Direct secure messaging (also referred to as direct exchange, or DSM for short) is a big trend in health care these days. According to DirectTrust, a non-profit alliance for health data exchange, there were over 222 million direct messages sent in Q1 of 2023 alone, in addition to the over 290,000 organizations using DSM during that period.
That’s all well and good for other healthcare providers, but every rehab therapist who isn’t already using DSM is wondering, “Why should I start using DSM? How would it work in my practice and make my job easier?” Fortunately, we’re here to answer those very specific questions with a bit of background on why adopting DSM makes sense, as well as offer a few use cases for direct secure messaging in rehab therapy that will improve your communication and collaboration and bring the transfer of information into the 21st century.
What are the benefits of direct secure messaging in rehab therapy?
Paper and digital faxes have long been the standard way to exchange patient information. But like any dated technology, faxes left a lot to be desired when it comes to efficiency and security. According to this article from DirectTrust:
- 30% of all medical tests are ordered due to a lost or missing fax;
- 80% of medical mistakes are due to poor communication, including issues with faxes; and
- 25% of faxes don’t beat a patient to their first appointment.
While digital fax might improve its paper predecessor, there are still areas where it’s lacking compared to DSM. As WebPT co-founder and Chief Clinical Officer Heidi Jannenga lays out in this month’s Founder Letter, digital faxes only transfer the information provided on a page and don’t fully integrate with EMRs. On the other hand, DSM enables the transfer of all clinical information and integrates with DSM-enables EMRs through a communication application programming interface (API), allowing providers to attach those messages to a patient’s records easily. Better yet, DSM makes it easy to connect with other providers with a nationwide DSM directory. In short, it’s the more interoperable solution for sending and receiving information.
Speaking of interoperability, DSM also helps providers meet the interoperability requirements included in programs such as the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and MIPS Value Pathways (MVP), as well as the Quality Payment Program (QPP). And while rehab therapists aren’t currently required to report for the Improving Interoperability category under MIPS, health care continued move towards value-based care means that rehab therapists should look to prioritize interoperability in their practice regardless of requirements.
How would I use direct secure messaging in my practice?
Now that we’ve discussed the why, it’s time to look at the how—specifically, how you might use DSM in your day-to-day work of treating patients and coordinating with other providers and payers about that care. Here are a few examples of how you can use direct secure messaging in rehab therapy to improve some of your less-efficient workflows that previously relied on faxes.
1. Transfer of Care
A smoother transfer of care from one provider to another is essential to keeping patients within the healthcare ecosystem to get the treatment they need. As this blog post from Kno2 points out, rehab therapists (and clinicians of all stripes) must start treating patients more as consumers and prioritizing convenience and service. That begins with ensuring a seamless transition from one provider to the next to reduce the time between appointments and keep patients within the healthcare ecosystem to get the treatment they need.
2. Care Coordination
We all know that care coordination is essential for driving improved patient outcomes. But coordinating a patient’s care can be a challenge on many levels. A lack of effective communication between primary care physicians (PCPs) and specialists often prevents patient referrals from being completed, and if they are, hinders the necessary exchange of information between PCPs and rehab therapists. On the specialist side, “closing the referral loop” and providing a patient’s primary care physician with diagnoses, next steps, and changes is also a significant roadblock to coordinated care.
With DSM, you can create bi-directional, closed-loop workflows to make it easier and faster:
- for PCPs to send referrals, post-op records, and test results; and
- for rehab therapists to provide results from their treatment to PCPs.
You can also work with referring physicians and organizations to have patient records sent to you via DSM once a patient is referred to your practice. It’s also worth noting that with MIPS’ emphasis on interoperability, an increasing number of providers are only willing to send referrals to specialists who use DSM.
3. e-Signature Collection
Every rehab therapist knows the difficulty of collecting the signatures you need from a PCP—and the pain of a denied claim if that signature is missing. And while shifting from paper forms to e-signatures makes the process easier, it only works if you have the proper workflows using secure and HIPAA-compliant solutions.
Fortunately, EMRs that integrate with DSM can create workflows to collect all the necessary e-signatures for plans of care or prior authorizations, avoiding the rework and end-of-month scramble that’s a headache for every practice. Some DSM solutions will allow you to collect e-signatures regardless of which e-signature solution the other party uses. And with DSM, you’ll have an audit trail that shows who has signed a document.
4. Front Office Workflows
In addition to being less efficient, faxing is also a lot more work for your front office. Take this case study on Symphony Care Network, which had to rely on both paper faxes and dated technology to intake documentation from referrals. Between the time-consuming work of uploading paper documents and the downtime associated with unreliable technology, Symphony was wasting countless hours—and incurring unnecessary costs in paper and ink.
Implementing DSM through Kno2 allowed Symphony to:
- Cut upload times for patient info from five minutes to 30 seconds;
- Save $2.75 million work of employee time across all their locations; and
- Save more than $300,000 annually on print costs, including paper, ink, and maintenance.
If practices are looking to focus more on customer service, front office staff will be at the front of that effort (pun intended). Managing paper faxes or manually shuffling digital faxes into the correct patient file is time your front office could better spend checking patients in or answering questions. With DSM, you can reduce the administrative burden placed on your staff and improve the patient experience.
Exchanging information is critical to any clinician’s job—so why not use the most efficient method available and get on board with rehab therapy secure messaging? With DSM, you can enhance HIPAA-compliant care with more efficient coordination between providers and reduce the actual paperwork your staff has to handle.
If you’re ready to slide into direct secure messaging in rehab therapy, check out WebPT’s Message Manager to start streamlining your communications and workflows.