Guest Blog: How to Prepare for Consumerism in Healthcare

Carrie Liken is the Head of Industry/GM - Healthcare at Yext, where she has visited with 230 health systems over the last year and a half. As a former Google employee and graduate of Harvard Kennedy School, Carrie provides deep knowledge of the health space and how technology impacts patient discovery and acquisition.

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Consumerism. This term is not new in healthcare. However, in visiting with over 228 health systems in the last year and a half, I can say that health systems are grappling with this concept and not really succeeding. To start, I’m more frequently hearing health systems refer to patients as consumers. And, they should be, because the patient is — in fact — a consumer, and there are specific things health systems can do to prepare for this shift. A consumer is defined as someone who purchases a good or service for personal use. Given that patients are starting to own more of their healthcare decisions and are becoming more financially responsible for their healthcare, it is only natural to begin to think of the patient more as a consumer and less as a ‘patient.’

In January of 2018, we conducted a study charting the evolving patient journey and found that patients exhibit similar behaviors when searching for healthcare as they do when they search for products. Our study showed that over 76% of people search for providers (rather than physical locations) and one of the key decision-points in the provider selection journey has to do with where the provider is located. (Yext Study 2016 and 2018) A Think with Google study in retail showed that 66% of people look for the location of the closest store when identifying where to find a product.

In this case, the provider is the health system’s “product”. Consider how patients are consumers in other parts of their lives: When a consumer wants to purchase a kitchen towel, all she needs to do is consult Amazon, perform a search for a kitchen towel, click on the kitchen towel product and the Buy Now button, and voila! she has a kitchen towel within 2 hours to 2 days (assuming she has a Prime Now or an Amazon Prime account). This flawless execution of search to purchase to receipt is the norm for a consumer, and one that the consumer — when becoming a patient — is jarringly something she is not experiencing for her healthcare. Search to purchase to receipt is easy in every vertical (think restaurants, hotels, flights, products, etc.) except in healthcare.

It is not easy for a patient as a consumer to find the right provider for the right treatment at a convenient time that both matches the patient’s and the provider’s schedules. But, the patient as a consumer is trained to expect that this should be easy, because it is easy in every other vertical that touches a patient’s life.

So how can health systems prepare for Consumerism in healthcare and meet the patient’s expectations for her healthcare as a consumer? You can take three critical steps:

  1. Organize Your Provider Data. Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc., are building public knowledge graphs that can answer any question a person asks of them. Health systems need to be responsible for ensuring that their internal knowledge graphs are able to feed the public knowledge graphs with accurate, consistent information to ensure the right answers are provided when a patient asks. The only way to do this is to ensure that your provider data is cleaned up and structured in a way that these public knowledge graphs can consume. How do you do this? Determine where your data currently lives (and in how many places) and start to consider how to pull it all together into one single source of truth. Without a base layer of knowledge about your providers, it will become increasingly more difficult to succeed in marketing in the intelligent future.

  2. Activate Your Provider Data through Syndication. There has been a 32% decline in visits to health system websites in the last year. (Yext study, 2018) Currently, 83% of people are visiting other microsites and micro experiences without ever reaching a health system website to make an appointment. (Yext study, 2018) It is all the more important that your correct provider data is fully activated and syndicated on third party sites to ensure brand consistency and patient acquisition. Don’t leave the patient experience up to third party sites without taking full control of that experience. You, as the health system, need to own the experience on and off your website, now more than ever.

  3. Schedule, Schedule, Schedule. Patients are consumers. They have high expectations in healthcare and are frequently disappointed by the digital experience. If you haven’t started to activate Online Appointment Scheduling within your health system, you’re missing a huge opportunity to provide a positive patient experience as well as address patient expectations for their healthcare. How many of those patients will opt to find another provider who does provide online appointment scheduling? By cleaning up your provider data and activating it through third party channels, it’s now up to you to close the deal in the final mile of the patient journey. For those health systems I’ve spoken to who have activated online appointment scheduling, I’ve heard that the patient who books via online appointment scheduling is more likely to no-show at a much lower rate. That is literally revenue contributing to the bottom line of a health system!

Your consumers expect more of your health system — and it’s only going to get more complicated. By taking these above-mentioned steps, you will undoubtedly be setting yourself up for the future of intelligent search in healthcare.

