Texting is Now a Vital Part of Patient Communications

Tag Archives: Behavioral Health

Texting is Now a Vital Part of Patient Communications

patient communication text

The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred clinicians and healthcare agencies across the nation to make technology changes in order to see and treat patients safely. It has also changed patient communications. Telehealth and contactless patient experience have become more commonplace and texting has also become an increased part of patient communications. COVID-19 has increased the need to relay clinic visitation policies and other important updates and texting is helping to get that information to patients in a way that is easier for both patients and healthcare staff. 

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, phone calls as the primary method of patient communications were already on the way out. Only 18 percent of people said they listened to voicemails from a number they did not know. Millennials, in particular, prefer texting over voice, with 76% finding texting more convenient and a better fit for their schedules. For both staff and patients, text messages can be viewed when convenient. Texts can also be sent out as automated messages, making it easier for healthcare staff to communicate with a lot of patients at once. 

COVID-19 has accelerated a preference in texting for patient communications for both patients and healthcare staff. Texting is more convenient when patients are already so inundated with updates about COVID-19 and healthcare staff are already stretched so thin. As with telehealth and contactless patient experience, technology changes in healthcare are being made throughout this pandemic that are likely to shape the landscape of healthcare forever. These new technologies are helping make care more accessible and streamlining processes for healthcare staff so that they can focus on patient care. 

To use texts across the entire patient communication experience, consider the following:

  • Automated appointment reminders and instructions
  • Pre-screening questions
  • Self check-in and digital intake through link to patient portal links
  • Patient follow-up questions
  • Changes in clinic hours or emergency policies
  • Surveys and reviews
  • Automated recall for scheduling appointments

There are a lot of ways to use text messaging to connect with patients and add to the patient communications experience effectively. Give your patients the convenience of texts while also providing a better patient experience for them by helping them stay in touch, be prepared, get questions answered, and access the care they need all via text message. Give your staff the convenience of text messaging also with an Electronic Health Record (EHR) system that can send out automated texts for your staff members, sync as part of your telehealth visits, and work with your contactless patient experience portals. When your EHR can handle all of these tasks seamlessly, you reduce administrative work in the long term by not having to double enter patient data into multiple tools or applications in order to serve patients in these new ways. 

IM+Cans: A Paradigm Shift in Behavioral Health Clinical Tools

IM+CANS Clinical Tool

IM+Cans (Illinois Medicaid Comprehensive Assessment of Needs and Strengths) is a tool that was developed in Illinois by Dr. John S. Lyons. There are two aspects to this tool. The Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) and the Adult Needs and Strengths Assessment (ANSA) are multi-purpose tools developed to support care planning and level of care decision-making, to initiate quality care and improvement.  These tools were created to help patients who need treatment for mental health. The combined assessment and treatment plan IM+Cans process was created to be more efficient and to save time so that clinicians could communicate to patients everything they need to know about their care plan as quickly as possible. IM+Cans contains several important factors when assessing a patient, such as: risk behaviors, trauma exposure, behavioral/ emotional needs, substance use, cultural factors, and physical health risk.

The IM+Cans tool can also help identify the patient’s strengths, which can be what a treatment plan could be based on. By working with the patient and whoever else is involved, a treatment plan can be created that can create stronger engagement (between the care provider and the patient) by utilizing the findings of the patient’s strengths and needs. Not every strength of the patient can be found using IM+Cans. Those must be identified through a thorough examination of the patient and noted by the care provider. More can be found out through the patient directly informing their specific care provider. 

Patagonia Health is joining the transition of behavioral health assessment and treatment plans into one process. By utilizing a fully integrated assessment and treatment plan in our Electronic Health Record (EHR) system, we anticipate enhancing the clinical process. Typically, a patient will go through several processes to get treatment, but with IM+Cans, it is molded into one efficient, faster process. The process is becoming more popular nationally, and other states are starting to use IM+Cans in their own way. Behavioral Health is seeing a movement towards combining assessment and treatment, and we anticipate meeting that change through our software supporting this paradigm shift in clinical reporting. When you shop for an EHR vendor for your behavioral health needs, be sure to evaluate vendors that have functionality specifically for Behavioral Health and tools such as IM+Cans that are staying current with the current trends in your field.

Complete EHR Solutions: Weaving the Golden Thread

EHR for weaving the golden thread

The Golden Thread is a form of documentation that supports a meaningful client narrative throughout the journey of their care. EHR systems are used in conjunction with this form of documentation and offer a method of allowing a client’s data to be recorded and viewed in such a manner that very little time is used, and more time can be spent focusing on providing direct care for the client of a behavioral health agency. There are three steps in utilizing the Golden Thread, and they are diagnostic assessments, treatment plans, and progress notes. A complete EHR solution being used to support weaving the Golden Thread allows for a clinic to increase patient care while helping to meet standards for reimbursement and compliance. Most EHRs stop incorporating data in the process once the progress notes have been created; however, there is great value in pulling relevant data into billing and reporting.

An example of the Golden Thread being used is helping a patient receiving help in order to step away from an addiction and work towards sobriety. The process of using the Golden Thread will start with assessing the issue (addiction), and all the possible effects it’s having on the patient (diagnostic assessment). Next, it will be used to help the patient and the clinician come up with an appropriate solution (treatment plan), and determine how long the period of time for recovery should be. Lastly, the clinician will record the patient’s progress to see if the treatment they are going through is actually working, or if any changes need to be assessed to ensure recovery (progress notes). 

