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