8 Tips for Managing Holiday Stressors as a Healthcare Professional

This time of the year is commonly referred to as the ‘most wonderful time’ of the year. But it can be far from that for many healthcare professionals, especially in a pandemic year. The holiday season is usually an excellent opportunity to have some downtime, spend it with family and friends, and just recharge. However, the healthcare industry is excused from such downtime because holiday months are often the busiest of the year.
Given the past two years of the pandemic, healthcare workers are already taxed and overworked. With the holiday time coming up, the distress will feel compounded, bringing with it a surge of stress which will be further elevated between finances, trying to look for gifts for loved ones, and managing celebrations with different sides of families and various friends all the while dealing with the most challenging work environment ever. This year is gearing up to be even worse than last year with regard to demands on healthcare workers.
Here are common holiday stressors healthcare professionals can go through and our top eight recommendations on how best to manage them.

The Feeling of Loneliness and Sadness

In a typical year, it is difficult to be alone during the holidays, especially if friends and family are together while you’re working day in and day out to serve your community. Whensomeone has experienced the death of a loved one, and the prevalence of that is even higher during the pandemic, the holiday season can retrigger the trauma and bring up strong feelings.
There are many healthcare professionals who feel that their family, friends, and the general public have shunned them because they fear that they may have contracted COVID-19 through their work. Or they have strong feelings of anger at all of the people who have refused to be vaccinated, which is driving even greater stress in the healthcare system. All of these reasons can elevate the feeling of disconnection and loneliness.
It is essential to recognize that such feelings are normal and it is okay to express how you feel. Keeping it all inside can be harmful to your mental health. Spending some time in the sun or fresh air, moving your body, and engaging with your coworkers and the community can help make you feel better. You can also schedule Zoom calls with family and friends to participate in holiday celebrations.

Feelings of Anger, Defeat, and Exhaustion

Seeing so many people travel, or celebrate in large groups can feel discouraging especially when healthcare workers are trying so hard to keep COVID-19 under control. Anger and defeat are other understandable emotions to feel in this situation when people don’t want to get vaccinated, wear masks or keep a social distance – which will exacerbate the COVID-19 situation and make healthcare workers bear the brunt of it.
Having to deal with the pandemic crisis head-on without a break has been exhausting for healthcare workers. Working under pressure, witnessing so much sickness and death has emotionally drained healthcare professionals. Such emotional exhaustion combined with the physical exhaustion of working long hours and busy shifts can lead to disrupted nights of sleep and loss of energy even during the holidays.
It is important to focus on self-care and get rest as much as you can during the holiday season by planning your shift schedules ahead of time. Talking to mental health professionals can help you cope with stress and feel better as well and help you find strategies that work for you.

Feeling Overwhelmed By Social Pressures

As a healthcare professional, feeling overwhelmed with so much to do non-stop can be daunting. The feeling can become intense if you feel you’re not getting enough support or you feel that your to-do list continues to grow. On top of this, maybe you are expected to pay a visit to friends and family. Social pressure can cause anxiety.
This can be managed by sorting out your calendar ahead of time and communicating expectations clearly to avoid conflicts in social engagements and your work. Many times, family and friends just need to understand what is manageable for you in order to support you in your time management. Taking the time to ask about others’ expectations and to clarify your own expectations can head off social conflicts among friends and family. Dealing with emotional overload is difficult but communicating with those you interact with can help to process it productively.Different healthcare workers will experience different holiday stressors, so it’s important to know that your co-workers may also be feeling different stressors. Try some of these 8 simple strategies to help your co-workers and yourself keep from spiraling into worse stress.

1. Staying Honest and Realistic

Everyone can feel pressured to feel extra happy or cheerful during the holiday season but it is important to keep a realistic approach and manage expectations. Winter blues and depression tend to increase during the holiday season. Being honest with yourself and identifying red flags can help you take care of yourself especially as a caregiver.

2. Looking at the Bigger Picture

It can help to keep in mind that the holiday season with all its stress, is really a matter of weeks. When you’re feeling overwhelmed by its hustle and bustle, take a deep breath and remember that it will pass. The days start to get longer, the next season beckons and new opportunities appear.

3. Planning and Organizing Ahead of Time

Planning ahead can come in very handy during the holiday season. With so much to do at work, you may not find time to call family members and friends, purchase gifts, and engage in other activities all at once. Planning ahead and organizing a calendar can help you create an outline of the obligations you have and keep the ones you truly want to participate in.

4. Spending With Care

Giving gifts in the holiday spirit can be very enticing. Many healthcare professionals who want to give expensive gifts to family and friends could sign up for multiple overtime or shifts only to become fatigued and overburdened at the last moment. It is important to remember that your health, well-being, and that the gift of your time and presence will be cherished more by your friends and family.

5. Prioritizing Your Health

The holiday season comes with many stressors, and combined with the annual peak of cold and flu, not to mention surging Covid, caregivers must take extra measures to keep themselves physically and mentally healthy. Staying active, hydrated, and satiated with healthy food and rest can help you stay focused.

6. Taking Quiet Time

Make sure you make time for yourself to simply be at ease for at least 10 minutes every day. Surprisingly, simply resting and focusing on your breathing can improve your perspective and overall well being. Try listening to calming music or using a meditation app. Practice breathing slowly using the 4-7-8 method or other calming breathing practice.

7. Communicating!

Finding time to talk to co-workers and coordinating your schedules is essential to manage holiday stressors. Leaders can promote employee engagement to help caregivers have a greater sense of belonging which will benefit the entire organization. Sharing the load both in words and action can bring a team together.

