Now that your organization is increasingly at-risk for the patients you see, it’s more important than ever to do everything you can to help them take care of their health after they leave your hospital. But how? We all know some patients are very unlikely to do the right things – like take their medicine correctly, watch what they eat, complete their follow-up visits and stop smoking. While these people can be tough to reach and even tougher to persuade, don’t give up on them. Here are some ways you can use the power of good communication to increase their engagement, improve outcomes, protect your bottom-line and position your organization as a resource for good health:
Don’t preach. Propel – with the power of the payoff.
Studies show most people already know what they should do for better health. They’re just not motivated to do it. Therefore, there’s very little point just giving them long lists of things to do. Instead, help them understand how doing the right things can help them live their best life now, whatever that means to them at the moment. Avoid scare tactics. They don’t work. Instead, promote healthy choices as ways to help them get what they want out of life. The ability to continue living independently is a big motivator for many people, for example. Staying out of the hospital is another. Focusing on these potential payoffs can propel people to action.
Don’t intimidate. Inspire – with simple, actionable tools.
Many people think staying healthy is a lot of work and no fun. Asking them to use a complicated booklet, reams of checklists or an intimidating website or app to keep track of their health activities just reinforces that attitude. Chances are, most of the stuff you give a patient at discharge ends up in a pile on the kitchen counter – and then in the trash. To improve the chances they’ll get used, evaluate all of your materials for clarity, health literacy and ease-of-use. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify. Then, simplify some more. Create specific, actionable tools for the most common situations. Then, enable your staff to choose only those that are most important for each patient at discharge. Giving people less clutter will increase the chance they’ll actually use what you do give them.
Don’t assume. Assist – with connections to needed resources.
Telling a patient who has just been diagnosed with diabetes to stop eating fast food is pointless if that’s the only food easily available to them. Likewise, no amount of encouragement will get them to complete follow-up visits with their doctor if they don’t have a way to get there. Sadly, many people suffer ill health because they lack access to predictable transportation, affordable nutrition and safe exercise options. You can help them overcome these challenges by putting them in touch with appropriate services in your community. Don’t assume they know what help is available or how to access it, and don’t bury them in a pile of brochures from different agencies. Instead, create a simple one-sheet list of names, numbers and web addresses for the agencies and organizations they need. Remember to include their health insurance company if they have one – and the YMCA if there’s one in the area. Both often offer free or low-cost solutions. Then, make sure someone clearly explains to patients how to use the resources available.
Using the power of good communication in these ways will increase the chance your patients will do the things that lead to better health after discharge. That’s good for patients and good for your bottom line. It will also position your organization as a partner in good health for the people you serve.
Want to know more? Wax has been helping hospitals and health plans improve outcomes for their patients for more than 25 years. Call (305) 350-5700 or visit waxcom.com today to learn how they can help you.