Trust: The Key Component to Finding a Doctor

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How can I trust a stranger, whom I have never met, with the most precious asset—my health?

In the past, when selecting a provider, trust was established primarily through word of mouth referrals in addition to baseline qualifications such as education, licenses, and experience. This information allowed people to make judgments on both a provider’s character as well as their competence.

While these mechanisms still apply, the increasingly digital, fast-paced and less personal 21st-century world has largely replaced word of mouth with modern technologies. These technologies include 5-star rating systems for doctors, and more recently, advertising platforms that require providers to pay money to show up on a provider search function. However, these technologies fail to match patients with the right provider - and thus do both patients and providers a disservice.

Doctors dislike 5-star rating systems because they are:

1. Skewed to negative ratings - one or two poor ratings based on a misunderstanding can ruin a provider’s patient flow.

2. Patients want “the best” - only providers with the highest ratings will take a majority of the patients when in reality there are many more competent doctors with better availability than those with highest ratings.

3. Higher star ratings do not reflect fit - care providers with five stars are often not the best fit for the patient’s specific needs. Star ratings inherently cause sub-optimal patient traffic to each doctor, creating a poor experience for both parties.

In a similar vein, sponsored provider search ads have appeared recently in an attempt to mimic the paid search engine experience available on leading search engines.

However, sponsored provider search ads create a pay-to-play system that:

1. Rewards providers who spend on advertising instead of the physicians that are the best fit for each patient

2. Profits off the patient’s lack of knowledge, and lack of trust, about who their best provider should be

3. Treats providers and patients as commodities and not as humans looking to provide and receive care

Additionally, these technologies do not align with a provider’s or health system’s objectives. In a world where health systems need to drive triple aim to be successful, and volume-based care has been replaced with value-based care, quality, accuracy, and humanity need to be prioritized over volume, inaccuracy, and commodification.

DocASAP: Using Technology to Restore Trust in the Physician-Patient Relationship

Fortunately, there are technologies today that guide patients to the correct provider while aligning to the needs of providers and health systems. The most notable of these technologies is intelligent online appointment scheduling. Intelligent online appointment scheduling has many facets, all of which are central to its ability to meet the needs of patients, providers, and health systems.

The components of intelligent online appointment scheduling include:

1. Matches patients with the right providers in the right setting at the right time

2. Increases patient access to care through omni-channel pathways

3. Replicates the health system’s workflows, rules and protocols

4. Gives the provider 100% control over their schedules
 

The best care can be provided by matching patients to the optimal provider based on the patient’s needs. More importantly, in this model, providers and patients are treated as humans instead of commodities. Accurate clinical protocols ensures that patient needs are awarded the consideration they deserve, while accurate operational protocols drive patients to the right provider. Lastly, because DocASAP focuses on retaining patients within a health system, increased retention leads to longer-lasting relationships between the providers and patients.

To summarize, the physician-patient relationship can still be built on trust, even in today’s digital world. To achieve this, however, healthcare technologies must meet the needs of all parties and treat them as humans, not commodities.

How to Reduce Waste in Your Health System by Tackling No-shows

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You’ve seen it time and time again—the patient schedules an appointment, your provider waits for them a few minutes past the appointment start time, the patient doesn’t show up at all. No text, no call. It isn’t just a poor experience for the doctor involved — it’s hurting the health system’s bottom line.

It’s no secret that hospitals and health systems across the nation are having issues with profitability. A large part of this equation has to do with keeping costs down. While you can’t just choose not to invest in your infrastructure, technology, or your people — something you can control is the money lost by no-show appointments. These no-show appointments are a colossal waste that lurks in your scheduling process and is estimated to cause the healthcare industry an estimated $150billion in losses each year.

What is a no-show appointment?

A no-show appointment is an appointment that a patient 1) makes with a provider; 2) fails to arrive at; 3) does not cancel before the time of the appointment. These are different than cancellations. In a cancellation, the patient reaches out to the provider before the appointment, giving the provider sufficient time to fill the slot with another patient.

Why are no-shows so wasteful?

With cancellations, there is an opportunity to schedule another patient in the canceled time slot. Usually, the window that you have to fill these canceled appointments will be as short as 24 hours but can be as long as three weeks. We call this the replacement window because this is the amount of time that you have to replace the canceled appointment with a new patient. In a no-show, the replacement window is zero, which is why you cannot get your money back. These no-shows translate to lost revenues which hurt your health system’s bottom line. By allowing your health system to continue this wasteful process systematically, you are undermining its profitability.

