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Readers Write: Digital Patient Engagement Tools to Achieve “Top Box” Medication-Related HCAHPS Scores

October 20, 2014 Readers Write No Comments

Digital Patient Engagement Tools to Achieve “Top Box” Medication-Related HCAHPS Scores
By David Medvedeff, PharmD, MBA

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Improving HCAHPS performance is a never-ending struggle for hospitals, one that has taken on greater urgency as results are linked to CMS’s Hospital Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) program. The HCAHPS Survey is the basis of the “Patient Experience of Care Domain” under VPB, which makes up 30 percent of a facility’s total performance score.

A particularly thorny problem has been improving patient communications regarding medication, which is measured based on HCAHPS responses to three questions:

  1. Before giving you any new medicine, how often did hospital staff tell you what the medicine was for?
  2. Before giving you any new medicine, how often did hospital staff describe possible side effects in a way you could understand?
  3. When I left the hospital, I clearly understood the purpose for taking each of my medications.

In the most recent published results, 36 percent of reporting hospitals failed to achieve “top box” scores, which reflect the most positive responses to questions related to patient experience with communications about medications. Improvements in patient education and health literacy can go a long way toward boosting these scores, as well as medication adherence post-discharge.

Consider this: a study by the National Assessment of Adult Literacy found that just 12 percent of the more than 19,000 respondents demonstrated proficient health literacy. Another study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, found that 79 percent of patients misinterpreted one or more of the 10 most common prescription label instructions they encountered.

To combat the grim reality of poor health literacy, hospitals must account for all aspects of medication adherence. For example, the CDC highlights the “access to care and patient education material” as two of the largest problems in medication adherence, as well as the “inability to access or difficulty accessing the pharmacy.”

Digital patient engagement solutions address these issues by delivering medication information to patients when and where they most need it. For example, videos outlining proper usage, expected benefits, and potential side effects can be embedded into the hospital’s website. Links to prescription-specific videos can then be sent to patients via text or email for viewing on any computer, tablet, or smartphone. Videos can also be supplemented with text reminders to take or refill prescriptions to further enhance compliance.

It is crucial that video content be comprehensive and current to ensure all pertinent information is included. Content should also be based upon trusted information, such as guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as patient packet inserts, medication guides, and consumer medication information.

Ultimately, digital patient engagement solutions remove the barriers that complex text often puts in the way of comprehension and medication adherence. Convenient access via multiple channels also means patients are never without the information they need to successfully and properly administer their medication, improving HCAHPS scores while reducing the risk of medication error and improving care outcomes.

David Medvedeff, PharmD, MBA is CEO of VUCA Health of Lake Mary, FL.

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