An EHR aids the Golden thread documentation by recording the journey through reviewing or looking over assessment scores (e.g PHQ-9 & Beck’s Depression) for diagnosing the issue. Using an EHR for the Golden Thread avoids the hassle of having to manually copy and paste data. For treatment plans, certain modules are used to pull statistics, current problems, and resolutions to create a plan based on specifics and evidence. For progress notes, the Golden Thread automatically shows what the current goals are and makes them easier to look over to see if they are in compliance with the treatment plan. 

In a great behavioral health EHR, using The Golden Thread goes a bit further and includes billing & reporting as the final step. This is to ensure that the billing process is efficient, and that selected patient data is pulled into billing and reporting automatically. This helps to make sure that there is no confusion where payment and remittance is regarded, and that everything has a “receipt”. Without this, there could be inefficiency when trying to meet eligibility standards requiring reporting on the documentation of services received by patients. By incorporating billing with reporting, an EHR supporting the Golden Thread can help meet some of behavioral health’s top challenges.

Trend of Health Information Exchanges Merging and Linking

health information exchanges trend

There is a trend of Health Information Exchanges merging and linking across the US, spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) are set up to be places where medical providers can share patient data for easy medical record exchanges with other providers that are also participating with their HIE. HIEs are typically disparate systems supporting their local counties or states. Lately, however, there has been a trend of HIEs starting to merge and offering patient data exchanges between larger regions of providers. There are also some organizations using interoperability frameworks to link together HIEs and other medical information systems with Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems on a national scale.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented an increased need to rapidly exchange patient medical records while also reducing the administrative work associated with that. The pandemic has led to a higher patient load while healthcare agencies are still experiencing healthcare staff shortages. Those statewide HIEs that already had a relationship with their state health departments have been essential in linking public health and patient care organizations. Those statewide HIEs have been performing a lot of vital work towards making health information sharing easier during this public health crisis and their work has laid foundations for other HIEs to connect with them. 

There has been a desire to have a digital exchange of patient data on a more widespread level for some time. Some states do not have statewide HIE systems in place, however, and each HIE is very different which creates a problem when trying to share data seamlessly between networks. Now we are starting to see HIE systems working together to share data in a cohesive way, though. The latest trend of Health Information Exchanges merging into larger state, regional and national Health Information Exchanges suggest that this may be the time for HIEs to finally see their spotlight.

Most recently announced Health Information Exchanges merging have been organizations consolidating within a particular state. However, there are now organizations creating multi-state systems and some organizations creating national solutions. Some examples of HIE mergers would include CRISP, Nebraska’s HIE (which had been NEHII and is now CyncHealth), and Michigan’s MiHiN. Denver-based CORHIO, Colorado’s statewide HIE, and Phoenix-based Health Current, Arizona’s statewide HIE, have also formed a new regional organization called Contexture. There are also companies like Carequality, CommonWell Health Alliance, and eHealthExchange that are working to provide health data exchange on a national level. Carequality, for example, is a national interoperability framework that can connect many health sharing networks including HIEs, immunization registries, etc to EHRs that are connected with the Carequality network. This forms a new way to merge information between disparate HIE systems without the patient data having to be stored in one centralized location. For public health agencies, specifically, the CDC also created the Public Health Information Network (PHIN) to try to provide electronic medical data sharing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Carequality, for example, is a national interoperability framework that can connect many health sharing networks including Health Information Exchanges, immunization registries, etc to EHRs that are connected with the Carequality network. This forms a new way to merge information between disparate HIE systems without the patient data having to be stored in one centralized location. For public health agencies, specifically, the CDC also created the Public Health Information Network (PHIN) to try to provide electronic medical data sharing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The future of healthcare is in connected information, better services, and better information exchange so that providers can focus on their patients and not on administrative work. Being able to receive patient health reports from other agencies with just a click reduces clinician fatigue at any time; however, it is even more critical during a public health crisis like COVID-19. Experts also feel that better data sharing as part of modernizing Public Health Infrastructure to defend against emerging viruses is critical for the future of American Public Health, even as we continue battling the COVID-19 pandemic. This trend of merging HIEs, interoperability frameworks and national level medical information sharing through the CDC is one to watch. The challenges of sharing information across different systems in different areas that operate quite uniquely has been a barrier in the past, but the work that has been done to advance these initiatives during the COVID-19 pandemic leaves many healthcare experts hopeful. 

Patagonia Health Launches Time and Effort Tracking App

time and effort tracking app

Patagonia Health, an Electronic Health Record (EHR) software company serving Public and Behavioral Health, has launched a secure and HIPAA compliant Time and Effort Tracking App. The app is an integrated time card solution merged with the Patagonia Health EHR system. It was designed to track and report on the activities of staff and clinicians for management, HR, and program requirement purposes. 

Patagonia Health’s Time and Effort Tracking App enables administrators to record and report a breakdown of time spent on different activities. Unlike some time and effort tracking apps, Patagonia Health’s app allows for tracking time outside of individual appointments so that clinicians can capture all activities done for specific purposes. Administrators are able to create predefined templates for their individual services and programs, which is especially useful for reporting to meet state and federal compliance for healthcare grants. 

Patagonia Health is committed to pushing the future of healthcare forward with its innovative and secure EHR technologies. Their modern, cloud and apps-based software solution is designed specifically for Public Health Departments, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC), Community Health Centers (CHC) and Behavioral Health agencies. Their solution includes an integrated, federally-certified, Electronic Health Record (EHR), Practice Management (PM) and Billing software. They are constantly innovating and adding apps such as their Time and Effort Tracking App to provide a system which helps organizations improve workflow, streamline operations and keep their focus on patient care. 

For more information about Patagonia Health, visit https://patagoniahealth.com.