What tools exist for reducing these wasteful no-show appointments?

Fortunately, there are a few different approaches and tools at your disposal for tackling no-show appointments. The first approach is the old-fashioned punish and reward system. It goes like this: financially punishing no-shows while rewarding (either through a small discount on their bill or another incentive like a sweepstakes drawing) patients who show up on time. However, this carrot-and-stick method isn’t enough to move the needle by itself. While you may limit the return of no-show patients, you aren’t increasing the replacement window or maximizing patient volume.

Thankfully there are technologies already on the market that are designed to reduce no-show appointments and maximize your replacement window. The most effective of these are digital, multi-channel appointment notifications. To appeal to a broader range of patient demographics, we recommend offering reminders via several media, including text message, email, and phone calls. To maximize the effectiveness of reminder notifications, they should include appointment confirmations with options to cancel or reschedule. Additionally, these notifications should have appointment reminders within 24 hours of the appointment start time, and any other information pertinent to the appointment. Examples include directions to the appointment location and appointment preparation procedures.

For additional engagement, some solutions like DocASAP’s Consumer Connect include a calendar appointment that can be saved to the patient’s schedule. Consumer Connect provides a mobile-first, patient-centric solution that helps not only with patient engagement, but also reduces no-show appointments. On average, DocASAP’s Consumer Connect solution, which includes DocASAP Reminders, cuts down the no-show rate by over 35% in the first year after deployment.

How online appointment scheduling maximizes the replacement window

If appointment reminders are a powerful way of reducing no-show appointments, then online appointment scheduling is its significant other, maximizing access which optimizes the replacement window. Think of it this way: you are now reducing your no-show appointments, but still have some patients who elect to cancel or reschedule. Online appointment scheduling, proven to expand patient access, increases the chance that another patient will be able to fill your empty timeslot. By expanding patient access, you can increase the likelihood that you fill empty slots in your provider’s schedule. This maximizes patient volume, which translates to money in the bank. Appointment reminders can truly work in tandem with online appointment scheduling to improve your health system’s bottom line.

To summarize, if you want an impactful reduction in no-show appointments, you need to use an appointment notification service that includes multiple notification types and mediums. To make further improvements, you need to maximize your replacement window by implementing intelligent online scheduling. Marrying reminders with online scheduling is one of the most impactful ways to start reducing waste in your health system — ASAP.

One Fierce CEO: The Origin Story of DocASAP

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A frightening scenario for any parent: your child is in pain from an ear infection. You search for a doctor, but can’t find anyone local who can see and treat your child within the next few weeks. Your child needs care now, but you just can’t find the right provider. The search drags on, causing your family much anxiety and your child much pain.

In 2009, this was the scenario in which Puneet Maheshwari found himself.

“I realized there was an opportunity to simplify access in our healthcare system,” said Maheshwari.

Maheshwari, a Wharton MBA graduate, developed DocASAP while working full time in Silicon Valley. His background in software development and technology gave him the expertise to create a successful healthcare tech startup. Seed funding and a successful Series A round helped propel DocASAP to the top of its class, quickly gaining ground on larger rivals such as Zocdoc.

There’s no stopping DocASAP now. Not only does DocASAP provide real-time doctor availability information via common online channels such as Google and healthcare insurer websites, but it also allows patients to search only for providers that accept their insurance, and filter providers based on location, health specialties and more.

Instead of calling each provider to gather information, patients simply enter their needs, select an intelligently-matched provider near them and click to schedule an appointment. Email and SMS messages handle the appointment confirmation, cancellations and rescheduling. Mobile messaging is also used to help patients prepare for and understand what to expect at their appointment.

Since the system works so well (in many cases boosting appointment volume by 10 percent or more), many providers use DocASAP instead of the rudimentary online appointment schedulers provided by some EHR systems.

Despite this success, Maheshwari remains humble about the performance of the business and passes much of the credit on to his team.

“It’s all about the team,” said Maheshwari. “But, surrounding yourself with the right team is easier said than done. At DocASAP, we hire for attitude and aptitude. Maintaining an honest and down-to-earth culture has allowed us to bring together some of the smartest minds in the business.”

