Communication technology in hospice care is critical to consumer satisfaction, yet many agencies remain behind the times, something all-too-obvious to family caregivers and POAs, which in this case are the hospice consumer. In all other aspects of their lives, these consumers — who are the adult daughters and sons of hospice patients — are accustomed to real-time communication with easy-to-use technology.
Yet when these same people are dealing with a hospice provider, that experience is vastly different.
A September 2020 survey conducted by Citus Health and Porter Research revealed that many family caregivers are dissatisfied with their communication experience with hospice providers, specifically with the most popular methods of communication: phone, text and email. In fact, 57% of survey respondents stated that hospice providers “need improvement” in four publicly reported CAHPS survey categories.
After all, if people can get real-time updates on the pizza they’ve ordered or a package being delivered, they in turn believe they should get that same level of timely communication for their family’s most dire health concerns.
This difference between the experience these patients and family members have with communication tools in their daily lives compared to the experience they have with hospice providers creates a significant communication gap.
“Unfortunately, home health and hospice industries are largely communicating with patients and caregivers through legacy methods such as phone and email,” says Rob Stoltz, Vice President of Business Development at Citus Health. “We haven’t kept up with the families that surround those patients, who are running their day-to-day lives using more modern technology.”
It is time for hospices to focus on improving the experience of the family caregiver through secure, real-time messaging, video chats and electronic workflows to expedite important communication and documentation — all flowing directly into the provider’s electronic health record (EHR). Here is a look at what that communication gap looks like for hospice agencies, and how they can close it.
COVID-19 exposes the hospice industry’s communication technology gap
Face-to-face meetings between hospice agencies and family caregivers are essential to giving people a positive experience during troubling times. COVID-19 has obviously limited those. Yet the pandemic did not create hospice’s communication challenge, Stoltz says. It merely amplified it — for two reasons.
First, as people adjust to a socially distanced lifestyle, they are becoming more accustomed to virtual communications, and the real-time immediacy it comes with.
Second, face-to-face health meetings might diminish, but the needs that those meetings filled have not. These needs might be directly care-based — the telehealth component — but there are documentation needs, such as signing a power of attorney form or physician orders,or confirming delivery of durable medical equipment.
“Patients and family members want a solution that enables virtual communication, and once they find out how convenient that is, the demand grows,” Stoltz says. “This need for real-time communication will stick around well past COVID.”
Implementing a modern technology solution
Hospice agencies now have many solutions at their disposal to address these communication challenges, meaning they can modernize their technology tools while consolidating others. These tools deliver a range of benefits, with different value and functions. Virtual visits and video chats bring a personalized, reassuring touch to longer calls. Electronic documentation tools improve logistical challenges by making it easier to capture signatures on, say, power of attorney forms.
Secure text messaging, meanwhile, is ideal for real-time communications. As Stoltz notes, that capability now runs in both directions, from the agency to the caregiver and the caregiver to the agency.
“How are we responding to patients and family caregivers today? If the answer is that we’re playing phone tag, that’s not a great answer,” Stoltz says. “If families can reach out electronically and we can get them an immediate response, that’s incredibly valuable.”
Stoltz explains that for hospice providers, rather than employing several tools to address these needs, many are turning to Citus Health to deliver all of this in just one solution. Providers can accomplish all of their critical communication needs in one easy-to-use option, while empowering each family caregiver to be more proactive in their loved one’s care.
Capturing best outcomes
Improving communication in all areas of the hospice engagement leads to a series of vital outcomes that hospice providers want. Above all else, of course, are reduced hospitalizations as hospices are able to address urgent patient needs immediately, before the family caregiver dials 911.
Consumers will also reward hospice providers that deliver real-time communication by giving their business, along with better reviews. In a striking result of the September 2020 report published by Citus Health and Porter Research, 80% of family caregivers stated that they would select one hospice provider over another — and give that hospice higher ratings on the CAHPS hospice survey — based on whether that hospice enabled real-time communication via computer, tablet and smartphone.
“We’ve seen family caregivers say, If I can interact quickly with my hospice team in real time, I’m going to pick one organization over another, and I’m also going to give that organization higher satisfaction scores,” he says. “The research supports what we see in every other service industry.”
To learn more about how Citus Health can help your company enhance its virtual care delivery, visit CitusHealth.com.