcare professionals and their patients. But how can you, your colleagues, and organizational leaders help increase the role of advocacy within the industry? Here are some examples:

      • Advocate for your patients as much as you can, which might mean confronting family members or calling a social worker
      • Push for hiring professional advocates in your workplace
      • Support social workers
      • Be willing to work with patients’ personal advocates

Taking advocacy seriously isn’t difficult. All you have to do is recognize the challenges patients face and do what you can to help break down those barriers! And if more healthcare professionals start taking advocacy seriously, then we can look forward to a future with improved care and better patient outcomes

With a Bachelor’s in Health Science along with an MBA, Sarah Daren has a wealth of knowledge within both the health and business sectors. Her expertise in scaling and identifying ways tech can improve the lives of others has led Sarah to be a consultant for a number of startup businesses, most prominently in the wellness industry, wearable technology and health education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier and safer place for future generations to come.


Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

Your Therapy Practice’s Online Reputation Matters

Is your practice a 5-star facility according to Google, Yelp, Facebook, and so on? If not, here are some ways to help improve your online reputation.

Have you Googled your practice lately? Logged in to Yelp? Dropped in on your Facebook page? You might want to.

Your practice’s online reputation matters now more than ever before. Increasingly, patients are putting their trust in online reviews when determining which healthcare facility and provider to use. In fact, the results of a recent survey by the Binary Fountain found 70% of Americans have been influenced by online ratings and review when selecting a healthcare provider, and 95% of respondents said they find online ratings and reviews “somewhat” to “very” reliable. In addition, according to BrightLocal’s most recent Local Consumer Review Survey, 91% of 18-34 year old consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

If your practice is anything less than a 5-star facility online, here are some ways to help improve your reputation.

Build and Own Your Brand: The more of a presence you have online, the more you can control perceptions of your practice. If you haven’t already, build an SEO-optimized website to make your practice easier to find online, and secure accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Yelp, YouTube, and so on. Include positive reviews or patient testimonials on your site, and be sure to interact with your patients and the public across social media on a regular basis to show you are a trusted, responsive brand. As the adage goes, the best defense is a good offense, and controlling your brand is a good way to control the conversation about your practice.

Ask for Reviews: We’re more connected than ever. According to Pew Research Center, 81% of Americans now own smartphones, meaning the internet is literally at their fingertips. While you have your patient in front of you, mention online ratings and ask if they’d be willing to write a review. They can even do so right there in the office, while sitting for an ice application or ESTIM. According to recent findings, 70% of consumers will leave a review for a business if asked, so it certainly does not hurt to mention it.

Use the Feedback: Negative reviews happen. Instead of letting them get under your skin, use them to your advantage. Publicly address any concerns made in reviews by responding in a professional manner and commit to improving on any issues you can, giving the public eye a candid look at how seriously you take patient satisfaction. While this won’t get rid of a negative review, it certainly allows people to see it, and your practice, in a different light.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

Your Practice’s Online Presence Matters

The patients have spoken—an online presence and well thought out customer experience are critical components when it comes to choosing a physician or practice.

The patients have spoken—an online presence and well thought out customer experience are critical components of their choice in and retention of a practice and physician, or so says the recent Customer Experience Trends in Healthcare report from doctor.com.

The study, in which 1,718 U.S. adult patients participated, found that 80% of consumers used the internet to make a healthcare-related search in the past year, and that 81% of patients will read reviews about a provider, even after they have been referred to them. If your practice is not online—or worse, if you have a negative presence online—your practice could be suffering. 90% of survey respondents stated that will frequently or always change their mind about a referral due to the provider’s poor or weak online reputation (a rating of less than three out of five stars), and 60% stated they would not book with a provider with poor quality reviews. That rings true across all age groups, too, not just the tech-savvy millennial population—of those respondents over age 60, 76% said they have used the internet to make a healthcare related search in the last year, and 90% will change their mind about seeing a referred healthcare provider with a rating of less than 3 stars online.

It isn’t just about reputation, though. Patients are also seeking a seamless digital experience, as well. 45% of respondents stated they prefer to use digital methods, such as a patient portal, to request an appointment, and 42% will choose a provider exclusively for access to this. Another 71% said they prefer appointment reminders via text or email, really driving home the importance of integrating digital tools for a more complete customer experience.

If you have yet to take your online presence seriously, now is the time, for as technology evolves—and it does at a rapid rate—users of all ages are quick to adopt it, and they want to see it everywhere, even in their healthcare.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

3 Ways to Enhance the Patient Experience

Happy patients make for a thriving practice. Are you overlooking these three core ways to keep your patients satisfied?

Therapists, by nature, are caring individuals, but in practice, sometimes caring about the patient experience can get a little lost in the day to day hustle. Here are three core ways you can enhance the patient experience to keep patients satisfied and your practice thriving.

Create an Inviting Environment

It has been proven, in some cases, the physical environment a patient is in can actually help them heal faster. Since healing is a main focus of physical therapy, creating a positive, welcoming environment is a good place to start, when enhancing the patient experience. Everything from the ambience of the waiting room to a friendly and well-informed front office staff should be taken into consideration.

