Healthcare News & Insights

How ‘automated empathy’ helps with post-discharge follow-ups

In the quest to improve patient outcomes, follow-ups are becoming more important. But it can be time-consuming and tedious for providers to check on every single patient after discharge. Some start-ups have come up with an innovative solution: “automated empathy.” 

ThinkstockPhotos-457775797Using this technology, doctors can use templates to quickly send email messages to many patients, helping them keep in touch after procedures or hospital stays.

An article in Kaiser Health News discusses how automated empathy is making hospitals’ lives easier. While some may find it cold to express empathy through email templates, there’s a great deal of freedom for creating customized messages tailored to each patient’s condition.

Providers are having success with one particular company that specializes in automated empathy to boost patient engagement, HealthLoop. The start-up company gives doctors the choice of writing their own email templates, or using suggested content that’s included with its program.

Several health systems and facilities are testing the effectiveness of HealthLoop in preventing adverse events during recovery, including Kaiser Permanente-Southern California, the Cleveland Clinic and the University of California, San Francisco.

Communication booster

With technology like HealthLoop, doctors are able to send patients daily email reminders about actions they should be taking during recovery. Providers can also ask for information about any problems patients are facing as they recover.

Not only can doctors send emails, they can also track how well patients are doing through an online dashboard (accessible via computers, tablets or smartphones) that monitors whether patients are responding to these messages. Patients also have the ability to communicate directly with clinical staff to schedule follow-up visits or discuss their medications.

Avoiding readmissions

It’s difficult for busy doctors and surgeons to follow up directly with the hundreds of patients they treat each year, so automated empathy is an excellent time-saver for providers who are trying to keep patients healthy. And it’s also a great weapon in the fight against readmissions.

The Kaiser Health News piece tells the story of one patient who received an email asking if he had calf pain after a knee surgery. When he responded “yes,” his doctor called him, telling him to come in right away. He was given an ultrasound, and it found a blood clot.

Had he not answered that email, the blood clot could’ve caused complications that would’ve landed him right back in the hospital. Instead, he was treated until the clot dissolved, and he recovered normally.

Benefits to automation

Nothing replaces the personal face-to-face connection patients get from providers during surgeries and follow-up visits. But technology that automates patient communication could be a good compromise, especially through email, since many people get message alerts right away on their smartphones and tablets.

This technology is still in its infancy, but as it becomes more critical for hospitals to prevent readmissions, it’s likely more start-ups focusing on automated empathy will enter the field, giving providers a convenient way to keep tabs on patients.

Another benefit of automated empathy: It can help facilities meet the new requirements of using technology to improve patient care for the soon-to-be updated meaningful use program for electronic health records (EHR) systems.

So it’s worth exploring if this technology could be beneficial for your hospital, providers and patients down the line.

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