8. Having the Right Communication Tools

Real-time, HIPAA-compliant messaging platforms such as Hucu.ai can help healthcare workers and leaders manage holiday stress. Healthcare workers can stay connected and plan schedules remotely to stay organized ahead of time. If anyone gets sick or another unpredictable engagement presents itself, finding a shift replacement by connecting with co-workers in real-time via Hucu.ai is super easy.
Healthcare workers can also find additional support from their co-workers and seniors through the application for patients who require extra care. Hucu.ai facilitates a team’s quick decision making which takes away the stress of resolving ‘what’, ‘how’, ‘when’ alone.
Leaders can stay connected with the entire team over holidays, plan Zoom calls via Hucu.ai, and exchange holiday greetings to cheer everyone up. Appreciating hard-working team members can boost their morale and lead them to have a sense of purpose and belonging.
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A Quick HIPAA Compliance Guide for Nurses

Every nurse’s professional duty includes HIPAA compliance. However, in today’s digital world, protecting sensitive patient data and information can become a challenge. While most nursing programs include information about the legal issues affecting nurses today in their coursework, it is not a bad idea to continue reading more about HIPAA compliance and how it affects nurses. By increasing one’s knowledge in the area, a nurse can better uphold every patient’s right to privacy and help protect herself/himself, and the employer as well. It is a win-win.

Definition of HIPAA

HIPAA is the short form of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act passed into Federal Law in August 1996. It contains the national standards and rules to protect and safeguard a patient’s privacy. It helps healthcare professionals determine who is eligible to access a patients’ healthcare information and how individuals can access their medical records. The standards also help classify what data is protected health information (PHI) and how such information should be stored or shared for a legitimatepurpose like for treatments, healthcare operations, and payments.

Common HIPAA Violations by Nurses

If nurses and healthcare providers are not careful, they may commit HIPAA violations. Common HIPAA violations include an unintended comment to a colleague or an acquaintance about a patient. This may sound like it is nothing but this is a breach of confidentiality because that person is not supposed to have access to such sensitive information. Another common way is to leave one’s computer screen open and unattended for a few minutes without the protection of username and password. Information can be copied, hacked, or stolen within a few minutes or any passerby can read through it. If a nurse improperly discards documents instead of shredding them, they can get into the hands of an authorized person, causing a HIPAA violation. Similarly, sharing information or pictures on social media can also be a cause of HIPAA violations.

Consequences of HIPAA Violations

If a HIPAA violation has occurred, the nurse’s supervisor has to be informed right away. Minor violations can have minor consequences by addressing them with internal disciplinary actions or further training. However, failure to report major violations can result in major consequences. A healthcare organization can have severe fines for inappropriate hiring, training, and supervision practices. It is also important to keep in mind that HIPAA penalties have four tiers and are based on the level of negligence which is in turn determined by the Department of Health and Human Services. These four categories include unintentional violations as well as intentional violations of HIPAA rules. The smallest fine is $100 and goes up to $50,000 for violations of Category 1. The minimum fine for a Category 4 violation is $50,000 and if the violation is anywhere near criminal, it will be handled by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Save Yourself from HIPAA Violation.

Tips Nurses Can Follow to Avoid HIPAA Violation

Understanding What Patient Health Information Is

Any health information that can identify an individual is categorized as PHI and will fall under HIPAA protection. This can include almost everything we see in a medical record regardless of it being stored digitally, on paper, or shared verbally, such as a patient’s past health record/history, test diagnosis, billing information, insurance. While individual health identifiers are protected data, usually demographic information is not a part of HIPAA regulation – except when it is related to health information. These common individual identifiers are names of patients, email addresses, contact information, telephone numbers, social security numbers, account numbers, medical records, photographs, and Driver’s license numbers.
Once the nurses truly understand what constitutes PHI, they are less likely to commit a HIPAA violation unknowingly.

Making Sure All Electronic Devices are Secure

It is easy to get lost in the sea of digital data and lose your grip. As medical records become more digitally stored, several electronic devices may be used every day at different points in caregiving to access them. Cell phones, laptops, computers, and tablets may contain very sensitive data that has to be protected under HIPAA regulation. Nurses and the medical staff have to make sure they take all precautions when they are accessing patients’ information on any such device. One way to do that is to use password protection.  

Since all nurses have cell phones, it is easy to mix up patient information with personal information and that can create a HIPAA violation. Hucu.ai is the most convenient free messaging HIPAA compliant application that is built for the healthcare industry and solves all these pain points. Simply download the application on any phone and you’re ready to use it in under 10 minutes. The application allows you to password protect it including an option of biometric protection so that only the authorized person can access the messaging app. The app itself can connect the medical staff at an individual, group, and organizational level. The app also has different channels that can be used by the staff for sharing status updates and important information about a specific patient. It allows the nurses to receive instant, real-time support virtually 24/7. Hucu.ai has really helpful features that save time from chasing communication and letting the staff care for patients better. Find out how Hucu.ai works.

Hucu.ai Is a Password Protected Healthcare Messaging App.