Four cost effective marketing strategies to attract and engage more patients

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One of the key questions that marketing departments ask themselves is: how can I improve patient acquisition and retention? While there are many flashy and expensive ways to get the attention of patients such as radio ads, TV commercials, etc., not every healthcare organization has a large marketing budget but is tasked with bringing in as many patients as possible. Your organization is doing great things to help patients live healthier lives such as online scheduling, telemedicine, etc., but it’s challenging to get this message across.

Below are some cost effective ways that you can improve your patient acquisition and retention strategies while not breaking the bank.

#1: Utilize all the Google products you can for your organization.
Google has many products that you can do for free or for a decent fee. Since it’s the number one search engine, you are bound to get more bang for your buck. 

AdWords: Set up AdWords campaigns to increase the attention capture of the patient since Google is most likely where they will go first when searching for a physician or specialty. Below are some pointers to better refine your AdWords campaigns.

  • Search network only: Allow for the campaigns to be set up for only search. 
  • Location: Set location for the region of your entire health system vs. the entire United States. There may be similar names and keywords for a region that does not pertain to your health system.
  • Display ads: Enable display ads after the AdWords campaign is set up. The Cost-Per-Click (CPC) is far less and the display ad content can easily and automatically be generated from the branding from your website. To enable the display ads, go to Tools > Display Planner.
  • Ad extensions: Enable ad extensions to fit more content into your ad. General ad extensions allow you to add links below the three lines of text allowed by a simple AdWord ad. We suggest you look at all options that make sense for your health system. To enable these extensions, go to Ad Extensions > Dropdown that begins with “View” right below the Ad Groups tab.
  • Callout extensions: These are unique selling points about your health system. Include “Book Online Now” or “Set up your televisit” as one of these selling points.
  • Structured snippet extensions: These are specifics about the services your health system offers. Include “Find Specialty Doctors” and “Book an Appointment” as a couple of these services.
  • Location extension: These allow for specific locations to be showcased within your ad.
  • Conversion code: Have your webmaster paste the conversion code generated in AdWords to your website to monitor conversions. You should have this coded to the “Book an appointment” button on your website.

Google My Business Page: Create a Google My Business page to help improve the success of patients finding your health system, providers and practices when searching on Google. The entire process takes approximately five minutes to set up, and three to five business days to verify the listing. This is a free service from Google. As part of the setup, we recommend that you add images of your brand and providers to populate the photo section. 

#2: Develop ongoing engaging content across your social media channels.
You probably are already running ads and sponsored updates on all social media channels. This is great but how effective are they in causing a consumer to click to learn more? Develop your social media channels into the best curation of content. Below are some ideas on how to create a go to for information channel.

Your blog: If you aren’t doing a blog, you are missing out. Creating a 500 to 700 word blog is a piece of content that can have a lot of legs and can be spread everywhere. Use (and reuse) your blogs throughout the year. If you want to promote your blogs on Facebook, make sure you sponsor it. Facebook’s news feed algorithm will force the status update to lose prioritization in the news feed if you link to an external website such as your blog.b

Events: Another great promotion idea for engagement is not only to promote your events but other events within the community. Promoting a local farmer’s market or blood bank locations are ideas that will attract patients to not only the event but to your brand as being the promoter of this event even though it’s not being held by your organization.

#3: Be consist with your email communications.
Let’s face it: email campaigns can take some work. However, there are ways to use and reuse existing content in campaigns that run automatically on their own for 4 to 6 weeks. A marketing automation tool such as Pardot or MailChimp can make all email communications automatic. Here are our favorite ways to keep our audience engaged with important content.

Drip campaigns: Creating a drip campaign can take time but all that time is front loaded. Yes, you have to develop a series of emails prior to launching the campaign but once the content is created, you can have the campaign run for several weeks or months. How does it work? A drip campaign is an email campaign that automatically sends emails based on the activity of the recipient. Basically, it’s based on whether the recipient did or did not open the email. For example, if an email reminding patients to come in for a flu shot is ignored (i.e. not opened), the drip campaign will trigger another email about a recent blog that showed the top 5 ways to avoid a cold this season. Perhaps the patient already received a flu shot prior to the flu shot email so there was no interest in opening the email but will open the second email about avoiding a cold. Set that cadence so that the next email doesn’t go out until a week after the prior email was either opened or unopened.

