How to Communicate Effectively with a Patient’s Family

There is no doubt that effective communication leads to better patient care and helps in building trust with the patient’s family. Communication is a vital part of patient care. When a patient is admitted to a hospital, his family goes through a very emotional time – especially if it is a terminally ill patient. The family will understandably have concerns and questions for the healthcare team members and would want information to be shared with them.
Most families advocate strongly for their loved ones in the hospital and so it is tricky for the healthcare team members to be considerate towards family members and their concerns while making sure they can assert their expertise successfully in healthcare communication. Sometimes walking this fine line can cause a rift between the healthcare team members and the patient’s family. However, a few tips such as follows can ensure that healthcare team members build a trusting connection with the patient’s family.

Listening with Patience

In order to communicate effectively, healthcare team members have to listen to what the patient’s family has to say with patience. It is also important to listen actively and attentively. By reflecting back the family communications, actively listening to what they are saying will make them feel heard. A healthcare team member should never interrupt when a family member is expressing his concerns and instead should try to understand what is being said in order to effectively respond to it.

Being Mindful of Body Language

Verbal communication is only half of communication. Nonverbal cues are just as important such as the body language or the tone of voice that give away a lot of information. Therefore, the healthcare team members should be aware of the nonverbal cues they are sending off. Maintaining direct eye contact with the patient’s family can make them feel that the healthcare team member is genuinely interested in what is being said. A soft but calm and firm tone of voice will convey healthcare team member’s empathy as well as confidence. The goal is for the patient’s family to feel that the healthcare team member cares and is also an expert.

Hucu.ai Brings Family, Patients and Healthcare Teams Together.

Actively Listen at the Next Level

When a family has expressed their concerns and questions, a healthcare team member can summarize what has been said and repeat it to show that he was listening actively in the first place and understands them. This is a form of effective healthcare communication that also helps to create an imprint of the information in one’s memory. The healthcare team member can also ask follow up questions to take the communication to the next level as this helps to improve patient care. It will also make the family feel that there is genuine care and interest in the healthcare team member’s side.

Following Patient's Privacy Rules

It is crucial to remember and follow privacy rules when giving away the health information of any patient. All healthcare team members must know HIPAA laws and follow privacy policies strictly. Otherwise, violation of HIPAA laws can lead to very expensive fines. First of all, patients have to consent to the release of their medical information to their family members. Healthcare team members can share medical information with only those family members who are involved when treating the patient or in the process of payment, only if the patient allows.

Honesty is the Key

No matter how worried, concerned, or emotional a patient’s family is, it is best to always be honest about the patient’s medical condition. It is easier to lie about the condition to ease the worry of their loved one but that can create a gap in understanding and expectations. It is common for healthcare team members to receive intense reactions of sadness or anger, therefore, they have to be calm at all times. It is critical to remember that their job is to provide care for the patient and also be a source of comfort and understanding for the patient’s family in difficult times.

Communication with Family Member Made Easy with Hucu.ai

Whether a patient is in post-acute care or hospice, healthcare team members have to communicate with the patient’s loved ones and give updated information about the condition of the patient. It can be overwhelming for the healthcare team members to receive phone calls or messages on their pagers from a patient’s family asking after the patient when the healthcare team members are taking care of numerous patients and have a really hectic schedule. In such a case they not only have to spare extra time to talk to the patient’s family but also have to repeat information which can be mentally exhausting.

Hucu.ai Is HIPAA Compliant and Keeps Patient’s Family Updated in Real Time.

On the other hand, the patient’s family also goes through an emotionally charged time and stays worried wondering about their loved one in the hospital. It is natural for them to want to know what’s going on and if everything is alright.
There is a solution that tackles all of these problems through one platform: Hucu.ai.
Hucu.ai is a HIPAA compliant, person-centered text messaging application that brings together healthcare team members, patients, and family members in a digital room. When a family member is added to the patient’s “channel” in the application, they can receive live updates from the care team members about the patient’s condition. They can text back questions and concerns and receive answers any time of the day from any place.
It takes out the hassle of wondering, worrying, calling the hospital, and waiting for answers when the patient’s family member can simply receive text updates via Hucu.ai. It is also very helpful for the healthcare team members to effectively communicate with the patient’s family without taking extra time for phone calls. This leads to better patient care and family satisfaction.
For more information on how patients, families, and healthcare team members can use Hucu.ai, check out this page.
Sources of Information myallamericancare, wolterskluwer
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COVID-19: Effects of Isolation on Elderly People

As countries worldwide are affected by Covid-19, the elderly population is being told to self-isolate for a very long time. This is an attempt to shield the elderly and also to protect the overburdened health systems as the countries enforce curfews, lockdowns, and social isolation in order to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
However, it is a well-known fact that social isolation among the older populations is a serious public health concern because of their greater risk of autoimmune, cardiovascular, neurocognitive, and mental health problems. Santini and colleagues published a study and demonstrated that social disconnection puts older adults at a higher risk of anxiety and depression.
Online technologies can be harnessed to offer social support networks and a sense of belonging to the elder population. Interventions can simply involve more frequent telephone conversations with significant others, family, close friends, voluntary organizations or health-care professionals, or community outreach projects that provide peer support throughout the enforced isolation. Beyond these interventions, cognitive-behavioral therapies can be delivered online to reduce loneliness and improve mental well being in elderly people.