Never Share Password and Login Credentials

While these digital devices have a great protection system through passwords and biometric identification, they will come in handy very little if the password is shared with another person. Nurses have to have their own passwords and logic for devices that contain PHI. These credentials have to be kept secret and protected. If they become compromised, it is important to immediately report the security breach to an appropriate department.
HIPAA compliance can be a little complicated but nurses must follow the guidelines as closely as possible to protect PHI and avoid HIPAA violations. HIPAA best practices can be learned through experience and continuous practice which allow the nurses to care for patients confidently.
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MPAC and Hucu.ai Celebrate Anniversaries

MPAC and Hucu.ai Celebrate Anniversaries
This month marks a one-year successful telehealth collaboration of Hucu.ai with MPAC Healthcare. MPAC Healthcare is an industry leader that works exclusively in post-acute settings. MPAC’s role is as a trusted provider of nurse practitioner services to the most fragile population: skilled nursing residents. Their objective is to provide proactive, patient-centered care with services like transition care, physician services, preventive care, and more. MPAC has built a practice around providing reliable, flexible, leading-edge Nurse Practitioners and their customers are forward-thinking skilled nursing providers who know they need better resources for the patients with acute care needs.
In the summer of 2019, Hucu.ai founders Asif Khan and Laura McKee met MPAC’s CEO, Timothy Martinez to discuss communication methods within their facility. At the time, MPAC was using Group.me for internal communication but they required a scalable solution that addressed their needs. Several months later, they contacted Hucu.ai to become a strategic customer. We’re now celebrating 2 years of partnership as well as a year of seamless telehealth services.
MPAC needed a turnkey solution to keep their team communicating and supported. In addition, they realized the need to communicate in patient centered channels would improve care coordination and communication with their partners. Eventually, they started using Hucu.ai to provide easy access to virtual visits. In order to support customers and teams during intensive infection control measures, virtual visits became essential and not just “nice to have”. MPAC was looking for a flexible and simple way to connect their Nurse Practitioners with Directors of Nursing and Floor Nurses that they interact with daily as well as with Medical Directors – before, during, and after a telehealth visit. They also wanted a single communication platform that was HIPAA compliant, so that they could communicate with the teams openly and transparently. Hucu.ai helped them do exactly that and so much more.
Within one year, MPAC drastically improved their internal communication via Hucu.ai and as a result, patient outcomes improved as well. With Hucu.ai as an instant collaborator/patient communication, part-time nurses who work in the evening can immediately get in touch with the MPAC team about a patient’s critical condition and get the right support. This in turn reduces the chances of unnecessary hospitalization which saves MPAC and skilled nursing communities their time, effort, and costs. The nurses can organize patients using various “flags” (admissions, discharges, readmissions, and more ) and manage higher patient turnover as well.
“The communication within the app is actually centered around the patients, something I have not found with any other HIPAA compliant texting software.”
Tim M. – CEO
“Hucu has allowed me to keep my patient related messages organized. My team can reach me instantly and stay in touch all day, and when I’m on call, all evening.”
Fran W, -NP
“I love being able to follow up on each patient’s care quickly and keep the team in the loop.”
Ashley Y, -NP
Over the past year, MPAC’s team has become much more confident in taking care of their residents. Since Hucu.ai implements AI-Enabled, automatically prioritized patient hotlists based on patients’ risk profiles, the MPAC team knows exactly which patients to prioritize their care for. Patient data reporting shows which patients are experiencing increased risk in real-time. Hucu.ai analytics include Telehealth Program performance visibility. For example, which team members are conducting how many telehealth sessions, how fast such sessions are being held, which sessions result into reimbursable encounters, proactive care and more. The boost in the team’s morale has created a happier, positive work environment that’s dedicated to patient-centered care with amazing patient outcomes day in day out.
To watch Timothy Martinez’s full interview, click here.
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Communication in Patient Centered Healthcare: Importance and Best Practices

