patient access

How to Improve the Curb Appeal of Your Practice

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You’ve likely heard of the term curb appeal. A widely used term in real estate, there’s even a television show on HGTV named after the phrase. Curb appeal is the general attractiveness of a house or other piece of property from the sidewalk to a prospective buyer. In other words, curb appeal is the impression a prospective buyer gets when viewing a property from a short distance.

Houses have curb appeal—why can’t healthcare practices?

Some might point out that not every healthcare practice or health system has a physical street curb or sidewalk parched directly in front. The reality is that prospective patients are  viewing practices constantly—though they are viewing with mobile devices, tablets and laptops. 

Real estate for healthcare practices: the digital front door

Healthcare practices have digital front doors. The digital front door is an online place where users can view, and enter, a health system or practice. Multiple sources already cite the importance of the digital front door. According to Modern Healthcare, “That digital front door is key to acquiring new patients and building the kind of brand awareness and loyalty that keeps them coming back.”

The term digital front door is slightly misleading because it implies one main opening or entrance to a practice. In reality, users are searching for care in a variety of places online. These places include search engines, maps, digital assistants and social media. Yext, a leading location data management company, has notably stated that a company’s website is not their digital front door. Health systems and practices therefore need to have multiple access points across digital channels to welcome prospective patients.

Extending the digital front door analogy

In the analogy of the digital front door, patients are already looking at the practice’s entrance and potentially choosing to enter. Digital curb appeal, then, is the overall attractiveness of the practice from a glance. These glances are online and can come from channels such as search engines, third party sites, display banners, maps and social media. Additionally, user experience and brand experience greatly affect the overall appeal of the practice in the eyes of prospective patients. This is the essence of digital curb appeal.

Why is digital curb appeal important?

Digital curb appeal is a fundamental part of any patient acquisition strategy. It encompasses visibility, access, user experience and more. Beyond a digital front door, which focuses on patient acquisition, curb appeal is developed using a mixture of user experience and branding. The results of strong digital curb appeal are increased brand awareness and a consistent flow of patients to your practice.

How to develop digital curb appeal

1. Drive traffic to your digital front door

Since the proliferation of digital media, there are a multitude of ways to efficiently drive traffic to your digital front door. These methods include search engine optimization, social media posting, paid search ads, display banners, video and native advertising. You should ideally employ search engine optimization, organic social media and at least one paid channel to deliver quality traffic to your digital front door.

2. Provide a consistent brand experience

Your users will most easily remember your practice if they have a consistent, memorable, positive brand experience. This can be achieved by ensuring that all brand visuals and messaging are consistent across digital touchpoints.

3. Differentiate with an innovative user experience

One way that your practice can stand out and “cut through the clutter” is with a differentiated user experience. There are two major ways to differentiate user experience: first, providing a seamless experience; and second, by providing a truly innovative experience. By enhancing your user experience with technologies including chatbots and digital assistants, you can transform user experience into a strategic differentiator.

Putting it all together: Digital Front Door + Branding + Differentiated User Experience = Curb Appeal

Building digital curb appeal is a broad initiative that involves an investment in branding and user experience as well as the development of a digital front door. With a great looking front door, a welcome mat, consistent style and curb appeal—prospective buyers will come knocking at your door.

What My Doctor Told Me About Online Scheduling

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When I recently told my primary care physician that my company sells online appointment scheduling, he replied with “there are a lot of those companies...we get calls from them all the time”. While I was taken aback by his comment, he isn’t wrong—there is an increasing number of companies that offer online scheduling. Despite these many choices, there is a lack of information on the topic of online scheduling, especially through publicly available, digital channels. More importantly, there isn’t an abundance of companies that provide accurate online scheduling.

I elected against explaining these nuances to my physician, as he clearly didn’t have the time (which is a separate healthcare issue that you likely already know about). Instead, I nodded in agreement, and we moved forward with the consultation.

This quick exchange stuck with me after the appointment was over. Some things that I knew about the online scheduling market, including the fierce competition and constant outreach by “cookie-cutter” solutions, were all made much more real by experiencing it first-hand. For my physician, these realities translated to a lot of noise—which he and his staff classified as such.

Winning versus cookie-cutter solutions: accurate online scheduling

Accurate online scheduling is a winning proposition. However, a majority of online scheduling solutions today do not meet the accurate qualifier.

What is accurate online scheduling?

Accurate online scheduling is an online application that intelligently navigates patients to the right provider in the right setting at the right time. It replicates your rules, workflows and protocols. The result is a solution that works for patients, providers and health systems.

What are the key benefits of accurate online scheduling?

1. Improved care quality

According to Nitin Goyal, MD, who contributed to the Forbes article “What Healthcare Technology Will Do The Most To Improve Patient Care?”, online scheduling is listed as part of improving patient care. In this article, DocASAP is called out as a top example. Conceptually, by matching patients to the right provider, proper care is delivered which improves health outcomes.

