patient portal

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

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.