Communication is the keystone of patient-centered healthcare. Effective communication is vital to meeting patient expectations and needs. Healthcare can be positively transformed only if it is facilitated by effective communication both vertically (top-down, bottom-up) and horizontally (across the field of care delivery).
It calls for more than having an open-door policy among operational leadership. It requires encouraging caregivers, managers and patients to make good use of communication. It also requires a continuous and intentional effort to intertwine communication best practices into the organization’s culture, consistently appraise the effectiveness of these practices using workforce and patient surveys, and hold teams/individuals in the organization accountable for their roles in communication excellence.
To accomplish this, it is important to acknowledge that the way in which information is passed on is as critical as the information itself.. That is because care delivery includes numerous encounters with providers, departments, facilities and interactions with numerous administrative and care professionals of different backgrounds with different training. Each contact involves an exchange of information whether it is between or among caregivers or between caregivers and the patient. In order to be really effective from administrative, clinical and professional perspectives, the information shared has to be accurate, clear, and thorough. And it has to be shared with an open, honest and compassionate technique.
Multiple evidence-based studies support the fact that good communications are a crucial competency skill for effective value-based patient-centered care. These studies also link improved communication to safer work ambiance, better patient outcomes, fewer undesirable events, shortened patient stays, and reduced transfer delays (Disch, 2012). One study (King & Hope, 2013) shows continuous positive associations between caregiver communication attitudes and patient outcomes including better patient understanding, recall and adherence to therapy.
The quality and extent of caregiver’s communication with their patients and with one another has also proven to affect care experiences. For example, good and effective communication among care team members as well as with their patients and families is more likely to result in those patients recommending the organization to others and rating their own care experience very good. (Fulton, Malott, & Ayala, 2010)
Another research study (Press Ganey, 2013) highlights the fact that nurse communication is of critical importance. When hospitals and care facilities improve nurse communications with the patients, they find better outcomes in patient experience metrics such as receptiveness of hospital staff, pain management, medication communication and overall patient experience.
Furthermore, communication is also a keystone of workforce engagement. Effective and strong communication between healthcare teams has been proven to positively influence the quality of professional relationships, employee morale and job satisfaction (AHRQ, 2017). Another study (DiMeglio et al., 2005) shows reduced nursing staff turnover when there is clear communication about work responsibilities and task division.
Putting all of this evidence together, we recognize the importance of communication and that when healthcare professionals communicate effectively – passing on important information in a timely manner that is easily understandable, clearly giving out instructions and answering questions in depth and thoughtfully – they deliver high quality patient-centered care. Moreover efficient and effective communication improves cost of care..
Why is effective communication so important in patient-centered care? Because when there is poor communication among care teams, with patients, families and post-acute care facilities at discharge, there can be confusion in follow-up care and medication which can lead to needless readmissions and avoidable litigation. One study (Senot, Chandrasekaran, Ward, Tucker, & Moffatt-Bruce, 2015) used six years of data from almost 2,800 acute care hospitals and found that communication between caregivers and patients has the biggest influence on decreasing readmissions.
By educating patients at discharge plus giving specific and clear discharge instructions to post-acute care facilities, hospitals can reduce preventable readmissions and increase patient satisfaction as well as their operational bottom line. In addition, using these evidence-based best practices can also increase the effectiveness of communication and improve outcomes:
  • Having a comprehensive provider/team communication strategy including a standardized communication tool like SBAR (Situation, Background, Assessment, and Recommendation) technique to facilitate effective communication about patients.
  • Providing communication skills training to the staff. Good communication is not natural, it needs to be taught and practiced because the ability to explain, listen and empathize can affect relationships with patients and colleagues.
  • Having a leadership that is open about communication and supports it within the organization’s structure.
The fact that communication influences the quality, safety and experience of care, aligns with the research that links these areas of performance to the patient-centered care. It is also consistent with the research that shows that the successes of these elements are interrelated and affect the financial outcomes of an organization. But is there a specific communication tool which brings together all elements involved in providing high-quality patient-centered healthcare in one place and facilitates their communication? Is there a tool which enables one to many, multi-directional communication (top-down, bottom-up, across divisions and within the organization) to achieve the optimal level of effective communication?
Yes.
This is where Hucu.ai steps in. It is the single, most powerful communication tool that was built specifically for patient-centered healthcare to achieve the most effective HIPAA compliant communication. From getting hospital referrals to discharging patients into homes and everything in between – Hucu.ai is one patient-centered messaging solution that connects care teams internally and externally with outside partners, and helps avoid unnecessary hospitalizations.
Hucu.ai on a mobile device, can replace all traditional silo communication tools: faxes, email, text, phone, voicemail). It centralizes all communication – 1 to 1, many to many and patient-centered direct. Hucu.ai streamlines communication between providers and facility staff by allowing them to communicate in the context of each Patient-Channel, with each other in 1-1 Direct Messages & within internal and/or external Groups through Collaboration Channels.
Hucu.ai is great for identifying, engaging and retaining employees. Staff turnover can be improved by supporting team members through continuous communication and recognition. It allows for recognition of high performers by delivering honor points from peers and colleagues. It enables easy communication virtually so the staff is always updated, supported and empowered with real-time information.
Here is one of the many success stories of facilities that implemented Hucu.ai and increased the effectiveness in their communication overnight.

Clearfield County Area Agency on Aging (CCAAA)

Clearfield County Area Agency on Aging is a non-profit in central Pennsylvania that supports the maximum independence of older adults . Their comprehensive array of services enhances the quality of life of older adults through coordinated community partnerships and initiatives that support and educate members in the community.
Here are the challenges faced by CCAAA in their communication and improvements from implementing Hucu.ai in their facility.
Problems Faced before Hucu.ai
Solutions Achieved after Hucu.ai
There were numerous rehospitalizations and negative consumer outcomes
Availability of analytics and real-time communication resulted in reduced hospitalizations
Only 10 case managers keeping track of 1,000 older adults and spending too much time
The consumer journey map tracks the history of each individual. Real time acuity scores are built from custom acuity scores from evidence-based assessments. Agency now better manages intensive caseload and develop person-centered interventions
Prioritization of cases was very difficult and time consuming.
Hucu.ai pinpoints older adults most in need of service through data driven solutions.
CCAAA needed better communication with multiple contracted service partners and to provide the level of transparency and oversight within their teams to keep the staff engaged.
Hucu.ai features multiple channels for internal and external communication. It also provides reports that track partner performance level, effectively keeping all partners accountable.
CCAAA needed a solution that fit their service model so they can meet the challenges of managing numerous older adults
Hucu.ai has been responsive to their needs to support their business goals by developing new features such as real time acuity scores and risk stratification flags.
CCAAA was using phones, text messages, emails and faxes for internal and external communication. It was unorganized and hard to keep a track of.
Hucu.ai replaced all silo messaging tools. Downloaded on a mobile device, it gives access to patient centered messaging channels virtually and in real-time. Entire team communicates with timely information. Separate patient family channels keep family members in different geographic locations on the same page.
CCAAA needed to have the ability to share sensitive information with other team members to assure seamless service and continuity of care.
Hucu.ai gave CCAAA the ability to share care plans, provide necessary updates and share photos securely without using any phone storage. Everything is securely saved in the cloud in organized channels.
There was no system of evaluating the efficiency and quality of services CCAAA network was providing to older adults.
Hucu.ai’s flag reporting enhances data collection letting CCAAA capture SDOH factors for performance evaluation. Availability of reports that track partner performance level.
“Hucu.ai is providing us with data to support our funding requests and to identify those at greatest risk.” – Kathy, CEO CCAAA
“We have better access to consumer experience data and are able to manage our team more proactively.” – Ethen, COO CCAAA
Interested in knowing more on how Hucu.ai has transformed communication in patient-centered healthcare that significantly affected the bottom lines for care providers? Check out these success stories.
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Four Ways Hospitals can Reduce Hospital Readmissions and Save Costs

