Use email-based care coordination to improve outcomes, provider satisfaction, study suggests

Doctor and digital devices
An email system for post-discharge coordination can improve outcomes, according to new research.

An email-based approach to care coordination can improve patient outcomes and lead to better provider satisfaction, according to a new study. 

San Francisco Health Network piloted the secure email system at its Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and the University of California San Francisco Family Medicine Inpatient Service, and found greater use of postdischarge primary care and fewer readmissions, according to the study published in the American Journal of Accountable Care. 

About 1,300 patients participated in the pilot, and were compared with a control group of more than 5,300. The pilot began in 2014, and in the second year began to show results. Fifty-three percent of those in the pilot visited a primary care physician within a week of discharge by 2015, while 38% of the control group did the same. 

RELATED: Communication gaps between hospitals, home healthcare put patients at risk, study finds 

The study also found 58% fewer readmissions within 30 days among patients who followed up with primary care docs shortly after discharge. 

The researchers conducted a follow-up survey to pilot participants, and 86% of outpatient primary care doctors said they received discharge details within one or two days. The vast majority (82%) said that the system improved communication with inpatient clinicians, and 72% said it made scheduling follow-ups easier. 

"These gains may be of particular importance in health systems where distributed multidisciplinary teams collaborate to care for complex patients," the researchers wrote. 

RELATED: Coordinated care teams help patients navigate the maze of post-discharge care 

An email-based solution is also cost-effective, the researchers said, as it does not require complicated or expensive technologies or extensive staff training. And though it's easy to use, it still provides an electronic record that providers in each setting can monitor. 

Many patients need help to fully understand the complexities of post-discharge care, so tech-based solutions like this one can help streamline the process for them, too. Plus, standardized procedures can improve patient satisfaction and efficiency.