How One Tech Company is Solving Home Care Communication Gaps

Virtual care company Synzi has set its sights on the home health market and has started to land innovative providers looking to curb costly hospital readmissions by better filling communication gaps with patients.

Synzi’s growing list of home health partners includes Florida’s Trilogy Home Healthcare, which signed up for the communication platform in May.

Launched in 2016, Trilogy has roughly 3,000 patients and about 700 employees. The West Palm Beach-based company provides services to nearly all of Florida, except the Miami area and parts of the Pan Handle, and is currently in the midst of a growth push, CEO Dale Clift told Home Health Care News. As Trilogy grows, it hopes Synzi can help it stay in touch with patients and differentiate itself from other home health competitors.

“In this industry, you’re always looking at how you can be different,” Clift, who previously served as CEO of Nurse on Call, said. “[The Synzi platform] allows people to feel like somebody cares. A lot of people we take care of, they’re older, obviously, and just having regular contract with them makes a big difference in their lives.”

Spun out of Stratus Video’s telehealth division at the start of 2018, Clearwater-based Synzi offers a virtual care platform that agencies can deploy inside patients’ homes to help supplement in-person caregiver visits. The platform uses a combination of video, email and secure messaging tools to help care organizations address patient needs, while also leveraging the power of automation to streamline workflow.

Additionally, Synzi’s technology provides on-demand video translation services in hundreds of languages, a major selling point as national demographics become increasingly diverse for patients and caregivers alike.

“Ultimately, what we saw in the [health care] market was a gap that we thought we could solve for,” Synzi CEO Lee Horner told HHCN. “That’s really engaging patients at home, being able to support them not just from one specific modality, but having that ability to use multiple [modalities].”

Finding home health partners 

About 10 home health providers and “a handful of” larger health systems scattered throughout the United States have already begun using Synzi, which currently has about 70 total employees, Horner said.

Providers pay for Synzi through two monthly subscription models: a smaller plan based on use of specific features and a broader, all-encompassing plan based on patient population.

So far, Trilogy has rolled out Synzi—compatible with most smartphones, tablets and laptops—at its Jacksonville office, using it to send patients medication notifications, exercise reminders and non-medical messages, such as wishing them a “happy birthday” when appropriate. If the platform is successfully implemented there, Trilogy will then look to ramp up use moving forward, Clift said.

Early reviews from patients and clinicians have mostly been positive, he said.

“The clinicians like it, and our office likes it,” Clift said. “The patients that we’ve dealt with seem to like it, but we don’t have large enough numbers where I can say, quantitatively, that is had made a big difference yet.”

Lost in translation 

Communication and staying in touch with patients has long been a challenge for home health providers and physicians. The business appeal of strong engagement and coordination has been well documented, however, as increased communication with patients has been shown to decrease rehospitalizations and lead to higher quality care. Up to one-quarter of all hospital readmissions could be avoided with better communication among health care teams, providers and patients, according to past studies.

That challenge can become even more difficult when a language barrier is present.

About 35 million U.S. citizens over the age of 18, or more than 15% of the adult population, speak a language other than English at home, according to the Census Bureau. Statistics are even higher when taking into account noncitizen residents.

That’s a unique pain point Synzi was built to address, Horner said.

“If you were to do a call with a limited-English proficiency patient, the ability to simply look through a roster of a couple hundred languages and be able to click on one of those and bring on a video interpreter to the call, simply by clicking a connection to one of those individuals, we found that very powerful at the start,” he said. “We were leveraging, obviously, Stratus’ interpretation staff to do so.”

As Synzi has evolved, it has also given providers the ability to send emails, notifications and other messages in a patient’s preferred language, Horner said.

“If a patient is, for example, Spanish speaking, we would build all the content and the messaging that is related to that patient in the Spanish language,” he said. “We really needed to have all of that in order to drive adoption and reduce re-admittance [for non-English speakers].”

Translation services were an important part of Trilogy’s decision to adopt the Synzi platform, especially because a large portion of its patients in Florida are native Spanish or Creole speakers, Clift said.

“[When] you talk to most doctors, one of the biggest issues they have most of the time is getting their patients to really tell them what’s going on,” he said. “If you’re trying to do that in a secondary language of people, it becomes even harder.”

Picking up steam 

Trilogy is the latest home health provider to become a Synzi customer, but it’s not the newest overall.

The Clearwater company announced on Tuesday that GlobalHealth, an Oklahoma-based health maintenance organization, has also selected Synzi’s virtual care communication platform to remotely connect members to their case managers prior to hospital discharge. GlobalHealth provides coverage for 44,000 individuals, with membership including state and education workers, federal employees, municipal staff, private employers and Medicare Advantage members.

“One of our fundamental beliefs is that managing and navigating [health care] should be easier,” Scott Vaughn, president and CEO of GlobalHealth, said in a statement. “By using the Synzi platform to connect our members to their case managers pre-discharge, we are laying the groundwork for a vital relationship that will greatly benefit those members as they begin to navigate their care plan post-discharge.”

Initial investment for Synzi came from private equity group Kinderhook Industries.

“It’s an exciting time for us because we can really fill that [communication] gap,” Horner said. “I think that’s why organizations like Trilogy and others are looking at us at becoming a good partner and helping to solve some of those types of problems.”

Written by Robert Holly

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Robert Holly
When Robert's not covering the latest in home health care news, you can likely find him rooting for the White Sox or roaming his neighborhood streets playing Pokemon Go. Before joining HHCN, Robert covered everything from big agribusiness to the hottest tech startups. 

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