Reducing readmissions is still a challenge in the healthcare industry and this is clear from the $18 billion Medicare has to spend every year on readmissions which can be ‘avoided’.
Avoidable hospital readmissions are not just hard on the patient, but also on hospital staff. A patient who is discharged home but has to leave again for a process that was not needed in the first place becomes frustrated. It is also difficult for the medical staff who need to dedicate their time and effort when they could have better utilized than on caring for patients who truly needed them. Most avoidable hospital readmissions happen because of miscommunication or a gap in communication when the patient is transitioning from hospital to home.
Therefore, it is necessary for the patients to follow up with their care doctors and staff within the first week of discharge to avoid rehospitalization. High-risk patients who did that have lower readmission rates than those who did not follow up with their primary care physician (PCP) – even when both groups have similar LACE index scores (LACE index highlights patients who are at risk of readmission within 30 days of discharge).

Reduce hospital readmissions by half

It is critical for patients and care teams to have clear communication and understanding of the needs and expectations after a discharge. Uncoordinated care and miscommunication can be huge barriers in a patient’s journey to improved health. PCP’s follow-up after discharge is an incredibly important way to bring all parts of the care process together. It allows the PCP to connect the missing pieces and identify any potential health issues which are easily overlooked otherwise. Similarly, following up with the PCP allows the patient to know who he has to turn to if there is a problem. This is one of the four strategies that help reduce readmissions. Let’s talk about three more.

Using Patient Data to the Fullest

Hospitals can be successful at reducing readmissions if they collect patient data and really take a closer look at it. Sure, this sensitive data has to be protected but it is also a critical tool that should be shared with care teams in the hospitals to understand the patient’s history and health trends. Hospitals can look at readmissions from various data points, for example, from the perspective of age, discharge type, diagnosis, physician, payer, health history, etc. This way they can get to the root cause of readmissions quickly and fix that.

Understanding from a Human Perspective

Once the data has been thoroughly analyzed and the root cause has been identified, it makes sense for the hospitals to make a person-to-person connection with the patient to really understand what is happening post-discharge. PCPs can talk to patients themselves to find out the details. This kind of real-life insight can be gathered through active discussion and is less likely to be found through chart reviews and what is written in the reports. Contacting the patients on time after they have left the hospital is necessary to understand the total picture and take precautions for potential risks.

Using Technology for Better Patient Care

Hospitals and staff are using a myriad of technologies for effective patient care. They are using notification systems, tracking systems, developing performance measurement dashboards, and multiple other tools to understand and reduce readmissions and to drive high levels of performance. What if we told you that all of these amazing tools can be combined in one communication app that is built for the healthcare industry? Hucu.ai is a free HIPAA-compliant communication app that has proven to reduce communication gaps and significantly influenced the number of readmissions in hospitals and nursing homes.

Hucu.ai Solves All Communication Problems in Healthcare

How does it work?

Hucu.ai can bring in all staff members, PCPs, and transition care teams in one place virtually. Using ‘channels’ for a specific patient, care team members can discuss important points about the patient in real-time so that everyone is on the same page and updated about the patient’s status. As the patient gets discharged, live updates can be shared so that quick actions can be taken by the care team members in case of emergencies at home. When teams are able to share and diagnose a problem in real-time remotely, the issue can be resolved at home and thus reduce the chance of unnecessary readmission. This can save the patient from the hassle and the hospital from added costs associated with the readmissions.
Through Hucu.ai, it is easy to include patient/family in planning for patient’s admissions and discharge plans whether hospital, SNF, AL, IL, or their homes. Hucu.a helps to:
  • Simplify transitions by bringing in discharge & admissions staff in both organizations.
  • Eliminate surprises by sharing up-to-the-minute transition plans.
  • Speed up patient-centered communication between different organizations with easily simplified secure messaging.
  • Replace 5 old silo communication tools (fax, email, text, phone, voicemail, etc.) with one powerful tool – hucu.ai.
  • Make availability easy by showing custom user statuses, with simple one-touch status updates – available, busy, and away along with reading receipts.
  • Coordinate care seamlessly by updating staff on medication, dme, ppe, nutrition or other interventions.
Hucu.ai is the answer to all communication problems in healthcare. Hospitals can build a seamless care process facilitated by Hucu.ai. It is easy to install and can be implemented and ready to use within 10 minutes. You can schedule a quick demo for free by contacting us.
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Types of Healthcare Communication Systems and How HIPAA Applies to Them

There are many kinds of communications systems in healthcare but we can generalize them into three distinct categories such as provider to provider communication, internal communication, and provider to patient communication. Internal communications refer to different forms of staff messaging such asrequests to cover vacant shifts, policies and procedures and emergency messages.
Dr. Enrico Coiera published an article in the Clinical Biochemist Review in 2006 named “Communication Systems in Healthcare”. In this article, he very aptly wrote that if the information is the lifeblood of healthcare then communication systems are the heart that pumps it. The article was visionary and ahead of its time and correctly assumed that communication systems in the hospitals would evolve quickly.
It was just three years after this article that Congress passed the HITECH Act which “incentivized the use of EHRs (electronic health records). As a result of the “meaningful use” incentive, the use of EHRs increased 14.2% per year. Later in 2013, HIPAA Omnibus Rule made sure that communications systems were implemented with security and integrity of ePHI.
Patient satisfaction and patient-centered care are two goals of any healthcare provider and system. To achieve those, communication systems in healthcare are continuing to evolve to improve healthcare delivery and productivity.
Let’s look more closely at the three categories of communications in healthcare.