While no patient likes to wait, it is often inevitable that they will have to, be it because they arrived early or you are running late. Make the wait more bearable by creating an inviting space. Everything from providing comfortable seating to making use of natural light can make a huge difference in terms of atmosphere. Stock the with toys and coloring books for children (whether or not you treat children) and set the mood with soothing music via Pandora or Spotify, if you’d like to forgo fitting the space with a television.

Staff your reception area with a friendly, attentive, and knowledgeable team, who will provide one-on-one, patient-focused customer service. Have them greet patients by name and with a smile, and make sure they are intimately familiar with office policies and procedures, so they can answer any questions your patients may have.

If you are running late, respect that your patient’s time is also valuable and have your front office staff let them know there is a delay. Having your front office staff offer an apology and give updates on how long they can expect to wait can go a long way in managing expectations, as well as easing any frustrations your patients may be.

Communication is Key

Communicating effectively will not only help to foster a strong provider-patient relationship and, in turn, may create better outcomes, but also lends itself well to a positive patient experience, all around.

From the very beginning, work to keep your patient in the know on everything from how to get to the office the very first time and where to park, to office policies and procedures, including paperwork and payments, right on through to their care plan, including the benefits of therapy, what is happening during their sessions, and what is expected of them, during and after each. While your schedule may be packed, and you may not have time to sit and chat with each patient for hours on end, make sure that they know they can ask questions, particularly about their care.

Having a therapist that is accessible and friendly can be an important factor for patient satisfaction, and a well-informed patient will very likely be a happier, more motivated and compliant one.

Ask for Feedback

No news isn’t always good news, no matter how the adage goes, and the things your patients aren’t telling you could be holding you back from reaching your patient satisfaction goals. So, in the spirit of communication being key, know that it has to work both ways.

Ask your patients to provide feedback in the form of patient satisfaction surveys, either digitally or on paper, as a part of their end-of-treatment process. This not only allows you to be aware of where you could be failing in providing the best care and experience, but tells you where you really shine.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

How Hospitals Can Improve Their Patients’ Care Experience

As competition among health care providers intensifies, they are under pressure to deliver a high-quality, cost-effective and pleasant consumer experience.

from H&HN

Sweeping changes to the health care landscape are motivating providers to prioritize the patient as a customer. For many, there is a desire to expand capacity to meet the evolving health needs of patient populations. At the same time, new entrants, such as urgent care centers and drugstores that provide health services, are creating new kinds of competition — and raising the bar for customer service in health care. Furthermore, technology is transforming how customers make buying decisions and purchase goods and services. Consumers want convenience, quality and speed, whether at the coffee shop or the doctor’s office.

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Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

Majority of Americans Have High Praise for Their Providers, Survey Finds

Over 80% of Americans have high praise for their providers, even as reported rates of physician burnout and other frustrations continue to rise.

from Becker’s Hospital Review

Of Americans who have seen a healthcare provider in the last year, 87 percent say they felt they were carefully listened to while 84 percent said they felt that their physician truly cared about their health and well being. Only 23 percent of patients reported feeling rushed and only 15 said they were confused about the instructions they received for treatments or at-home care.

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Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

How Your Hospital Can Better Connect with Patients

One of the most important ways to succeed as a hospital is to connect with the patients who receive care at the facility.

by Eileen O’Shanassy

One of the most important ways to succeed as a hospital is to connect with the patients who receive care at the facility. The relationships established here can form a high level of trust that improves patients’ experiences and a hospital’s reputation. For hospitals that want to improve their patient care, here are a few important changes to make.

Utilize Social Media

Social media can make it easy to continue making conversation with patients and create a sense of community. Patients can ask questions or learn more about important events to attend in the local area. Doctors, too, can provide links or resources to credible information that offer more insight to certain health conditions or tips that should be followed. Be sure to choose an internet plan that will be able to support the volume of patients you have.

Creating social media accounts can also be used to post success stories and testimonials of patients as a positive way of encouraging other people who are considering certain treatments or procedures.

Host Events

From seminars to blood donations, several events can be hosted each year at a hospital where patients can come together and spend more time with physicians and staff. The patients will be more informed on how to maintain a healthy diet or manage certain conditions, which can improve their overall well-being. Events that are available can also help patients to feel more supported by the staff and become more familiar with the services provided by the hospital.

Practice Proper Time Management

Staying organized and practicing time management will make it easier to reduce the amount of time patients spend in the waiting room. Physicians should have a clear understanding of their goals and make use of each hour in the day to ensure they can spend as much time as possible with their patients. Of course, this isn’t always possible for a large facility, and when patients do have to wait, make sure the experience isn’t one they’ll think negatively of.

Make Eye Contact

Providing patients with a high level of attention and making eye contact during the appointment can make it easy to have a better understanding of their symptoms and health issues. Patients will feel like they’re in good hands and will have more trust when it comes to the treatment or medication that they receive. Train all staff on these little tricks to make sure everyone feels listened to and welcome.