Hucu.ai facilitates remote care effectively.

It is true that isolating the elderly can reduce the transmission of the virus, and minimize the spread in high-risk groups. However, isolation strategies are increasingly difficult to maintain over time. Such mitigation measures have to be effective in preventing transmission and avoiding increasing morbidity of Covid-19 associated with affective disorders. This effect will be felt the most in more disadvantaged populations which should be the urgent target for the implementation of preventive strategies as discussed before.
There is also an online study named “PROTECT” going on by the University of Exeter and King’s College London which has recruited almost 25,000 people. The aim of the project is to help study the impact of Covid-19 isolation on the health and wellbeing of the elderly population and to find new methods of supporting them. This new arm of the NIHR-funded study will track the physical and mental health impacts of lockdown policies on the older people by putting together a questionnaire to seek the experiences of the cohort as a result of the forced isolation.
This investigation came after it was found that half of the adults above 55 years have experienced mental health problems even before the lockdown. Meanwhile, previous pandemics have resulted in a high rise of mental health issues like self-harm, suicide, alcoholism, and more. The ultimate goal of PROTECT’S study is to design new methods to support people through the lockdown and isolation phase which remains a harsh reality for many older people who are sheltering in place.

Hucu.ai’s Family Messaging feature lets senior residents stay in touch with loved ones.

Elderly people often face issues like financial insecurity and loneliness as they deal with major life changes which can increase the risk of mental illnesses. They also face barriers to access services. All of this is being worsened during the coronavirus pandemic around the world.
In the PROTECT study, researchers are questioning the cohort about their experience of self-isolation and the immediate impact on their mental health. It will have questions about their mental health during the pandemic, how many times they leave the house, the extent of isolation practices they are observing, their care responsibilities, and the level of loneliness they feel. This information will be used to identify future support interventions and methods.
The study includes a battery of cognitive tests that will allow the researchers to explore any impact on brain functions over the longer term. The study is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre (BRC). Dr. Byron Creese, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Exeter said:
“Repurposing the PROTECT study means we can find out about the impacts of self-isolation on the mental health of people aged 50 and over, using a large-scale long-term study. It’s critical that people stay at home and follow government guidance, and by joining PROTECT, you could help us understand the wider impacts of doing this. Weeks or months of adhering to isolation policy could have a really significant impact on the mental health and wellbeing of older people, particularly on top of the loneliness and isolation that some older adults already experience. Over the longer term, we will also be able to tell if these policies have any impact on memory, and whether these policies have any impact on mental health.
Our Protect study provides us with a unique opportunity to explore in depth the consequences of social isolation on mental health and well-being. We will also explore whether certain coping mechanisms are more efficient than others to maintain mental health and wellbeing. This will provide a window into potential interventions to help elderly people facing social consequence.”
Clive Ballard, Professor of Age-Related Diseases at the University of Exeter Medical School, said that previous pandemics have taught us that these situations can have a significant impact on mental health. During SARS, we saw a 30 per cent increase in suicide, and a rise in self-harm and alcoholism. Older people currently have to endure unprecedented periods of isolation in order to protect themselves, and we urgently need to develop new ways to support their mental health through this period.

Is Isolation only Affecting the Older Generation?

Well, the older generation is more at risk of developing mental illnesses, cognitive decline and other problems because of the age and pre-existing conditions. However, it is also true that isolation will affect all people at some level.
In the article Health Effects of Social Isolation and Loneliness by Clifford Singer, MD, it is discussed how we are a social species and we need social interaction to survive. Humans have social networks (families, tribes, communities, etc.) that enable us to survive and thrive. Our survival was served by the evolutionary development of behaviors and physiologic mechanisms (neural, hormonal, cellular, genetic) that support social interactions (Cacioppo et al., 2011). But as with all human traits, there is also variation in our social behaviors and needs. The fact is, most of us are psychologically and biologically “programmed” to need social networks. It is logical that social isolation may impose stress on our minds and bodies that have a significant impact on health.
While many adults are more proficient at using digital resources to stay in contact with friends and family,older people may not have as many resources, so it affects them much more.
Thus, urgent actions are required to mitigate the mental and physical health challenges that will result from instructing the elderly people to remain at home, have groceries and medicines delivered, and to avoid all forms of physical social contact with family and friends.
Self-isolation will disproportionately affect elderly individuals who go out of home for social contacts such as going to daycare venues, places of worship, or community centers. Those who do not have close family and friends, and rely on the support of voluntary services or social care can be placed at additional risk, along with those who are already isolated, lonely or secluded.
It would be interesting to note how governments tackle this problem with different support programs while sticking with the isolation policy for elderly people.
Sources of information: cdc.gov/aging, exeter.ac.uk, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
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Three Ways Your Team is Violating HIPAA With Cell Phone and How to Prevent Them

