As a contractor for Medicare, Kepro serves as the Beneficiary and Family Centered Care Quality Improvement Organization, also referred to as a BFCC-QIO. While Kepro provides BFCC-QIO services in 29 states, the general information is relevant to everyone who has Medicare (including Medicare Advantage) and everyone who works with people who have Medicare.
This episode is about health literacy. We'll talk about what a Beneficiary and Family Centered Care Quality Improvement Organization does for Medicare patients to better understand some of the elements of their care, explaining and communicating clearly some of the medical issues that they've been through and some of the problems that they have faced.
For more information about Kepro BFCC-QIO, please visit www.keproqio.com.
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Welcome to Aging Health Matters, a podcast from Kepro, a Beneficiary and Family Centered Care Quality Improvement Organization. We plan to cover healthcare topics for the Medicare population. The information in today’s show may help you or someone you know in their healthcare journey. Thanks for joining us; now let’s get started.
Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of Kepro's podcast. My name is Scott Fortin. I'm the Director of Communications and Outreach for Kepro, and I'm happy to come to you today with some information about health literacy.
In some of our other podcasts, we've been talking a lot about health equity and some of the reasons that people have worked with Kepro to go through the appeal process and work through reviews and also Immediate Advocacy; those are our three areas, as a reminder. If you've been with us before or an introduction for those of you that might be new to our podcast, those are the three areas that Kepro works on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries and the Medicare program.
Today, we'll talk about what a Beneficiary and Family Centered Care Quality Improvement Organization, or BFCC-QIO for short, does for those out in the environment to better understand some of the elements of their care, explaining and communicating clearly some of the medical issues that they've been through and some of the problems that they have faced. So as a reminder, there are two contractors that handle this type of work throughout the United States and the territories. Kepro handles 29 of those with our services.
So, as we've talked about on other podcasts, a lot of our work is centered around health equity and in this particular case of today's podcast, health literacy. Without further ado, I'm going to introduce my guest today. My guest today is Kristin Peck. She's a Technical Writer for Kepro and a part of our team that works with the Communications department, to make sure that there is clarity around our communications to our audience as well as the letters that beneficiaries and their families receive in determining where their appeal or review has ended as far as the determination is concerned. So welcome Kristen.
Thank you, Scott. I'm happy to be here.
Well, great. Great to have you. Can you tell the audience a little bit about yourself and kind of how long you have been doing this work?
I have been with Kepro since 2008. I've held various roles, but technical writing has definitely been my favorite. I've been working for almost 15 years communicating with beneficiaries, and I work with a great team of other Technical Writers and Communication individuals, and we do our best each day to provide clarity to the beneficiary when it comes to interacting with medical personnel in a written format. So as Technical Writers, our main role is to help beneficiaries understand the medical jargon that is thrown at them, and we help put terms into wording that the layman without a medical degree would understand.
Great. That's a perfect explanation, right on Kristin, thank you. And that gets us into the concept of literacy, When we look at the definition of health literacy, could you define a little bit in your words, as somebody who's done this for 15 plus years in this space, what that means and kind of how you can start reaching a beneficiary, with the various ways that you do, the terms that you use?
Sure, health literacy is, the exact definition is, the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others. So, health literacy provides the tools one needs to understand and make good decisions about their health care. We realize that a medical professional has gone through years of specific schooling to learn all of this information.
Yet what a beneficiary needs at the moment they have a health care concern isn't confusion from medical terminology, but clarity and confident, the confident ability to understand their individual health care. Sometimes when a medical professional, such as a doctor or a nurse, is communicating with the beneficiary, it is not 100% clear. So, if you have ever stared at your doctor after an explanation and then said, well what does that mean and the doctor then explains it in simplified terms, the same thing can easily happen with written information, and that education is important for the beneficiary to understand. Some things we can do to help are simplify terms, like if you're staring at your discharge paperwork, and it notes hypotension; that can be listed as low blood pressure or using terms such as before, during, and after surgery, instead of pre, peri, and postoperatively; that really helps bring a lot of confidence to the beneficiary and their understanding of what is going on.
OK, great. And I guess the way I've always looked at what we do in the concept of health literacy is meeting people where they need to be met. And these are folks, in many cases, Kristin, that as we've seen are coming out of an environment that was stressful for them. They had health issues. We know how it is when you don't feel right, you're tired, you might not be in your right mind. So, when you do start getting these terms put out at you, we can definitely understand. And it is one of our goals at Kepro through our processes and through our communications to simplify that and to make it easier for people. So, could you tell us a little bit more about specifically what you do as far as the letters you write and some of the things that you do on our website to kind of simplify this for folks?
