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.
 

Is your IT department a strategic hero?


Hospitals and health systems are moving from being a cost center to being a strategic differentiator. However, this pace of transforming IT from a Keeping The Lights On (KTLO) cost center to a strategic enabler is slow. 

We recently surveyed 100 CIOs from the nation’s top health systems to get a feel for what the typical CIO of a large health system looks like and to better understand how CIOs are equipped to deal with the new age of healthcare IT.

The majority of top health system CIOs have backgrounds in running large system integration organizations. The jury is still out on how these CIOs will retool themselves to deliver strategic differentiation in the age of real time decision enablement and information flow. 
 

Average Age:

We started with a simple proxy of CIO readiness: Age. While the typical age of leaders in core technology companies in silicon valley is trending lower - based on our study, the average age of CIOs was slightly unexpected: nearly three quarters (70%) are over the age of 50, and close to 20% over the age of 60. The shift in HIT of moving to a more strategic position could be the reason for this statistic. It is becoming increasingly obvious that executives at health systems are realizing that IT leaders need to be more involved in the boardroom and not just from a “review and approval of large IT projects” standpoint. Now more than ever, it’s important for CIOs to work with their peers in identifying and formulating strategy on forward-thinking technology that can improve and automate business processes.

Number of years at the current health system:

What we found interesting about the data in the graph above was the lack of longevity these top CIOs had at their current position: Five of 54 CIOs who have been at the health system for five years or less did not start off as a CIO, meaning that they worked their way up to the leader position. Since the IT department has the most constituents and bear the most burden of maintaining core functions of a hospital, it may be becoming more common to bring in new eyes and ideas to help move the IT functions of a health system forward. Another thought is that IT leaders need to have some experience in implementing change management because they have to bring departments together in order to be successful in running all the technology of a health system. By switching health systems after a series of years, more experience and exposure to best practices from other environments is helping to propel this change. Possibly, these new best practices are being learned and are more common that the new phase of IT is more than just a systems integration function. 
 

Non-IT Experience:

A small minority (18%) of the CIOs surveyed had non-IT experience throughout their professional careers. These non-IT positions were medical/clinical (41%), operations (29%), consulting (24%) and project management (6%). While having a tremendous amount of experience in information technology is important, not having other business knowledge and experience can be somewhat crippling. Clearly, it is imperative for CIOs to have knowledge about infrastructure, platforms and integrations, but having experience outside of the IT world is just as important. The fact that can make or break a solution is knowing not only how to run the solution and keep it running but also knowing if the solution actually solves the problem and is realistic for its use case. When IT leaders have had additional experience outside of the IT realm, it can be very useful when evaluating technology solutions utilized 24/7 in a health system such as clinical solutions.
 

Non-healthcare experience:

Close to 60% of the CIOs have not had experience outside of the healthcare industry. The majority of the CIOs who have non-healthcare experience held those positions early in their careers and made the transition to healthcare shortly after. The industry has seen a recent trend of hiring executives outside of healthcare to bring in different perspectives on improving operations and the patient experience. Having a different view from another industry that is more technologically advanced than healthcare could be very important in the near future. As health systems compete more and more, new perspectives will help differentiate them from the rest. The same is true with IT. Even though technology is technology, CIOs need to be at the forefront of new and innovative advances that could help their organization. Instead of being the gatekeeper, the IT department should be the gate enablers and lead the guidance and support of useful technology for their peers and constituents.

Employed at more than two organizations prior to the current role:

Of the 62% that have worked for two other organizations outside of their current health system, 50% have worked for companies outside of healthcare. This could be another testament as to how health systems are bringing in more talent from other industries and different types and sizes of organizations. While this statistic shows dedication and loyalty to an organization, it could also promote the “this is how we have always done it” mentality which is common for people to have when they have worked at an organization for a long period of time. Fortunately through the increased usage of analytics, IT leaders are getting past the preference for experience over data. The utilization of and reliance on analytics is ever present and will not be losing importance anytime soon, if ever.
 

Is your patient portal failing? The story of rewarding “A” while hoping For “B”

Top five reasons why you should consider add-on solutions

Are you staring at your under utilized patient portal and asking, “how did we get here?” It’s basically the most unused healthcare technology that every health system had to have in order to meet Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use criteria for the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. Health systems were incentivized through reimbursements to install patient portals to improve patient engagement and management of care. And those reimbursements were the end of the benefits that most organizations have experienced with patient portals. Patients don’t use the portal because it’s unfamiliar to them, they don’t know it exists or they view it as inconvenient because it’s not user friendly. 