Provider-to-Provider Communication System

Provider to Provider communication systems is used for external clinical procedures, patient transfers, and insurance transactions, in healthcare that falls under the administrative and physical guidelines of the HIPAA Security Rule. This means that entities are responsible for protecting data integrity and for securing ePHI when it is received or sent in an electronic format. The entities have to ensure that ePHI is not disclosed, deleted, changed, or destroyed without authorization or consent. The rules regarding this category of communication systems are very strict and come with the necessity to implement ID authentication, mechanisms, data encryption, and audit trails. The department of health and human Services can issue huge fines if the HIPAA guidelines are not followed even if no data breach happens from the HIPAA violation.

Provider-to-Patient Communication Systems

The most common provider-to-patient communication is usually telemedicine consultations, reminders of appointments, etc. These systems don’t require the same type of security measures that are needed of provider to provider communication systems, but their use does fall under the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Therefore, a patient’s agreement is needed before any of these systems are used to communicate PHI. Once the consent is secured from the patient, then these communications are subject to Minimum Necessary Standard which states that PHI should be minimally exposed only to those with a need to access it.. On the flip side, there are also patient-to-provider communication systems. These can range from remote clinical consultation services (videoconferencing, consultation by email), to nurse call systems that can notify healthcare professionals about updates of a patient’s condition. Patient to provider systems can be integrated into EHRs so that they can automatically update patient records and in such a case, they are subject to the technical safeguards of the HIPAA Security Rule.

Internal Communication Systems

Internal communication systems may be subject to HIPAA Security Rule depending on how they are configured in the healthcare organization. For example, internal communication systems which are protected by a firewall may be used to communicate unencrypted ePHI only if Minimum Necessary Standard is complied with. Internal communications are always subject to HIPAA Privacy Rule and that can create huge challenges in emergency cases.
In emergency cases or when patients have to be evacuated or when there is a disaster and a surge of patients, healthcare organizations are required to activate CMS mandated Emergency Preparedness Plans. That dictates how communications during an emergency can be carried on.

Compliant Use is As Vital as Compliant Systems

Regardless of which category communications systems in healthcare are generalized into, their compliant use is important. If healthcare organizations engage in effective training and safeguards, risk of HIPAA breaches is reduced. Another way to avoid breaches is to have very effective HIPAA compliant communications tools adopted such as Hucu.ai.
Hucu.ai is a free HIPAA compliant instant messaging application that is built specifically for the healthcare industry.
The biggest advantage of having Hucu.ai in a healthcare organization is that it combines all three forms of communication. Hucu.ai brings together providers, patients, and families all in one place. It enables internal teams to coordinate care faster so that timely patient care can result in better outcomes. Here are some core benefits of Hucu.ai and how it improves patient care. Hucu.ai allows you to:
  • Make timely care decisions by quickly identifying and messaging all other stakeholders (facility, home health, therapy, specialists, etc.) unique to each specific patient
  • Spend more time providing care instead of trying to find who’s who in the care team and their contact information, for each specific patient
  • Organize & find all information for each specific patient (documents, DC summaries, med lists, wound photos, and more) shared by different staff from different organizations
  • Simplify admissions/discharge process from/to hospitals/snfs/home health and keep track of patients’ wellbeing in real-time – all remotely via Hucu.ai app irrespective of patients’ location – reduce hospitalizations
  • Take timely actions for higher acuity patients by empowering other collaborators to quickly flag (urgent, acute change in condition, PUI, COVID19 +VE. COVID19 -VE, and more) such patients.
If you want to ease communication in your healthcare facility, you can request a free demo from us. Contact us for more details.
Sources of information: hipaajournal
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What Is An Effective Nurse-Patient Communication?

An important aspect of being a nurse is to have effective communication skills. It is also one of the foundations of nursing care that has a huge impact on patients. Some have the mistaken impression that “communication skills” are just “what we say. Excellent communication is so much more.. In fact, good communication skills are based on the fundamentals of establishing excellent rapport, building two-way channels and using various modes of communication effectively.

Establishing Rapport
  • Cultural Awareness for your patients’ context
  • Compassion and Empathy for patient feelings
  • Building trust by making personal connections at a human level
Building two-way channels
  • Active Listening
  • Offering Patient Education, particularly in response to questions
  • Asking probing questions
  • Giving plenty of time for questions
Fully utilizing modes of communication
  • Verbal communication: what is being said
  • Non-verbal communication: this includes facial expressions, body language, hand gestures, eye contact, and physical distance between a nurse and the patient.
  • Written communication via text, email, or better secure HIPAA compliant app
  • Presentation skills for communicating concepts to groups
Effective nurse-patient communication is shown to improve quality of care, patient outcomes, and most importantly, a nurse-patient relationship which can directly impact patient satisfaction in a person-centered care approach. According to the book, Interpersonal Relationships: Professional Communication for Nurses by Arnold and Boggs, having a communication competency is a primary way to established, trust and a collaborative relationship with patients and families. Effective nurse-patient communication is not as easy as it sounds; in fact, it is very challenging for nurses and calls for more than skills and experience.

Break all communication barriers in healthcare with Hucu.ai

Principles of Improving Nurse-Patient Communication

Prioritize Patients

It is necessary to give priority to your patients. Putting a patient first can shift the mindset with which care is being provided. Effective communication with patients begins with taking the time out to introduce yourself and telling them exactly how you will take care of them. Using non-verbal cues such as a smile, calm voice and a warm, welcoming tone will provide comfort to the patient. Showing respect to patients and looking at them from a person-centered care lens will help you build a connection with the patient and help him feel more comfortable under your care. This approach is successful in making patients feel cared for.