Do you think that coming up with the content for a series of emails is too much work? Check out these recommendations for easily creating a series of emails with easy and replicable content for a drip campaign:

  • Use and reuse your blog content. Each blog can be its own email. After 6 blogs, you have a drip campaign.
  • Find healthy recipes and at-home workouts on Pinterest. You can easily write a summary paragraph, use a picture (either your own or from the webpage) and link to a recipe and/or at-home workout to promote wellness. After 3 recipes and 3 workouts, you have a drip campaign.
  • Ask a doctor for the best tip they give patients. After 6 doctors’ tips, you have a drip campaign.

#4: Conduct contests for patients.
Some health systems do a good job of developing campaigns on patient stories and promoting those campaigns across many verticals such as radio, television, social media, etc. Highlighting patients is a good engagement strategy because patients will relate to one another and it shows that your organization cares about its patients. Also, they will promote themselves if highlighted or showcased in a public setting. 

By holding contests, you will be able to glean a ton of content that was created by your patients. Not sure what to do a contest on? Below are some recommendations on contest ideas and incentives:

  • Ask a series of questions about the care they received, a doctor that helped them and how your organization changed their life in a small or large way.
  • Ask patients for tips and/or ways they are preventing injuries and illness.
  • Survey patients for things they want to see at your organization that don’t currently exist such as online scheduling for urgent care.

While there is a lot of noise out in the world in the form of information overload, it doesn’t hurt to do these cost effective marketing strategies to further promote your brand and wellness.

Promises, promises. How to get everything you deserve from your Online Appointment Scheduling (OAS) solution partner

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Picking a technology partner can be difficult and confusing. And it doesn’t help when your partner makes promises that they can’t keep. A good OAS solution partner should help you understand the value of their solution –  meaning, how they’ll help you meet your stated business objectives, such as a volume or percentage increase in traffic, a jump in total number of appointments or a boost in revenue. 

But don’t just take their word for it. Everything about OAS is digital and has the ability to be measured. A good OAS solution partner will show you how running analytics on your data can help you reach and report on your progress. In addition, make sure to talk about the difference between reports and insights. The key to meeting your business objectives is uncovering what the data is telling you and mapping it to your objectives in order to determine the business impact of your new OAS solution.

Below are some key metrics that an ideal OAS solution should analyze and how you can use the insights to make informed business decisions about your healthcare clinic or system. 

  1. Patient demographics: Demographics are captured at the time of booking an appointment, so you’re able to see daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly data trends. This data helps you identify trends in online scheduling such as average patient age, highest performing care center or most common visit – all reasons that could also impact your staffing, hours, locations and other business functions. 
  2. Patient booking behavior: What time of day do patients generally book appointments? Often it’s after hours when your office is closed. How many days before an appointment do they book? What devices are commonly used to book? These questions all have clear answers when we take the time to look at the data. And the insights can help you modify business processes or staff behaviors to better meet the needs of patients. 
  3. No show data: It’s important to understand the reasons behind no show appointments because they cost you money. Your OAS solution should capture information that provides visibility into why an appointment was canceled. Knowing how far in advance the appointment was scheduled, if the patient had insurance, and other data points can help you visualize behavioral trends so you can take proactive steps to reduce future no shows.

When evaluating an OAS solution partner, make sure to discuss your business objectives up front. Then, have your potential partner walk through all the ways you can positively impact your business objectives by tapping into patient behavior data and insights. Only by showing you how they can support your business over the long haul shows you how an OAS partner keeps their promises. 
 

Post-booking blues: How an OAS should promote your brand after each booking

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If you’re thinking about implementing an online appointment scheduling (OAS) solution – or switching your OAS partner – one of the questions you may have is, “Can an OAS help promote and protect my brand after a patient has booked an appointment?” We think that’s a great question, and we’re here to answer it. This is part two in our two-part series of using an OAS to protect and grow your brand. You can find part one here.

Fiction: An OAS has no impact on my brand once an appointment is booked. 

Fact: Remember in part one when we said that not all OAS solutions work the same way? Yeah, that’s the theme of this series, so we’re going to keep reminding you of that fun fact. At DocASAP, we feel that ongoing engagement with your patient is one of, if not the most, important aspects of online scheduling. Keeping your patients informed has a huge impact on brand perception, but you won’t get it from all OAS vendors. 

