How to provide clients and patients with an ‘on-ramp’ to improved care
August 30, 2019
There is so much talk about digital and virtual care but, when all is said and done, it’s all simply care. There is no longer a need for a distinction between physical and virtual care – today all care has a digital and/or virtual component. If you think about a car and traffic analogy for the healthcare sector, we’ve been on the highway all along, but today the car is different – it now contains enhancements like the GPS, blind spot alerts, lane departure warnings and very soon, some vehicles will be without drivers.
We don’t need a new highways; we need better ‘on-ramps’ to make use of emerging technologies. Just as innovations can enhance driving and safety, giving patients access to new systems can improve their health.
A solution that makes life safer for the elderly who are living alone is the ‘Ring of Support’. SE Health and Memotext have co-designed an innovative community response program to address the needs of these individuals.
A voice enabled digital assistant uses Amazon Alexa to perform a daily wellness check, medication reminders and event notes. Based on the responses, SE Health’s clinical call-centre nurses are alerted if necessary.
This allows them to proceed to the next steps (i.e. calling the client, arranging a visit, etc.) At the same time, family caregivers are kept informed as to how their loved one is managing.
I am very excited to be able to help enhance the home-care experience by implementing voice technology – which many people are already familiar with – into a service model that allows us to “be there” just in time. It’s a technology we are excited to leverage. It provides the appropriate level of care, at the right time, in the right place and gives individuals and their families the confidence and comfort needed to remain in their homes.
Another great example of connecting with patients is called ‘Putting Patients at the Heart (PPATH)’. It’s an integrated program for cardiac surgery patients and their caregivers. Working in partnership with Trillium Health Partners (THP), patients and caregivers, we identified ways to improve the experience of transitioning home and designed a program to better the patient and caregiver experience of the entire cardiac surgery journey.
Using a shared record and a 24/7 call line, PPATH allows a better flow of information and instills greater confidence for patients. The program achieved national recognition as a winner of the Canadian College of Health Care Leaders (CCHL), 3M Health Care Quality Team Award – Improvement Across a Health System. It achieved:
- 15% reduction in postoperative hospital length of stay (equivalent to three hospital bed days saved annually per patient);
- 25% fewer hospital readmissions within 30 days of discharge;
- 33% fewer emergency department visits within 30 days of discharge; and
- 11% reduction in overall system costs for the bundled approach.
The more tightly we can integrate people and technology across the healthcare system, the better our outcomes will be. The lesson here is that the technology doesn’t have to be brand new with bells and whistles – sometimes a number to call and the ability to speak to a live person is the best integrated solution.
My final example is Elizz, a service for daughters and sons to live well while caring for their aging parents. I am so proud of the work we are doing with, and for caregivers – I like to call it our ‘Oprah’ of caregiving.
Elizz receives over 250,000 digital connections with family caregivers every month – that’s 3 million per year. With Elizz we have a clear mandate related to the problems we are trying to solve. We are focused on the needs of caregivers and giving them the tools they need to be healthy and feel supported.
I am also very pleased with our progress on Elizzbot, a chatbot that allows family caregivers to interact with experts and artificial intelligence technology to get the personalized answers they need, or to simply reach out for an empathetic voice.
We developed this friendly chatbot with the company X2AI, and we interact with over 1,000 active users per month. Elizzbot is at the forefront of our need to remain relevant and move with the times. It allows people to reach out to Elizzbot whenever and wherever they need to – by using a chat that’s as simple as a text message.
I’ve shared just a few key examples that illustrate the impact that can be made on people when we bring together powerful resources. New technology solutions are not magic – for them to be truly transformative, they need to support frictionless integration.
The solutions that wrap around the client and existing processes are the most adaptable and adoptable. Let’s keep the traffic moving and make changes that make sense in the context of people’s lives. We need to fit in and move with the traffic; not build a new highway.
For me, it always comes back to the questions: Are we solving the right problem? How is this helping people? Is it making a difference? If we remain steadfast in our commitment to keep these questions front and centre, we’ll be successful at making the world a better place.
Shirlee Sharkey is President and CEO of SE Health.