Active Listening

A nurse has to be an active listener when communicating with the patient. It requires the nurse to listen with full attention to the speaker to get the intent and feeling. A part of active listening is to pay full attention to the speaker and to let them finish without interrupting them or judging them for what they are saying. Taking time out to understand the concerns of patients can help a nurse be more prepared to address problems and issues as they arise and achieve better patient outcomes. The second aspect of active listening is to paraphrase what has been said and repeat it while maintaining eye contact so that the patient knows you’ve been listening carefully. The third aspect of active listening is to grasp non-verbal cues like eye contact, gestures, body language, and expressions. These help a nurse connect with the patient and build trust as well as elevate the level of comfort over time. Additionally, patients who have established an understanding with the nurse will be more willing to disclose the true extent of their symptoms. Balancing time “telling” with time “asking/listening” is critical.

Speak from the Heart

A nurse should talk with his/her heart. Patient communication requires a lot of time and therefore, frankness and honesty play a role in effective communication in this duration. To increase the effectiveness of communication, nurses have to have a sincere intention to truly understand a patient’s concerns and reply with kindness. One way to do this is to ask patients open-ended questions so that they can express themselves fully. Speaking slowly and using layman language for medical terms can also help in relaxing the patient and creating a better understanding of the situation. If the patient is having a hard time understanding information or instructions, a nurse has to modify or clarify the information until the patient understands. For this reason, using presentation materials like pictures or handouts can complement verbal communication.
Otherwise, poor communication or lack of it can lead to patients misunderstanding directions and failing to follow the treatment steps. This can result in workflow breakdown for the medical team and increase the chances of medical errors. Did you know that a report by Joint Commission* found out that poor communication during patient transfers led to 80% of serious medical errors? With the available technology (phone), effective communication skills, and a healthcare text messaging application like Hucu.ai, that can be avoided.

Hucu.ai Facilitates Communication During Patient Transfers.

When patients are being transferred from post-acute care to a nursing facility, current care teams have to hand over the patient’s profile, medical condition report and relay important information related to the patient’s new care team. If any information is missed or communicated wrongly, it can have serious consequences for the patient. This is where Hucu.ai can help.
Hucu.ai is a HIPAA compliant, text messaging application built for the healthcare industry. It facilitates communication between care teams, nurses, patients, families, and all healthcare members involved with just a tap on the phone. Bringing all members of the care team in one digital ‘channel’ and sharing important documents, facts, and information regarding the patient transfer reduces the chances of error. Real-time notifications and the capability to reach out to any team member from anywhere anytime can drastically reduce delays in patient care leading to better patient outcomes.

Establish Personal Connections

In a person-centered care approach, it is critical to know the person behind the patient. What are his likes or dislikes? What makes him comfortable? What are his pet peeves? This can help in making the patient feel safer and more comfortable. Creating such personal connections with patients can improve patient outcomes. A nurse can achieve this by spending extra minutes every day and getting to know them, trying to exchange fun facts about each other, and showing genuine interest in their life story.

Cultural Knowledge

A nurse is likely to work with patients from different social and cultural backgrounds. It is important to be aware of cultural differences and be sensitive and respectful towards them. For example, if a patient is not fluent in English, it will be a good idea to bring a translator when necessary. Similarly, with trans or gender non-binary patients, a nurse can take care in using their preferred name and pronouns.
Effective nurse-patient communication is a life-long skill and can impact the quality of care a patient receives.
*The Joint Commission, “Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare Releases Targeted Solutions Tool for Hand-Off Communications,” August 2012, Volume 32, Issue 8, 2019.
Sources of Information: usa.edu, minoritynurse.com
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Starting a Successful Hospice Business – Part I

Hospice care is a process where clients can find a caring environment and quality of life at the end of their days as they prepare themselves to pass on. These terminal patients are cared for in the best way possible and kept comfortable. They receive medical care round the clock from the hospice while their family members are also given support and updates about their loved ones.
Starting a Hospice business can be a tricky one because there are regulations that need to be fulfilled. It is more than just registering your hospice business with the government. Here are the essential steps that can ensure your new hospice business is well planned, registered properly, legally sound, and becomes successful.
Step 1: Planning the business correctly
An organized, clear plan is needed for a successful hospice business. It helps to map out the specifics of the business. Here are the important questions one needs to ask before opening a hospice business.

What are the major costs?

A hospice startup cost will be different depending on the type of hospice one is opening and which state it is located in. The main cost can range from $70,000 to $120,000 if it is a non-Medicare facility. If it is a Medicare-certified hospice agency the cost can range from $160,000 to $400,000. These costs include licensing for faculty and staff, computer hardware and software, physical space for the facility, accreditation, business branding, marketing materials, inventory, and insurance.
Since the regulations are strict, many entrepreneurs may choose to invest in consultation services which increase the costs while increasing confidence in compliance.

Hucu.ai Helps Hospice Save Time and Money

What are the ongoing costs?

Apart from the standard operational expenses, there will be ongoing annual costs ranging between $400,000 to $450,000 (on the higher side). Exact numbers will differ depending on the size of the facility and the number of services being offered. Payroll will take up the greatest portion of the ongoing costs.

How will the hospice business make money?

For-profit and nonprofit hospices receive funds from different sources. Charitable donations and grants are the main sources of revenue for not for profit hospices which can also be reimbursed by private insurance, Medicaid, and Medicare for the patients being cared for. Many facilities are reimbursed on a daily basis and are offered payment for every day a patient is in the facility. Hospices can also be reimbursed on an hourly basis if the patient needs home nursing care 24/7.

How much profit can be made?