When you want your hospital to better connect with patients and become a more respected medical center in the local area, there are several ways you can improve patient care. With the right steps taken, your hospital can have peace of mind knowing the staff is forming strong relationships with everyone who visits.

Eileen O’Shanassy is a freelance writer and blogger based out of Flagstaff, AZ. She writes on a variety of topics and loves to research and write. She enjoys baking, biking, and kayaking. Check out her Twitter, @eileenoshanassy.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

8 Things That Excellent Hospital Doctors Do

Growing competition for new customers is inspiring American hospitals to focus on providing a more positive patient experience — and hospitals expect their doctors to do their part.

from STAT

We wanted to know what defines great physicians in the hospital setting, both in terms of their interactions with patients and how they teach the next generation of doctors — residents and medical students — as they go about their hospital rounds. To do this, we identified 12 doctors from around the US who are recognized as outstanding teacher-physicians. We scrutinized their bedside behavior, did semi-structured interviews with them, and talked with current and former members of their hospital rounding teams.

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Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

The Top Hospitals for Patient Experience in 2017

Healthgrades says it has identified the top 15 percent of facilities when it comes to patients experience.

from Healthcare Finance

This week, Healthgrades named more than 400 hospitals to its 2017 Outstanding Patient Experience Award class highlighting those facilities and systems that excel when it comes to keeping patients happy.

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Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.

Three-Part Patient Satisfaction Tool for Hospitalists

A short and simple way to improve your patient satisfaction scores in the hospital.

by Rajil M. Karnani, MD, MSPA

About three years ago, our hospital was abuzz about patient satisfaction. Our HCAHPS scores were lower than expected, and there was a push by the administration to improve them. As a hospitalist, I wondered to myself, what could I possibly do to improve my ratings? I already believed I was doing a very good job communicating effectively with patients.

Many years ago, I developed the habit at the end of each encounter of always asking patients, “What questions do you have for me?” Much to my dismay, their answers were rarely focused on their health or why they were in the hospital. Instead, they frequently seemed to revolve around things such as an upcoming imaging or blood test, their first meal, and most often, when they could finally go home. That got me thinking. If these are the questions and issues patients really care about, why not anticipate these questions and issues by initiating that conversation with patients before they bring it up with the doctor? I began to do just that. As a result, I developed my own three-part tool that I would use to conclude each patient encounter. The entire process would typically take only about 60 seconds, and if one of the steps didn’t apply to the patient, I would simply skip it and proceed to the next step. Here is my three-part tool, utilizing these common patient questions as a trigger to initiate the conversation:

  1. When can I eat? – If the patient was not on a full diet, I would tell the patient why they were not being allowed to eat and then tell them when they could expect to return to a regular diet. Often, it was because the patient was NPO in anticipation of an upcoming test like an endoscopy or cardiac catheterization, which made a nice segue into the next question.
  2. When is my test? – If the patient was waiting for an important test for which the result could alter their hospital stay or treatment plan, such as an MRI or blood culture, I would tell them when the test was tentatively scheduled and approximately how long it would take to get the results. I would then tell them what the likely decision would be based on the potential results. Finally, I would mention that it is entirely possible that a test could be postponed because of another patient’s emergency need for the same test, but that every effort was being made to get the test done on schedule.
  3. When can I go home? – Based on the patient’s admitting diagnosis, I would provide the best updated estimate of their hospital length-of-stay, typically a range such as two-to-three days or at least one more day. I would also mention why it would take that long, as well as the fact that this was an estimate and it could change based on the patient’s condition or availability of resources.

After addressing these three questions, I would end by asking my usual question, “What questions do you have?” After doing this three-step process numerous times over many months, I noticed something surprising. Many patients would respond to my usual ending question with, “Nothing, doctor, you’ve answered all of my questions.” At that point, I realized I was onto something. By addressing some of the most common concerns of patients without having to be prompted, I was demonstrating to them that I might be understanding their most important and immediate concerns. Moreover, I noticed the tone of these patients tended to be relatively pleasant and calm, which made my job easier. A few months later, when I received my next patient satisfaction scorecard from the hospital, I was in the top 25% of my practice group, up from my previous report. My partners noticed my score, and I shared with them what I was doing. After initiating my process, their anecdotes revealed much of the same results that I had discovered.

If you are looking for a way to improve your patient satisfaction scores in the hospital, especially something that is short and simple to implement, don’t feel like you need to reinvent the wheel. I would simply recommend preempting patient questions and concerns by addressing these three common patient issues when staying in the hospital. Who knows, you might be surprised by how many patients say to you in a heartening way, “Nothing, doctor, you’ve answered all of my questions.”

Dr. Karnani is a subject matter expert in predictive analytics in healthcare, as well as a physician with a medical foundation in academic medicine. He provides a strong skill set in Analytical and Statistical Decision Making, Project Development & Management, and Education & Training. His focus is working with healthcare data to gain actionable insights in the areas of population health management, value-based care, and patient experience.

Dr. Karnani can be reached via email at rajilkarnani@yahoo.com or on LinkedIn here.

Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.