Changing the Customer Service Landscape to Improve Health Outcomes: A Holistic Approach to Serving Patients

Published in Member Communities on September 01, 2021

Cheryl Henninger By Cheryl Henninger, BHA, RRT, Director of Operations, Geroulds Healthcare Center/
Community Cares Health Solutions

Geroulds Healthcare Center is a third generation, family-owned pharmacy that has provided pharmacy and home medical equipment (HME) services to the region for over 100 years. As healthcare reform evolves, healthcare organizations must adapt to changes and continuously evaluate customer service for effectiveness and efficiency as they improve patient safety and outcomes. Geroulds Healthcare Center has created new service lines for their core business and provides holistic patient assessments to identify patient needs and navigate patients to the appropriate service lines within the organization—or even to appropriate resources outside of Gerould’s scope of service. This improves the care continuum through communication, care coordination, and networking.

Understand the Community

To better align itself with current trends in the healthcare industry, Geroulds Healthcare Center has diversified and developed value-add services to align with healthcare reform and create new revenue opportunities that improve access to care. To accomplish this, we designed patient engagement interventions to increase activation and promote positive patient behavior to improve health outcomes. This ultimately reduces healthcare expenditures by improving health literacy, instilling trust, and building patient confidence.

Geroulds Healthcare Center created a population health division to better understand the health needs of the patients and the communities served. The organization expanded respiratory, pharmaceutical, and home safety services to engage and support people in taking an active role in managing chronic conditions and reduce avoidable readmissions and emergency room visits. Programs developed under this division have shown success in achieving quadruple aim.

Create Programs and Leverage Technology

The chronic respiratory care program is a holistic program that provides assessment, education, and support to address clinical, social, and emotional needs of those suffering from COPD and other chronic respiratory conditions. Clinical and nonclinical support teams provide a variety of services to improve health outcomes, improve the patient experience, reduce hospital admissions and ER visits, and improve employee satisfaction. To date, readmission rates for those enrolled in the program average 11% compared to the national average of 22.6%.

As this and other programs continued to grow, Geroulds realized continued limitations in access to care and the need to further engage patients to self-identify exacerbations before they became extreme and educate them on who to contact before going to the emergency room. Geroulds developed a patient engagement application to encourage patient self-management and provide access to an educational library. Enrolled patients are encouraged to complete check-ins and use other screening tools that yield a color-coded visual score so they can differentiate between a clinical exacerbation and anxiety. Clinicians receive real-time alerts for those in need of support, and remote monitoring devices can connect via Bluetooth technology for enhanced monitoring. Clinicians can also communicate through secure messaging and initiate telehealth visits through the app.

Leveraging this technology became a normal pathway of contact prior to the start of the pandemic. Geroulds has since expanded the app and developed separate tracks for additional chronic disease conditions, including congestive heart failure, diabetes, and obstructive sleep apnea. Current statistics show 80% of enrolled members have met established treatment plan goals and overall depression rates have improved by 15%.

Shift the Company Culture

Policy and workflow changes are relatively simple; however, company culture change is transformative and takes time. Building the foundational infrastructure to manage populations is key to an organization’s success and all stakeholders must be involved to be successful. Changes in language, communication, processes, and services must include the organization’s leadership and staff, customers, referral sources, and those who pay for care. Each stakeholder has an opinion and agenda that can influence program outcomes.

For example, clinicians support the initiatives as they play an integral part in program development, see the outcomes, and have job satisfaction in helping improve the lives of patients. Patients have also contributed to program development through feedback and satisfaction surveys. Equally as important is the feedback and suggestions from primary care and other providers so that Geroulds can be the community “eyes and ears” to support patients in adhering to treatment plans outside of the physician office to reduce expensive reactionary care.

It Takes a Village

It truly takes a village working together to improve health outcomes. For Geroulds, a holistic approach to servicing patients is paying off in many ways. Referral sources and patients value Geroulds as a resource and look to us to help them with multiple needs. It has allowed us to be open minded and better understand the needs of our communities, as well as build relationships with a multitude of community agencies. This collaboration has been proven to improve health literacy and health outcomes, reduce costs, and enhance revenues.

Cheryl Henninger, BHA, RRT is the Director of Operations at Geroulds Healthcare Center/ Community Cares Health Solutions in Elmira, NY. With more than 30 years in multiple healthcare settings, Cheryl specializes in new business development and collaborations. Cheryl has spent the last several years working with organizations and insurance companies to develop new chronic care initiatives aimed at cost savings through shared risk arrangements. Cheryl has a passion for positive health outcomes and enjoys working with healthcare and community partners to develop processes that are streamlined, yet progressive and encourage active partner participation and patient engagement.

Cheryl’s most recent successes include the development of successful holistic chronic care programs and the development of networks in collaboration with other healthcare and community providers. A former accreditation field surveyor and quality outcomes reviewer, Cheryl also conducts on-site audits, as well as overall business reviews in accordance with state and federal regulations and responds to audits on behalf of organizations.

Cheryl is a known speaker in the home care industry and frequently presents at different state and national conferences. In her spare time, Cheryl enjoys spending time with her family, running, biking, and travelling.


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