Think about it. We know ongoing engagement is positive from our own experience. No one likes to wonder if an appointment is actually confirmed or if the time you took off work for this appointment will be worth it. But we also have data to back it up. 

Using an OAS is actually proven to reduce the number of no shows and improve overall patient retention. Therefore, when looking at an OAS partner, consider one that offers these brand-supporting ongoing engagement features.  

  1. Notifications via email or text: This is a bit of a no-brainer, but it’s also important to allow the patient to be able to choose their preferred notification channel. When you interact with patients on their preferred devices, they are happier and say nice things on social networks about your brand.
  2. Ability to cancel or reschedule from email or text reminders: It’s common for patients to forget about an upcoming appointment. While reminders are helpful, patients often get these on-the-go. So why not let them cancel or reschedule directly from the text or email with just a few clicks? Having to call or log onto a website later often leads to no shows, but also makes it difficult for patients to interact which can be damaging for your brand. 
  3. Post-appointment care-driven reminders: With everything on our minds, patients don’t always think about preventative or post- care. However, a good OAS can remind patients of important actions that help them manage their health in an ongoing manner. Non-appointment related updates can help remind patients of the value of your brand, and help patients feel as if you are helping them stay on top of their health needs.
  4. Referral management: Telling a patient they need to see a different physician can be frustrating, especially if the patient also has to deal with booking another appointment. However, you can reduce frustration when your OAS has a built-in referral management solution that allows you to directly schedule an appointment online for a patient with the physician you’re referring to. This closed loop scheduling also keeps the patient within your network which is key to patient retention and brand loyalty.

There you have it. A good OAS shouldn’t drop engagement activities with patients after an appointment is booked. But some do. Pick the right one and see how much better your brand can be in the eyes of your patients. 

Is ‘Book and Hook’ real? How online appointment scheduling should work to promote your brand

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There’s been some chatter in online appointment scheduling (OAS) circles lately about “book and hook” – the perception that centralized booking channels slowly eat away at a health system’s or clinic’s brand to “steal” patients. So, we thought we’d sort out fact from fiction and talk about how we think a true OAS should work hand-in-hand with your brand. This is part one in our two-part series of using an OAS to protect and grow your brand. 

Fiction: All OAS solutions siphon your patients away and erode your healthcare brand. 

Fact: Not all OAS solutions work the same way - so providers should evaluate potential partners and make smart decisions. A good OAS solution should provide visitors with the information they want, based on their personal health care needs and facilitate an easy and fast booking – all while promoting and supporting the provider’s brand. To avoid a “book and hook” scenario, look for an OAS partner that offers advanced features that actually protect your brand. These brand-building features should include: 

  1. Private label branding: When an OAS partner redirects patients to their own portal to book, the experience should be completely private labeled for your health system. Bingo. Branding issue solved. Using single sign-on (SSO) with your own credentialing system (patient portal) also amplifies your brand. 
  2. Omni-channel presence: Once patients have a preferred doctor or specialty, they will search online for appointment information. Your OAS partner should be on all those channels as well (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.). This ensures that patients can book directly with you, regardless of their patient’s preferred channel. It actually creates a funnel directly to your brand.
  3. Intelligent patient-provider matching: An OAS should ask the same questions an appointment scheduler would ask, and in many cases, should be even smarter. For example, does Dr. Smith treat children? No. Then the first field requests the patient’s birthdate. It seems simple, but you’d be surprised at how some OAS solutions don’t take this level of detail into account. And a bad experience booking can easily damage your brand.
  4. Insurance verification: Patients often don’t know their insurance details. Your ideal OAS partner should only list the insurances accepted by each provider and automatically verify the insurance prior to the appointment. Unfortunately, some OAS solutions still require manual verification that has to be done after the appointment is made. Having to tell a patient that you don’t accept their insurance before (or even worse AFTER) an appointment is definitely a brand-killer. 

So there you go. A good OAS shouldn’t feel like it is collecting patients and serving them up to your competitors. But some do. Pick the right one and see how much better your brand can be in the eyes of your patients.

How technology can motivate patients to take an active role in their personal health journey

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Who’s the most important part of a patient’s healthcare delivery team? The physician certainly plays an enormous role as primary advisor. Nurses and other healthcare professionals are also necessary, as are the many individuals that run the operational and payor elements of any healthcare business.