According to a 2016 Grand View Research report, the patient portal market was valued over $1.1 billion in 2015 and is expected to grow by nearly 18% each year for the next 8 years. Ironically, the 5th Annual Xerox EHR Survey stated that 64% of Americans do not use patient portals. If this were any other industry, this would be considered very bad. The question is: how does a market continue to grow each year when an overwhelming majority of its target population doesn’t use it? Historically, patient engagement tools have driven more engagement from the already engaged. While add-on solutions improve patient engagement with the portal, some big EMR vendors have tried to lock out best-in-breed solutions from integrating with the EMR. But they are losing that battle because each year, more and more sophisticated solutions enter the market that integrate and provide real and true solutions. 

Step one to fixing the problem is to identify the right one. The problem to be solved is not low portal usage, but low patient engagement. How do we drive higher engagement? By using best-in-breed solutions to augment your portal. Here are the top five reasons why you should seriously consider augmenting your patient portal:

1. Add-on solutions create multiple access points
Lets face it, there is not one standard way patients engage. Engagement varies based on the persona of the patient. By using solutions that augment the portal, you can engage patients from whichever method they prefer. Google search? No problem. Some solutions such as online appointment scheduling, can integrate a scheduling widget directly into the Google search page. This is also the case for other search websites such as Yahoo, Bing, Yellow Pages, etc. With an EMR-provided patient portal, the only place you can catch the attention of the patient is the health system website. By being everywhere your patients are, particularly when they are seeking care, you are engaging them on pathways they user and trust. 

2. The Primary goal of patient engagement is better health outcomes, a close second is driving loyalty for your brand
The more you put your brand out there, the more it will become recognized and top of mind. Repetition is key for brand recall. We all know the Kaisers and Mayos of the world, and that is because they are good at spreading the word about everything they do whether it is cutting edge research, acquisitions or the utilization of breakthrough medical technology. These health systems know that the more they expose and repeat their brand across the healthcare ecosystem, patients will position their brand as synonymous with quality healthcare. Therefore, the more patients see your brand, the more that their brain will register your brand as top of mind when it comes to healthcare. It is all about repetition. Your patient portal currently doesn’t have the means to expose the brand across the consumer marketplace. It only lives within your EMR and on your health system website.

3. The name best-in-breed says it all: they are the best at what they do
The pendulum has swung way too far towards standardizing your application stack. Your EMR is probably decent across the board. It has to be. Since it has to cover all of the bases, it is spread pretty thin. This is great when trying to cover the entire IT infrastructure of an entire hospital or health system but it leaves little room for specialization. This is where add-on solutions come into the picture because they are primarily focused on one area and are expert solutions within that niche. Specialized solutions have the capacity to be the best in its space and truly optimize the department or process that needs to be focused on. Your patient portal wasn’t designed to be specialized. It was an afterthought. It was created to capitalize on a federal mandate.

To put this into perspective, let’s use surgery as an example. I bet you would not go to a general surgeon for a  quadruple bypass you  would go to a cardiothoracic surgeon. Patient engagement is complex and many have failed trying to solve it. Stakes are high - You need a specialist there. 

4. Add-on solutions can increase flexibility of your EMR
Most leading EMRs were built in the last century. They were originally designed to be downloaded to a desktop and/or installed within a network, and have been slowly trying to migrate to more innovative, cloud-based platforms. That said, the chances of patients being able to use the patient portal on any device besides a desktop is slim. Luckily, cloud-based solutions that integrate with EMRs are developed and designed to be responsive. Patients have the ability to access these solutions from any device whether it be a smart phone or a tablet. You can improve engagement by being at patients’ fingertips.

5. Integrated solutions increase the ROI of your huge EMR investment
By optimizing your EMR beyond its capabilities, you are getting more for your investment at a smidgen of the price you spent on your EMR. Why not make your EMR the best it can be? As long as the add-on solutions have live integrations with your EMR, it is a no-brainer to utilize these solutions to boost the success of the EMR across all departments who use it. Particularly, the revenue generating departments. For the past decade, health systems have been focused on removing costs to improve the bottom line. They haven’t wanted to spend any more money on IT after the big investment of its EMR. However, now is the time to implement long-term strategic solutions that will bring in previously untapped revenue. Various solutions allow you to capture this, such as having the ability to schedule appointments online 24/7, not just when the office is open during business hours. Your patient portal is part of the EMR package; without it being utilized fully for revenue generating purposes, it won’t impact your bottom line very much, if at all.
 

Top three ways Penn Medicine sparked the digital patient experience

Recognized as one of the nation’s best hospitals by U.S. News & World Report and as a prestigious academic medical institution, University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn Medicine) sought out a way to better connect their physicians to the modern patient. In coordination with Clinical Care Associates, Penn Medicine’s employed primary and specialty care physician group, the organization saw the immediate need to improve patient access, attract new patients, and increase patient retention.
 
