THE CARE PROVIDED IN HCA HOSPITALS IS EXCELLENT, but if patients don’t take their medications properly, or see their physicians after discharge for aftercare visits, then often they become ill again.

Working to ensure that patients continue to receive excellent care after they leave the hospital has long been a goal for HCA. Now, through the use of five call centers around the country, along with specialized software and mobile technology, patients are getting follow-up care within days, even hours, of discharge.

“The contact centers are part of a larger initiative around patient satisfaction,” says Deb Reiner, Vice President of Customer Relationship Management. “It began with MD Navigate, a program piloted at the Salt Lake City call center that connects our staff with patients to set follow-up appointments. If a patient leaves his or her doctor’s office with the need for an MRI on their knee, for example, we will call them to help schedule that appointment, then also work to transfer the medical records back and forth and make sure the referring doctor knew what that appointment was. We also help with insurance authorization.”

The program was called MD Navigate because it helps navigate a patient through a complex medical system. It began with the primary care, but now technology is being built that can also follow up with patients who are not sent on for procedures, or admitted to the hospital, but rather sent home with self-care instructions.

Expanding and evolving 

MD Navigate has been enormously successful, so much so that it’s now being tested in the Denver and Wichita markets under a new name, and with a few tweaks.

“We have learned a great deal from the Utah market, especially about how they were managing the referral process,” says Joe Verderaime, Vice President of Imaging for HealthONE, HCA’s Continental Division. “We wanted to put something into place that would help us create better relationships with all our physicians, and also manage patients throughout their care continuum.”

Once in place, Verderaime predicts that patient-management systems such as those HCA is operating will do everything from reduce readmissions to lower physician workloads and improve patient satisfaction.

“There are three main pieces to this,” he says. “Engage, care and follow. We want to engage the patients that we have at the doctor’s office or in the hospital, provide the best care for that patient, then we want to follow up with that patient once he or she has left.”

In addition to its own version of MD Navigate, the Denver market also is piloting Schedule My Visit, a patient portal that will allow patients to schedule their own physician appointments. Over the next year, that technology will expand to include access to medical histories, as well as class registration and more.

“When we talk about the patient experience, we have to talk about what happens outside the facilities,” notes Dan Davidson, Vice President of Marketing and Community Relations for HealthONE. “People are accessing information from their phones and are used to storing their own information online, so this is a perfect example of how we can use technology to provide a benefit to our community and patients.”

Connecting is key 

Reaching out to patients to help them navigate the system is an idea whose time is long overdue, says Denise Stark, Appointment Services Manager, who oversaw the Salt Lake City rollout.

“There is a need for patients to connect to their provider throughout that care continuum, HCA is making that happen,” Stark says. “It has been delightful to see and hear our agents help people who’ve left the doctor’s office or the emergency department with two or three referrals and are just baffled. The advice they give is strong and concrete, and the patient is so relieved.”

Now, she adds, “We’re looking at our processes, and our systems, to see what the next evolution will be. The biggest challenge is that the patient’s experience through our system must be seamless, so everything with our approach is geared around making sure that is what happens.”