But the reality is that the most important part of any healthcare delivery team is, in fact, your patient – and patient experience plays a critical role in overall engagement and outcomes. 

Technology in healthcare is empowering patients in ways we never imagined. In many ways, technology has made the healthcare experience easier and more rewarding through tools such as online scheduling, patient portals, virtual doctor visits and compliance monitoring. These all play a part in generating positive experiences and enabling patients to take an active role in their personal health journey. By encouraging positive pro-health behaviors, we can ultimately help improve outcomes. 

Here are a few tools that are empowering patients to take an active role in their health journey, positively impacting behaviors and outcomes. 

Online Scheduling
Why is it, after all this time, that making an appointment is still a hassle? According to a 2014 Accenture study, it takes as much as eight minutes to schedule an appointment over the phone, and at least 30 percent of that time is spent on hold. It’s no wonder that patients dread calling their doctor’s office.

Online scheduling is attractive to both patients and providers because of the ease of use, but it’s actually much more than just scheduling. Online scheduling tools, such as DocASAP, promote positive behavior and encourage patients to take ownership of their health journey. 

They enable patients to see the right doctor, at the right place, in a timely manner. But they also help providers collect the necessary information required to decide which physician a patient should see, when and where they should be seen and how appointments impact physician scheduling.

Online scheduling is becoming much more valuable because it improves the patient experience, leads to positive behaviors and provides valuable data for providers that allow them to make additional improvements to the experience over time. 

Patient Portals
These “one-stop health shops” help patients stay informed about all aspects of their health and enhance patient-provider communication. Patients can proactively reach out to their clinical teams with simple medical questions, request prescription refills, access detailed medical history and much more. These portals create a virtual space where patients can develop relationships with their own personal clinical team, regardless of where the team members are located – something that is difficult to recreate in the physical world. By creating this connection between the patient and health team, patients feel as if the team is personally invested in their health outcomes.

Virtual Doctor Visits
Patients and doctors alike know that coming into the office isn’t always necessary. Thanks to technology, some patients no longer need to travel to see a doctor – they can use their computer or tablet for a virtual appointment. This is an increasingly valuable tool for patients in rural areas, patients with limited mobility or patients that require recurring readings and check-ins. Again, the easier it is for patients to access a doctor, the more likely they are to reach out when something isn’t right – or to maintain a series of appointments designed to monitor for any changes in health. 

Compliance Monitoring
It’s not uncommon for patients to forget to take a medication, but new tools are being used to track and improve compliance behaviors, leading to better outcomes. For example, patients can track their activities online, often through a patient portal, and the results will immediately be accessible to their doctors. Automated hovering through tools such as “smart” pill bottles can also help patients better manage their own health. A caregiver or physician can be alerted if a patient misses a dose, helping the patient stay on track and learn more positive behaviors. 

At the end of the day, the real success of healthcare technology will be how providers are able to “package” and promote these tools as part of each patient’s personal health journey. Without context and an understanding of how the tools fit, patients may see them simply as another obstacle. 

But with proper interfaces, integrations, training and use cases, technology can drive better physician-patient relationships, overall patient satisfaction and loyalty. The ability to provide a consistent and positive experience brings patients closer to their providers, builds trust and encourages personal engagement – all of which play an important role in achieving better outcomes.
 

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Dr. Ronald Barg

Penn Medicine

Interpersonal Challenges are Common Among Highly Successful People: Here's the Easiest Way to Stop Them

  Posting by Tami Berry, M.D.

Posting by Tami Berry, M.D.

Interpersonal challenges become more common and equally important the higher up we go within an organization. Therefore, identifying the interpersonal challenges of successful people is a very important topic that many do not think about regularly. As a physician and general surgeon, I know from firsthand experience the importance of making an active effort to manage interpersonal relationships. In learning about this mostly during my many years as a senior surgical resident, I know the detrimental impact unhealthy interpersonal relationships can have on the workplace, patient care, and one’s overall well being. Any effort we take to improve our interpersonal relationships is a boon to the entire ecosystem within which we live and work.