Strategy #1 - Connect patients to their providers: Allow for accurate patient navigation through patient-provider matching based on provider scheduling protocols that are specific to operational and clinical workflows.
In working side-by-side with Penn operations and the scheduling team, DocASAP was able to develop Penn Medicine specific criteria to navigate the patient to the correct physician and appointment time during the scheduling process. “It was not only important for us to keep the experts at DocASAP accountable for developing these complex workflows for our primary care and specialty physicians, but we had to take a detailed look into our entire scheduling protocols and processes,” said Ronald Barg, MD, executive director, Clinical Care Associates.

Measurable outcome: Within less than a month, the online scheduling platform was up and running. The health system started seeing appointment bookings from the very beginning and saw the continuation of a drastic increase of appointments per physician every month. 

Strategy #2 - Increase reach: Expand and digitize access and availability for the modern patient through digital applications and websites that patients use and trust.
Penn Medicine made its EMR implementation and utilization a top priority by utilizing Epic’s scheduling module for existing patients, Epic MyChart. While this solution sufficed for existing patients through its portal, MyPennMedicine, DocASAP provided Penn Medicine, with a tool to draw in new patients and reach patients from diverse digital pathways, such as Google. An online scheduling widget was embedded into the Penn Medicine website so that once patients found the correct physician for their clinical needs, they could book an appointment instantly.

Measurable outcome: 34% of appointments were booked after-hours, adding additional appointments and incremental revenue that the health system would have not realized without the online appointment scheduling system. Additionally, 65% of patients were new patients brought to the health system through DocASAP. Penn Medicine responded to the modern “consumer-patient” by expanding online availability across more access points and more providers, better capturing patient demand.

Strategy #3 - Optimize day-to-day business: Utilize an analytics platform that enables deep insights for optimizing operational processes to better align the care delivery to patient demand.
In utilizing the DocASAP big data analytics platform, the operations team at Penn Medicine is able to measure patient behavior (demand), such as what visit reasons patients are seeking and when patients need an appointment, and match it with physician availability (supply), such as where schedules are blocked and/or showing limited availability. The robust analytics platform identifies mismatches between supply and demand or lost opportunities such as when patients were unable to schedule because the physician was booked and/or patients were unable to schedule because online booking was not offered. This comprehensive analytics tool has allowed the number of bookings to increase by at least 160% annually because the appointment per physician rate more than doubles each year.

Measurable outcome: 50% of appointments are booked within a week which helps fill the empty time slots and indicates that patients seek near term appointments. Since availability is shown three months out and patients are booking within a week, it shows that patients are opting for appointment times that may not be ideal but booking due to limited availability to get in that week. In making this holistic view into available time slots in real-time for the patient, appointment times are filled that would not be otherwise filled, resulting in missed revenue.

Want to learn more about these and other strategies that Penn Medicine used to reform patient access and engagement? Click HERE to read the full case study on how Penn Medicine and DocASAP meet the demand of the modern patient through online appointment scheduling.
 

Does your organization run a risk of patient loyalty liability?

According to a recent Accenture Study, the providers in the healthcare industry have low loyalty metrics, making them vulnerable to patients switching to competing health systems. Many patients, roughly 40% only stay with their current providers because they view switching as difficult. However, this lack of wanting to switch does not make them loyal.

As the healthcare industry explores and expands its digital capabilities and technologies, health data sharing and access has drastically improved. Health systems that digitize access (i.e. electronic health records (EHRs), online appointment scheduling, patient portals) are more attractive to the modern patient. These capabilities not only increase patient access to providers, but also make it easier for the patient to switch providers if they are unhappy with the quality of service provided. One combatant to this is the power of personal recommendations. According to the study, 44% of patients choose their provider based on personal recommendations, a percentage which is higher than any other industry. However, patients are less likely to advocate for their healthcare providers and are twice as likely to complain about their providers.

So, do you make your patients loyal?

Strategy #1: Give your patients a reason to stay. 
Implement methods that expand your brand awareness and market reach on websites that patients use and trust, such as Google. Providing an easy point of access through online appointment scheduling is a powerful tactic because it removes the hassle of booking an appointment which is the first step in getting the patient in the front door.

Strategy #2: Empower patients to be proactive in recommendations.
The traditional comment card tactic is still alive today. It’s in a more digital format but it’s still an effective method to garner feedback and incorporate it into your everyday business processes. Allowing patients to leave reviews and feedback on the provider who delivered care via a digital pathway or the more traditional comment card route will help your organization improve and become more efficient because you are hearing exactly what the patient wants.

Strategy #3: Let the road lead to you.
Making it easy for patients to find you will improve their perception of your health system. The more you can modernize the access to your organization, the easier it will be to retain patients. By streamlining one of the most hassling parts of a care visit, scheduling the appointment, patients will view your organization as forward-thinking and proactive to their needs.