Use of virtual huddles support ACO care coordination; mobile devices helping improve quality and physician satisfaction

A recent article from Hospitals and Health Networks  highlights the growing use of virtual medical huddles to help coordinate care across the care team.

Communication is critical to successfully implementing new models of care to reduce costs and keep patients from making return trips to the hospital.  But communicating across care teams can be a big hurdle for accountable care organizations.

One such organization using virtual huddles is Meritage Medical Network based in Novato, Calif. The physician-led, Medicare Shared Savings ACO includes numerous physician practices and a hospital with disparate records systems, covering a 26,000 square-mile region.

With such heterogeneity in medical records systems and reduced interoperability, Meritage is using of a smartphone-based tool from Zync Health that allows clinicians to huddle virtually and quickly check in on a patient’s care history.  Initial evidence is that the app has reduced the number of phone calls by 47 percent and length of stay by a half day.

The mobile app allows providers to see who is on a patient’s care team and message back and forth with them in a HIPAA-compliant fashion. Doctors receive reminders about certain markers along a patient’s care path, and alternatively can send out reminders to alert staffers of such things as the need to discharage a patient.

Two key lessons learned so far are the importance of understanding each patient’s living situation, and reconciling prescriptions before discharge.