Clearly, the higher you go in any organization, the more technically skilled the employees are. This holds true in residency training and the healthcare system in general (ideally). As you are climbing your way up the rungs of the ladder, it becomes clear to you that interpersonal skills, or the lack thereof, become more pronounced. In fact, having good people skills often determine how high you rise within an organization or profession, how far you will ultimately go and how high your patient satisfaction scores are. Even if you aren't interested in rising to the highest of ranks, it is obvious that healthy interpersonal relationships are key to the well being of teams, groups and the overall health of the organizations within which we find ourselves involved.

By changing our interpersonal relationships, we are changing our behaviors. In order to do this, we must change our thoughts. While this sounds simple enough, this is no easy task. Change is hard. The reason why change management principles and departments exist is because change is difficult for the majority of the population. Whenever we are seeking to improve anything, I always simply look for the low-hanging fruit first. What are the slightest changes I can make that will have the greatest positive impact? Choosing to be nice to everyone you work with for the day is a great goal to start with. Realistically, it may take an unreasonable amount of energy and effort in terms of the mental and behavioral toll it takes to achieve. A quick way to make a positive change in this category of improving interpersonal relationships would be if we just stopped being jerks and treat people like humans. It is way easier to improve a negative attitude than it is to be nice all the time. Besides, being nice can mean a lot of different things to different people (am I now holding doors for everyone, am I now forced to ask him about his weekend plans, do I have to compliment a certain amount of people a certain number of times, etc.). To be frank, I can't figure out how to be nice all the time. But I can refrain from being a jerk which is something everyone can do all day every day.

To simplify this process, below is a list of behaviors you can stop doing right now to ensure you don't land on the "I'm a jerk list" which is a great list for at work and even at home. If you catch yourself doing any of these top 10 jerky behaviors, make the choice today that you will stop them. Trust me, your colleagues will notice and feel the difference; you may even come off as nice by simply not being mean.

TOP 10 LIST: WHAT TO STOP DOING SO YOU'RE NOT A JERK AT WORK

  • Making Destructive Comments: These are often needless sarcasms and cutting remarks that we think make us look smart or witty, but they only serve to undermine and demean others
  • Not Listening Respectfully to Others: The inability to demonstrate respect for all team players and their contributions. This is a passive-aggressive form of disrespect for others.
  • Passing Judgment or Viewing Others as Beneath You: The need to rate others and categorize or file them in a hierarchical order based on our narrow and sometimes self-serving standards.
  • Negativity that Shuts Down the Input or Opinion of Others: This often shows up as a need to express or show our negative thoughts even when we weren't asked.
  • Failing to Give Proper Recognition and Failing to Express Gratitude: The inability to praise, reward or honor the work of others around you.
  • Claiming Credit We Don't Deserve: This is the most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success that happens. It's a quick way to gain resentment from others.
  • Blaming Others Rather Than Taking Responsibility: The selfish need to deflect blame away from ourselves and onto events and other people. "It couldn't be my fault."
  • Refusing to Apologize: The inability to understand consequences and take responsibility for our actions or admit when we were wrong or when we have wronged others.
  • Failing to Recognize How Our Actions Affect Others: The inability to empathize or have compassion for others. This shows a lack of self-awareness and emotional intelligence.
  • Playing Favorites: The inability to see that we are treating others unfairly and not choosing to fix this behavior. This threatens team effectiveness in profound ways.

I know that being nice can be a real challenge. Sometimes just not being a jerk is often easier than trying to figure out how to be nice. When you catch yourself in the act of one of these jerk-like behaviors, then stop. And then ask yourself what other action can you take instead that will have a more positive outcome? Virtually any other option is better than the one you’re about to follow through on. A good strategy is to keep an eye out for how these behaviors show up in your life in overt or even subtle ways. Once you recognize the patterns, you will be more equipped to prepare for them in a non-jerky way. By doing so, you will make life a whole lot better for yourself and all who work with you.

Here's to your well being and the well being of all who meet you, know you, work with you and love you.

Tami Berry, M.D.

P.S. I hope you've enjoyed my Top 10 List: How Not To Be A Jerk. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas, especially if you've had success not being a jerk today!

Honorable Mention: This blog was inspired by the work of Marshall Goldsmith, specifically his book titled What Got You Here Won't Get You There. A great read from a world-renowned leadership guru. I highly encourage you to pick it up if you have the time. One of my favorite ideas that I took from this book is to decide to stop doing what harms you or others. Instead of making a to-do list today, I made a stop-it list. At the top of my 'stop-it' list was stop procrastinating and write this post! I hope it helps you.