Available in English and Spanish, MyChart is an online portal that consumers can access electronically to:
- Schedule virtual or in-person appointments and COVID-19 vaccinations.
- Assess COVID-19 symptoms.
- Complete registration paperwork and check-in for procedures and office visits.
- Provide consent to procedures, medications and other treatments.
- Communicate with their physicians and request prescription refills.
- View test and lab results, medical records, physician notes and immunization history.
- View and compare costs of various procedures.
- Coordinate follow-up care.
- Assign a proxy to make healthcare decisions on their behalf or give parental access to their minor children's files.
- Pay their bills.
Virtual Care Center
Texas Health's Virtual Care Center was designed to make consumer interactions with the system fast and seamless. Care Center agents direct consumers to information, resources, classes, physicians and services across the system. They also help schedule radiology services and provide Help Desk support for MyChart and other online tools.
People who need emergency care are likely to be readmitted if they do not follow care plans or manage unexpected complications after discharge. Inadequate follow-up prolongs healing time and increases costs – not only for the patient but for Texas Health.
To help provide additional support to patients, who are often stressed and distracted when discharged, Texas Health launched a free Hospital2Home app that provides seven days of extended care. Patients can consult with an Emergency Department physician from the comfort of their homes by mobile app, SMS text or video chat. The virtual care program allows patients to get their questions answered, prescriptions filled or follow-up care scheduled for seven days.
Determining the cost of healthcare can be complicated. To make it easier, Texas Health developed an online tool to help consumers estimate out-of-pocket costs. By visiting TexasHealth.org/Cost or the MyChart app, consumers can search cost estimates for up to 300 procedures and services. They can enter their insurance or other coverage information to get an estimate for out-of-pocket costs for the service and facility selected.
With more cost transparency, consumers can make more informed decisions about their healthcare and be better prepared for the financial impact of services provided.
Flexible Payment System
With consumer out-of-pocket healthcare costs continuing to rise and more people participating in high-deductible insurance plans, Texas Health is working to provide consumers options that lessen the burden of paying for care. To make the process simpler, we created a payment portal that allows consumers to:
- Manage payment plans: They can choose payment terms based on reasonable monthly amounts, depending on the balance due and the timeframe they need to pay off their debt.
- Take payment holidays: In times of hardship, Texas Health works with consumers instead of penalizing them. Patients experiencing financial hardship may ask for a payment holiday or to skip a payment. Texas Health also offers short-term minimal payment options (e.g., $25 per month for three months). Texas Health does not engage in aggressive collection tactics, such as suing patients, garnishing their wages or placing liens on their homes or other property.
- Meet with financial counselors: We work extensively with patients by searching for alternative coverage options, helping consumers file applications for Medicaid eligibility, and helping consumers who qualify for financial assistance mitigate part or all their out-of-pocket costs.
- Consolidate bills: We can consolidate bills into one payment plan for multiple services performed in our wholly-owned hospitals so that consumers can make just one payment a month.
- Access statements virtually: In English and Spanish, consumers can reconcile their balances with an electronic explanation of their insurer's benefits in a side-by-side view.
- Receive support: We extended our customer service hours and made it possible for consumers to submit questions or concerns by chat messaging and email. We monitor feedback daily, proactively answer questions and help consumers navigate the portal.
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Improving Quality of Life Through Diabetes Education
To improve the quality of life for individuals with diabetes, which affects nearly 3 million Texans, a multidisciplinary team of Texas Health diabetes educators, registered nurses and registered dietitians deliver a comprehensive diabetes education program. They teach people with diabetes how to monitor blood sugar, manage medications and make smart dietary choices. They also provide information on exercise, stress management and how to detect and prevent disease complications.
Texas Health also offers in-depth group classes on topics such as meal planning and portion sizes, stress management, exercise, nutrition and how these factors play an important role in influencing blood sugar levels. We shifted learning online during the pandemic to maintain essential learning.
The pandemic cost many North Texans their jobs and healthcare coverage. To assist consumers, Texas Health:
- Set up a help center with links to resources and help for paying bills.
- Deferred payments for 30 days, enabled minimum payments to be made, offered tiered payment plans based on the amount due, extended payment terms and stopped interest charges.
- Covered the cost of medical care under COBRA for unemployed consumers needing life-saving, high-cost treatment.
- Capped COVID-19 testing costs to uninsured consumers at $15.
- Asked our third-party collection agencies to provide similar relief options to our consumers and suspended the reporting of uncollectable bad debt accounts to credit bureaus.
We also created a financial concierge program as the single point of contact for surgical patients. The contact assists them in navigating coverage requirements, establishes payment plans for resolving out-of-pocket costs, determines whether they qualify for financial assistance and discusses billing questions.
When news broke of a highly contagious, harmful virus, Texas Health received a high volume of calls from concerned North Texans seeking information about COVID-19's symptoms and how it spread.
Recognizing it would be critical to convey current, accurate information, Texas Health created a Coronavirus Hotline in early March. We also built a COVID-19 webpage to provide the latest updates, symptom checkers and other resources.
To staff this hotline, we drew from Virtual Care Center nurses and other nurses throughout the system to make sure we had enough clinicians to manage calls 24/7 initially. It was essential to have clinical teams field questions, assess symptoms and refer consumers appropriately for treatment if needed.
When testing resources became available, our nurses called to share results, answer questions and determine the next steps. Later, the nurses coordinated plasma donations from recovering patients to help others in need of treatment.