"Management of chronic diseases, such as heart failure, require a high touch clinical workflow. Currently, most hospitals and medical groups have programs staffed by highly trained nurse practitioners following evidence-based protocols who stay in touch and manage patients over the telephone – which these days means voicemail and can lead to many lost conversations," says McKinney. "We live in a world where everyone texts, so it makes sense to use medical-grade texting capabilities for the management of chronic disease."
Other telehealth services like patient portals and secure messaging partially circumvent the transportation gap and have slowly gained traction alongside EHRs. Unfortunately, rollouts are often clunky and interfaces not particularly intuitive, essentially trading one barrier for another. The key, experts say, is to offer patients accessible resources at every turn.
Read More: 6 technologies to improve your practice
That's exactly what Kaiser Permanente hopes to accomplish through their Thrive Local initiative, a comprehensive social health network designed to connect patients with SDOH needs to appropriate services. "A network of community resources will be integrated into Kaiser Permanente's electronic health record. By doing so, our members with unmet social needs will be more efficiently connected to community services by our clinicians and staff," says Lee.
Ultimately, the most effective solutions must focus on ease of use and streamlined access to providers. "Some believe that doctors need a bunch of information inputted before they can talk to you – that's the paradigm of the office clipboard, right?" says McKinney. "What I prefer, and what I believe patients prefer, is to just let us connect and communicate as quickly and as personally as possible. A doctor you can communicate with is more relevant to your care than a doctor you have to wait weeks to see."