Sure. One of the biggest ways we incorporate health literacy into our work at Kepro is through our letters; letters for quality of care, complaints, and appeals are written following plain language guidelines, which uses great, appropriate wording to make sure there is a clear understanding the first time the letter is read about what is going on in a review, despite this response coming directly from a peer medical professional. Plain language ensures that common wording is the primary choice when communicating.
No medical abbreviations without first defining them, or excessive and unnecessary wording is removed, so that the letters are concise. Basically, all the clutter is removed. For example, a letter came across my desk that noted a concern about whether the correct treatments were completed, and it ended by saying the medication administration record provided indicated that these treatments were done. That is just too much in one sentence. First off, it's not necessary. We can simplify that by saying the medical records showed that you were given the correct treatments, and that is something that is in plain language and much easier to understand. Our letters are formatted so that the beneficiary clearly understands the purpose of each section and what they can expect to learn from the document. Not only that, but we use an empathetic language to let the beneficiary know that they are not just another case in a stack. The reader feels not only heard, but there is compassion and concern for the beneficiary and their search for information and understanding.
That's wonderful, and one of the areas that I handle at Kepro, obviously by what I do, is our website and on each one of the podcasts, I am always on here promoting the website and what a great resource it is for people. And I just wanted to add that in addition to all the letters and other outgoing communication that is done by our Technical Writers such as Kristen, they also help us with the website in reviewing that, to ensure for those cases where people are coming to us for the first time in those challenging situations that they have very simplistic language that can easily be understood to find their way around the website and do what is needed. Thanks to Kristen and the rest of the team on that as well for helping us to simplify our outgoing communications overall because we look at that beyond just our letters as well Kristin.
What do you feel like Kepro can help people with on the Medicare beneficiary side out of what we do? I mean, obviously we have letters that we send out that you do for quality of care, complaints, and appeals. How about in the area of Immediate Advocacy, for example, how do you see something like that helping to simplify things for people?
We have Immediate Advocacy services at Kepro as you mentioned, and these services can help people who have questions about their discharge plan, medication instructions, or other medical questions, and they can contact us for assistance. And in turn we contact the provider for clarification if needed for these beneficiaries. So, we are definitely a source that they can go to when they need help understanding something.
Absolutely. And I know some of the things that we've talked about previously that are examples of this type of thing include understanding of prescription drug instructions, doctor’s directions, consent forms, and just the ability to navigate the healthcare system. I've talked about it in other podcasts if you've tuned in, but you'll see a common theme, and one of the things that we look to erase in what we do are the gaps, the gaps between the person's care and what they perceive out of that and what actually occurred. A lot of what Kristin and the team do when it comes to letters and trying to simplify communications overall is just that, spelling out for people much like we do in the Immediate Advocacy process, spelling out for people what some of those challenges are, how to overcome those and just make them feel more at ease with their care.
Well, great. Kristen, I'm just wanted to give you a chance to see if there was anything else you wanted to add for the audience.
Just that it is important to use the resources put in place and to never hesitate to speak out when you don't understand something, especially when it comes to your health care, and we're here to help.
Absolutely. 100% agree. Well, Kristin, thank you so much. I appreciate all you do each day and for you being on the podcast with me.
A little bit about some upcoming podcasts, but before I get to that, I just want to mention as a reminder that links to some of the elements that we're talking about today can be found in the show notes, including our website that we referenced. But just for simplicity for you, that is www.keproqio.com, that is www.K-E-P-R-O-Q-I-O.com.
And so, this is another one of our series in health equity, specifically, as I said, this one around health literacy, but we've also done some about rural health. If you haven't listened to that, I urge you to take a look at that or take a listen to that, I should say.
And just to kind of talk a little bit about some of our upcoming podcasts, we are going to be talking to some stakeholders coming up. I know that some of the outreach folks have been talking with stakeholders, and we're going to be having some additional outside of Kepro guests coming up as well. I would also urge you for more additional information to your inbox to take a look at our newsletter and sign up for that. That can be found on the website. It can also be found in the show notes.
So with that, Kristin, again, thank you for your time today. I really appreciated having you on.
Thank you, Scott.
Everyone, I wish you a good day and great health. Take care.