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Lehigh Valley Hospitals Use Technology to Deliver Better Patient Experiences

By Colin McEvoy on December 18, 2017

The Lehigh Valley Health Network is among the regional hospitals and health networks using technology to improve patient experiences. (photo courtesy LVHN)

The Lehigh Valley Health Network is among the regional hospitals and health networks using technology to improve patient experiences. (photo courtesy LVHN)

With more than 55,000 workers, health care is the Lehigh Valley’s largest sector in terms of number of employees. And the region’s local health networks and hospitals are using technology to stand apart and deliver better patient experiences.

One example is the collaboration between the Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) and Highmark, in which patient medical data and insurance claims data are combined and utilized by the patient’s caregivers to ensure that care is coordinated and provided in the most efficient way.

“We share data, resources and information to ensure that patients are getting the preventive services, tests, follow-up care and education they need in the most efficient manner, without duplication of care and unnecessary steps,” says Gregory G. Kile, Chief Insurance Officer, LVHN and President and CEO, Populytics. “This allows us to focus on the overall health of the community and improving patients’ care experience, all while lowering the care cost trend.”

The data is collected, organized, and analyzed by Populytics, Inc., a population health management and analytics company and wholly-owned subsidiary of LVHN. Populytics specializes in transforming health care analytics into actionable strategies that can improve health care quality and value for patients.

Populytics provides information about health plan utilization and the health of employee populations. This can include preventive care opportunities, high-risk members, opportunities for cost reduction, and gaps in care. This allows health care providers to better coordinate care and mitigate health care spending.

“A 360 degree view”

In the specific collaboration between LVHN and Highmark, Populytics takes clinical data from LVHN patients’ electronic medical records and marries it with claims data it receives from Highmark, which allows clinicians to “really get a 360 degree view of the patient,” according to Kile.

Mark Wendling, MD, Executive Director of the Lehigh Valley Physician Hospital Organization and a practicing family physician provided an example in which he reviewed a patient’s medications on record with the insurer, and discovered they were different than what he had prescribed and what was documented in the medical records.

Wendling suggested the patient bring all of his medications into the office so they could review them together, which led him to discover the patient was taking multiples, some of the same drug classifications, which could have been harmful or potentially deadly.

In the past, providers only had patient information that was gained through medical records. Now, by partnering with insurers, physicians and their clinical teams have access to insurance claims data, which in this case led to a potential medical crisis being averted.

“You have to get to know people, really know them, and that takes time,” Wendling said. “By utilizing Populytics’ analytics, we have timely information that can be sorted in a manner such that duplicative services and care gaps can be identified almost automatically. This allows me to have more meaningful conversations with my patients during visits whereby I can really get to the core of their health care needs.”

Other regional examples

The Sacred Heart Hospital allows patients to view or download their medical information via a portal. (photo courtesy Sacred Heart Hospital)

The Sacred Heart Hospital allows patients to view or download their medical information via a portal. (photo courtesy Sacred Heart Hospital)

Other Lehigh Valley hospitals also utilize technology for management of patient information and to deliver better patient experiences.

Sacred Heart Hospital in Allentown – which recently announced it is merging with the St. Luke’s University Health Network – utilizes a patient portal, in which a patient can view or download their medical information even after their hospital visit is over.

During the patient’s stay, staff members show them how to access and use the portal, as well as review the documentation already available there, so they have an understanding of how the portal works and can use it post-visit, said Susan Landow, Sacred Heart Hospital’s Cerner Site Director. Cerner is the hospital’s electronic medical records vendor.

Julie Grumbein, project manager for Sacred Heart and Cerner, said if a patient visits for an outpatient procedure like blood work or a lab visit, that information goes into the portal. If it is an inpatient procedure, like a surgery, a summary of care documenting what occurred is available through the portal.

“It’s helpful for patients who might have questions for their doctor when they are in the hospital, but if they forget that information later, they can access it through the portal,” Grumbein said. “And it helps physicians because they have all the information available in one place, so they can prevent duplication of medications or other issues like that.”

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