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Healthcare Providers Tap Into Social Media for Care Team Coordination

A home healthcare provider sees a sharp drop in hospital readmissions when its clinicians use a secure app to communicate via Facebook and other sites. Another ties social platforms into a virtual whiteboard.

By Eric Wicklund

- How’s this for clinical outcomes: A home healthcare facility struggling with a 40 percent readmission rate tests a social media-based communications platform for its care team members. During the three-month pilot this past spring, the readmission rate drops to 11 percent. When the pilot ends, the readmission rate jumps back up to 40 percent.

Based on that success, Moorestown, N.J.-based Bayada Home Health Care has agreed to try out the mHealth platform at another of its facilities in Tampa, Fla. It may also pique the interests of a few more healthcare providers across the country looking to improve care team coordination and reduce health issues tied to communication mishaps.

Health systems have been testing out mobile communications platforms for care team coordination for several years, but few have ventured into the social media landscape. Yet when Ashish Shah and David Coyle looked at platforms for their Chicago-based startup, Prepared Health, they saw sites like Facebook and Instagram as ideal communication tools.

In a recent profile in Crain’s, Shah said he took the company’s app, enTouch, to Bayada Home Health Care, where it was launched at one facility in which 40 percent of the patients were returning to the hospital within 30 days of heart surgery. That’s well above the national average of 25 percent, and a sure sign that care team coordination is lacking.

Eric Thul, a division director with Bayada, told Crain’s the private and secure enTouch app enables home health aides, nurses and other care team members to check for patient updates and refresh status reports while they’re on social media. Since they do this anyways during their spare time, this fits snugly into their daily routine – even more so than answering a voice message or e-mail.

“These things don't seem mind-blowing, but when you do it, it's a game-changer,” he said.

Shah and Coyle, both former employees of Medicity, launched Prepared Health last year and have been supporting the five-employee company on their own. The invitation-only app is available to registered caregivers now, but may soon be expanded to family members and marketed commercially.

Another health system experimenting with social media and care team coordination is the University of California, San Francisco. The health system is partnering with Voalte, a Florida-based developer of mobile communications platforms, to launch Voalte Story - basically an electronic whiteboard for clinicians.

The interactive enterprise, social-based communication (ESBC) platform enables care team members to post and link texts and alarms to specific patients. It also allows caregivers to see all messages related to a patient, streamline communication between the care team and enable multiple caregivers to access information around a certain patient, topic or task.

"In an active hospital setting, fast and accurate communications can truly be the difference between life or death, and yet our communications systems remain slow and fragmented," Michael Blum, MD, CDHI, director and chief medical information officer at UCSF Medical Center, said in a press release. "Our goal is to tap into the huge advances in consumer communications to create an efficient and secure shorthand system for sharing information within healthcare teams and between caregivers."


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