2. Improved patient satisfaction and retention

Patients are beginning to expect online scheduling, and choose their providers based on the ability to book online. According to Accenture, 77%  of patients think that the ability to book, change or cancel appointments online is important. This functionality is and will continue to be used widely by patients. By the close of 2019, 64% of patients will book appointments digitally. Moreover, patients will increasingly switch providers for the ability to schedule appointments digitally—adding online scheduling to the increasingly long equation of patient satisfaction.

3. Increased new patient acquisition

New patients are acquired via streamlined patient access. By improving patient access, health systems, hospitals and practices create a digital front door through which patients can enter. Access drives acquisition which in turn drives growth—a goal for most leading health systems and hospitals.

4. Reduced overhead costs

A newly released article by Modern Healthcare describes why online scheduling drives down costs. According to the article, “Patients might call a clinic and make an appointment by talking to a digital assistant, they might type out their request to a chatbot online, or they might self-schedule through a patient portal. Each of these methods saves money by freeing up administrative staff time.”

Accurate online scheduling enhances these cost-saving effects by ensuring that front office and call center scheduling rules are replicated accurately. This results in an automation that works effectively and more efficiently.

Why does accurate online scheduling matter?

You may be wondering—what is the big deal about accurate online scheduling? Why does it matter whether a health system implements accurate online scheduling versus a cookie-cutter solution?

It’s simple: cookie-cutter solutions are ineffective. Without the ability to replicate rules, workflows and protocols, physician schedules become filled with suboptimal appointments. This situation leads to negative experiences both for patients and providers. Moreover, inaccurate scheduling leads to losses in revenue for the provider, which, when replicated across an entire health system, can cost millions of dollars in lost revenue over time.

Implementations of cookie-cutter solutions cost a significant amount of time and money. Additionally, physicians tend to become distrusting of online scheduling once they have had one bad experience. This distrust only adds more barriers and friction to solving a health system’s access challenges.

Accurate online scheduling helps health systems, hospitals and independent practices solve their access-related challenges. Cookie-cutter solutions, which are widely available, fail to address these issues.

While many providers, including my primary care physician, may never understand the difference between accurate online scheduling and cookie-cutter solutions, those that do can benefit greatly. It’s important to remember that not all solutions are created equal—and vendor selection can determine whether or not your practice or health system solves its access challenges.

Dead Ends and Green Lights: The Value of Intelligent Navigation

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Have you ever enjoyed seeing a “Dead End” sign while driving?

Not really?

Well, this is how a patient feels when they aren’t given alternative options while searching for a care provider. The solution for this is intelligent navigation, which steers patients to the optimal provider.

What is intelligent navigation?

Intelligent navigation is the utilization of algorithms, machine learning and artificial intelligence in conjunction with navigation applications like online appointment scheduling. For the navigation to be intelligent, alternative options must be presented to the patient to avoid the dreaded “dead end”.

For intelligent navigation to reach its potential, the goal, and measures of accuracy, need to be defined. This allows intelligent navigation to optimize toward a specific outcome. In the case of online appointment scheduling, we have to define who the “optimal provider” is for a patient.

So, who is the “optimal provider” for a patient?

We define the optimal provider as one who meets the following criteria:

  • Can treat the patient’s need based on stated medical requirements and visit reason

  • Has specific expertise and experience with the specific visit reason and sub-visit reason reported by the patient

  • Is in-network

  • Is geographically close to the patient

  • Has convenient availability based on the urgency of the patient’s needs

Notice that this definition of the optimal provider is one that meets more than the patient’s clinical needs. Beyond clinical needs, a patient’s needs include time and setting. For online scheduling, these needs translate to operational protocols. It is a mix of clinical and operational protocols that navigates patients to the right provider in the right setting at the right time. This seemingly small nuance is a key differentiator between intelligent navigation applications and cookie-cutter technologies.

What are the benefits of intelligent navigation?

Intelligent navigation is not jargon. The optimal provider, similarly, is more than a platitude. Intelligent navigation is the vehicle that steers patients to the right provider in the right setting at the right time.

The right provider means that the patient’s clinical needs are being met by an expert who is capable of providing excellent care. The right setting means that the care is being provided in the appropriate context. The right time means that the patient’s access to care is timely and as urgent as the need requires. The result is quality care, which translates to better health outcomes and reduced healthcare costs. For providers and health systems, initiatives that improve health outcomes and reduce costs merit consideration.

Patients deserve better than dead end signs when they are trying to find care. Better options, or “green lights”, already exist. Intelligent navigation is one of these green lights—steering patients not only to your providers, but to the optimal provider.

To learn more about intelligent navigation, visit our website.

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.

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. 
 

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.