The average payment reimbursed to hospice facilities by Medicare ranges from $145/day or at an hourly rate of $40/hour if care is being given 24/7. Given this, successful hospice businesses have shown to make up to $120,000 to $200,000 in profits annually. Of course, the amount will vary depending on the number of patients, number of services offered, and ongoing expenses.

How can the business profits be optimized?

Successful hospice businesses use several strategies to ensure optimization of their profits. These include finding a gap in the market, taking up underserved segments of the market, and customizing services to their needs. Another strategy is to work with physicians, hospitals and other facilities in the community and highlight the benefits of using hospice facilities. This will develop a strong referral base.
Step 2: Forming a Legal Corporate Entity and Registering for Taxes
The three most common types of legal entities are sole proprietorship, partnership, Limited Liability Company, and C corporation. If the business owner wants to be protected from being personally liable, he can opt for an LLC or a corporation.
Once the business owner has decided on the legal entity, the business must be registered for each state in which services are provided as well as for federal taxes before officially opening the business. The business owner will need an EIN to do that. If the business structure is an LLC, it can benefit from being taxed as an S Corp. there may be specific state taxes applied to a hospice business. Here are the details on starting an LLC.

Hospice Facilities are Optimizing their Communication system with Hucu.ai

Step 3: Getting a Bank Account, Credit Card, and Setting Up Business Accounting
If the business owner wants personal asset protection, then dedicated business banking and credit accounts are needed. It is important to keep personal accounts separate from business accounts. It makes taxing and filing easier too.
Once that is done, the hospice business owner needs to set up business accounting to record various expenses and sources of income in order to understand the financial performance of the hospice facility.
Step 4: Getting Permits and Licenses
If a hospice business does not have the essential permits and licenses, it can result in heavy fines and shutting down the business altogether. The federal business licensing requirements call for a hospice to complete and submit an enrollment application. Once done, the hospice will be checked out to see if it meets the federal requirements.
State and local business licensing requirements are different as each state has its regulations regarding hospice care licensing. This guide will help in determining if the hospice is operating according to the correct state law.
Hospice facilities that are working out of a physical location also need a certificate of occupancy (CO). The CO confirms that all working areas, building codes, zoning laws, and government regulations are being met.
Check out the remaining steps in part II of this guide.
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Starting a Successful Hospice Business – Part II

In part I of this guide, we discussed the initial steps of starting a hospice business. While all major steps of starting a hospice business for every owner are the are the same, it is the last step discussed in this guide that will set up a hospice for a major success as compared to others.
Step 5: Getting Business Insurance
Insurance is as important as getting licenses and permits for a hospice business. It protects the company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a loss. There is a huge range of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different kinds of risks. A hospice business can start with General Liability Insurance – which is the most common coverage.
Step 6: Creating a Hospice Brand
A strong business brand will help the hospice facility and services to stand out from from the competition. Defining the vision of the business, branding it in a consistent and specific way can make a hospice business successful in achieving the right perception and becoming the choice for clients.
There are many marketing strategies like advertising in magazines or or newspapers to promote the business. In this digital era, keeping an online presence is fundamental. Additionally, creating relationships with surgeons, hospitals, doctors and post-operative clinics can prove a huge source of referrals. The easiest way to maintain successful communication with these partners is through hucu.ai. Hucu.ai is a FREE, HIPAA compliant communication application wired for Healthcare.
Hucu.ai can solidify existing referral relationships and help build new ones. With hucu.ai, hospice owners can build bridges across providers, patients, and families, improve accessibility and responsiveness of partners, establish tighter connections with skilled nursing and home health providers, and provide visibility to collaboration performance. Find out more here about how Hucu.ai can specifically help Hospice businesses become more successful.

Hospice Using Hucu.ai Have Increased Patient and Family Satisfaction

Step 7: Create a Business Website
After defining the specifics of your hospice brand, it is essential to create a website for the business. It is important because all legitimate businesses have websites that clients check out before choosing achoosing a business. Social media accounts like LinkedIn and and Facebook are important but cannot replace a business website.
Step 8: Setting Up a Successful Communication System
The Healthcare industry incurs huge losses both financial and human because of communication gaps. A successful communication system will set up a hospice facility for success. A smooth flow of information throughout the different hierarchies in a hospice setting will free up time wasted in repeating the same information multiple times to multiple staff members. The time saved can be invested in caring better for the clients.
Thanks to modern technology like Hucu.ai, communication in a hospice facility can become a breeze. Staff can save their time by just opening their cell phones and getting real-time updates about their clients regardless of their location. The staff on the next shift do do not have to go through huge piles of documents to get status updates on their client, they just have to check the individual patient channel in the Hucu.ai app.

Hucu.ai Allows Hospice Staff to Share Videos, Pictures and Documents in a HIPAA Compliant Way

Staff can share documents, pictures, and videos in the Hucu.ai app with team members to tackle emergencies where decision-making needs to be quick. This helps them feel more supported and empowered and in turn, increases team morale. Hucu.ai helps in engaging and retaining distributed team members while building the desired work culture. Hospices that have Hucu.ai have proven better focus at work by reducing noise and distractions since the staff members don’t have to dig through personal messages to get to work messages.
Hucu.ai helps hospices improve their operations and also increases family satisfaction. Hucu.ai empowers primary care physicians by offering easy communication to provide context, oversee the care, and facilitate improvements in patient status. It enables easy information sharing to communicate med lists, patient history, advanced directives, and other important information. Hucu.ai can improve the patient/family experience by providing seamless communication across all providers.
Hospices have proven to perform at their best with Hucu.ai. If you want to increase the success rate of your hospice business, you may want to consider implementing Hucu.ai as the primary source of communication within your facility. Contact us for a free demo.
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