Patient Experience and Health Equity are Top Priorities for HealthLinc

Despite the staffing and logistical challenges brought on by the pandemic, forward-thinking healthcare organizations like HealthLinc remain focused on improving overall patient experience and addressing health equity. They realize that dealing with these challenges has a significant positive impact on the overall health of their community and ultimately drives down healthcare costs.

Healthcare IT Today recently had the opportunity to speak with Melissa Mitchell, Chief Innovation and Strategy Officer at HealthLinc. We asked her about this strategic focus and why it was important to the organization.

Background

HealthLinc is a not-for-profit Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) that provide primary medical, dental, optometry, and behavioral health services to people of all ages, regardless of patient’s ability to pay. HealthLinc operates clinics across northern Indiana and their services are provided on a sliding fee scale based on household size and income, regardless of a patient’s insurance status.

Focus on Patient Experience

“The patient experience is at the top of my list,” stated Mitchell. “Not just the in-person experience, but we need to put together a good virtual experience too. We need to understand how we can implement the new tools and technologies coming out and roll that into the total patient experience.”

“I’m a patient at my facility and I want things to be efficient, well run and easy to do,” continued Mitchell. “I don’t want to have to go in twice for the same procedure. All of this can happen when the EHR works correctly. It’s good for the patient, it’s good for the staff.”

HealthLinc uses Greenway’s EHR and has implemented Phreesia’s platform to improve the check-in process (Phreesia is a Greenway partner). They also are looking at possibly implementing solutions from Wolters Kluwer to assist with patient education and clinical decision support.

“We are a FQHC, so some of the patients we deal with are underprivileged, under insured, and don’t have the best health literacy,” said Mitchell. “We really need to help them help themselves. And if they don’t have the opportunity to engage in their own healthcare, through things like UpToDate or virtual check-in they can’t do it as easily. We’re just taking down the barriers. And when we’re able to do that, they will be able to get better.”

Focus on Health Equity

Removing barriers that stand in the way of patients accessing care is a key goal for Mitchell and HealthLinc. She believes that patients get discouraged from seeking care when obstacles make the process difficult.

“As an industry we need to stop making everything so hard,” said Mitchell. “It shouldn’t be so difficult to order things. I shouldn’t have to fax over an order three times so that a patient can get a follow up on a colonoscopy. They are already scared, they are already worried about what is going on, and now we are making the process to care an even greater challenge.”

It is truly heartening to see organizations like HealthLinc prioritize health equity and patient experience. It would have been easy for them to just focus on operations and logistics during the pandemic. Instead, they are keeping their long-term goal in mind – a healthier community in northern Indiana that has easy and ready access to healthcare.

Watch the full interview with Mitchell to learn:

  • What she is looking forward to from Greenway
  • What impressed her about most from the recent Greenway ENGAGE conference
  • Why health literacy is so important to HealthLinc

Greenway Health is a supporter of Healthcare IT Today.

To learn more about HealthLinc, visit them at: https://healthlincchc.org/

Transcript

Melissa Mitchell

Hello, I’m Melissa Mitchell. I’m the Chief Innovation and Strategy Officer at HealthLinc.

Colin Hung

Now you were just on a panel that we were watching, and you were giving some very honest opinions about where you are seeing Greenway going in the next 12 months. What’s got you most excited as you look forward a year from now.

Melissa Mitchell

I would say Pratap’s message today in regard to where they are going next is very exciting. The people that they are partnering with, the ideas that they are willing to get onboard with. They are talking about AI. They are talking major web strategy. I love the idea of taking this product and making it so much better.

Colin Hung

Pratap mentioned a number of pillars to his strategy – customer service, product stability, and a few other things – what one area do you hope they will put a focus on?

Melissa Mitchell

They have to do a lot with regulations, and I understand that, everyone does. That is our world right now. But we could put that on the side of things that “need to be done, but aren’t as interesting”, I would really like to focus on the stability and the customer experience. For us being able to have a very efficient and quality product is where I’m interested in seeing them go next.

Colin Hung

You mentioned customer experience…let me expand that a little by asking you about patient experience. How is that for you in terms of a priority? Is it relatively important high priority or a low priority given what is going on right now?

Melissa Mitchell

I can tell you that part of our strategic plan this year, back at HealthLinc, the patient experience is the top of my list. Not just the in-person experience, but also we need to put together a good virtual experience too. We need to understand how we can implement the new tools and technologies coming out and roll that into the total patient experience.

There are so many choices with healthcare today. There are so many places where we could go. I’m a patient at my facility and I want things to be efficient, well run and easy to do. I don’t want to have to go in twice for the same procedure. All of this can happen when the EHR works correctly. It’s good for the patient, it’s good for the staff and overall it’s good for the revenue cycle because no one has to spend money twice on getting things done.

Colin Hung

We are here at ENGAGE. What have you learned that has surprised you in a pleasant way?

Melissa Mitchell

I have to first say how excited I am to be back in the community – back seeing people. It’s been so long since we’ve been together. So that is my primary excitement. Some of the other things I have been waiting for are the UpToDate collaboration with Wolters Kluwer. I can’t wait for that. Our providers have been asking for that for a long time. It’s going to be huge.

There are a lot of great partners that are going to be implemented in the product that are going to be game changers. We partner heavily with Phreesia and some of the items thy will roll out into and with the product will be really helpful for us.

Colin Hung

Wow, you really are putting an emphasis on patient experience with your work with Phreesia and Wolters Kluwer. It’s all around improving the clinical workflow and the flow of patients coming in and out of your facility.

Melissa Mitchell

We are a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) so some of the patients we deal with are underprivileged, under insured, and don’t have the best health literacy. We really need to help them help themselves. And if they don’t have the opportunity to engage in their own healthcare, through things like UpToDate or virtual check-in they can’t do it as easily. We’re just taking down the barriers. And when we’re able to do that, they will be able to get better.

Colin Hung

Let’s talk about that. That’s one of my favourite topics – health equity. Given that you are on the front lines of this and experiencing it first-hand, what are some of the things we can do as an industry to lower the barriers and reduce the friction that seems to happen to people in that category of unable to access care.

Melissa Mitchell

As an industry we need to stop making everything so hard. There is no reason you have to have this specific a process for a prior authorization. They know what needs to be covered and what doesn’t. It shouldn’t be so difficult to order things. Everybody should be interoperable. I shouldn’t have to fax over an order three times so that a patient can get a follow up on a colonoscopy. They are already scared, they are already worried about what is going on, and now we are making the process to care an even greater challenge.

When you don’t know what is coming next, if someone puts something in front of you, you’ll just likely stop. If we continue to create these barriers between people getting the treatment they need or talking to their care provider about it, a lot more people are going to be a lot worse off. As an industry if we can find a way to streamline the process and stop expecting non-health literate patients to become MDs so they can understand their own condition, we’re going to move things a lot farther, a lot faster.

Colin Hung

Melissa, really appreciate your time today.

Melissa Mitchell

Thank you for having me, it’s been great!

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