Everyone uses their cell phones in one way or the other in medical practice. Statistics show that about 10 years ago, 84% of physicians admitted to using a cell phone in their practice. The number has increased now. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has been targeting healthcare organizations that have poor HIPAA policies. Using cell phones provides a lot of conveniences but they also pose a huge risk when it comes to HIPAA. Here are three very common ways medical team members may be violating HIPAA when using cell phones and how they can prevent that from happening.

Violation 1: Text Messaging

Text messaging can be quite useful, but it is a potential HIPAA violation. Consider a scenario in which a health practitioner is texting his colleague about a certain patient and the content of the message includes protected health information. That would be a direct HIPAA violation because most cell phone messages are not ‘encrypted’. Also, the medical practitioner will be violating other facets of HIPAA compliance such as data integrity, auditing, access control, and others. Read more on HIPAA Text Messaging Policy here.

How to avoid this HIPAA violation?

It is important not to text content that includes PHI to anyone using non-encrypted messaging applications. Likewise, phones that are used must have password protection so that PHI is not accessible. The solution is to find a medical communications app that takes care of this aspect of HIPAA compliance like Hucu.ai
Hucu.ai is a FREE person-centered messaging network with real-time patient health & staff attrition risk reporting. Innovative post-acute care physician groups and skilled nursing operators are downloading the mobile app (available both in iOS and Android) and improving communication and collaboration immediately. Hucu.ai helps solve key healthcare problems that cause inefficiency and frustration for everyone involved in a value-based care model. For many health practitioners, it is more and more difficult to manage non-HIPAA compliant fragmented communication using outdated 1-1 methods (phone, fax, paper, email, and text) with no accountability. To know more, check out this blog.

Hucu.ai is a complete HIPAA Compliant messaging app

Violation 2: Your Camera Roll

It is easy to consider everyday scenarios in a hospital where one health practitioner could ask his colleague to send them a picture of a patient’s rash, ECG, or even an x-ray. Pictures can also be taken from a cell phone to upload into the EHR because that is quicker, easier and convenient. But is it HIPAA compliant? Probably not! Cell phones do not have photo applications that comply with HIPAA and since images related to a patient’s medical information qualify as PHI, not protecting them properly would be a direct HIPAA violation.

How to avoid this HIPAA Violation?

It is important not to take images if they qualify any of the 18 HIPAA Safe Harbor rules for example, image of a patient in which they can be recognized. If there is a situation in which you need to take such pictures, a medical team member can do that through an app that was designed with HIPAA technical safeguards in place. Again, Hucu.ai is an app that is developed keeping this in mind. When a health practitioner takes images with Hucu.ai, they do not get stored in the ‘photo gallery’ of the mobile. Images remain in the secure ‘cloud’ storage of Hucu.ai’s application that is encrypted. Images also get shared only within the Hucu.ai application which is HIPAA compliant. So you can take pictures, share them in cases of emergencies and get consultation without worrying about breaking a HIPAA rule.

Violation 3: Your Contact List

It is normal for doctors to add patients to their contact list so that they can reach out to them later on and discuss their cases or for any other possible reason. However, that can let social media apps pick this information up which can be a red flag. When a doctor stores patients in their contact list, it is necessary to ban phone applications from accessing that list. Most people don’t know this but applications can leverage phone book to improve your social network. Once these applications have the access to a phone, the social applications may recognize a patient contact as “friend of a friend” of another of your patients, simply because they share the common connection with you. This can lead to these social media applications “recommending” your patients to each other as new connections to make. If one patient can recognize the other one from your waiting room then PHI is leaked and that’s a HIPAA violation. Here is a real example of such a scenario that happened to at least one psychiatrist!

Hucu.ai encrypts all messages for security

How to avoid this HIPAA Violation?

You can only store patient contacts within secure communication apps that were designed with HIPAA in mind or you will have to ban every application on your phone from accessing your phone book. That is a big hassle! It’s for exactly these reasons that we developed Hucu.ai to make communication easy and secure for healthcare practitioners. With Hucu.ai you can chat, speak, and video call with your medical team members without having to store their contact numbers in your phone.
Hucu.ai makes communication super easy, safe and secure. It is easy to install and use within 10 minutes.
To know about HIPAA Violations, read this blog.
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