Everyone knows that patient engagement makes an enormous difference when it comes to improving clinical outcomes. Engaging patients through coordinated-care programs, telehealth, and other hands-on strategies can do everything from reducing the risk of dying from a heart attack by nearly 90 percent to drastically lowering costly hospital stays.
Yet while physician practices are well-versed in the clinical benefits of patient engagement, they’re less aware how engaging patients in a way that cultivates long-term relationships is key to a practice’s sustainability.
As physicians move beyond the former EHR Incentive Program and other healthcare initiatives that put the term “patient engagement” into the healthcare dialogue, and dive deeper into value-based care, medical practices need more than a patient portal to truly “engage” a patient, in a meaningful and consistent way.
To address these issues, a new breed of patient relationship management (PRM) technology goes beyond clinical outcomes improvement by addressing several common pain points among medical practices.
Here are three major benefits PRM technology offers physician practices:
#1: Time savings
If you walk into a practice and ask clinicians or front-office staff what they could use more of, the answer is almost always “time.” While the healthcare environment is moving slowly away from fee-for-service medicine, many physician practices are still under pressure to see a high number of patients in as little time as possible. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a 2012 report published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that 46 percent of 7,288 physicians surveyed said they experienced at least one symptom of burnout. A similar 2015 study of 6,880 physicians conducted by the American Medical Association and Mayo Clinic revealed that in 2014, more than half of physicians, 54.4 percent, reported at least one symptom of burnout — compared with 45 percent in 2011.
Patient relationship management technology addresses the time issue by taking some of the workload off the shoulders of a busy practice, specifically by digitizing manual processes.
For example, PRM tools allow administrative staff to set up automatic appointment reminders, which can save hours of phone time and additional administrative tasks that can be redirected to other business-critical issues.
And for busy practices that don’t have the staff power to market new services to patients on a one-on-one basis, PRM tools can offer other digital marketing assistance, such as using an email newsletter template to advertise a new, revenue-generating ancillary service.
#2: A stronger bottom line
The cost of running a medical practice is skyrocketing, with everything from HIPAA-proof technology to liability premiums going up each year. While some of these admin costs can’t be curbed, it’s critical for a practice to look for ways to “stop the bleeding” when it comes to spending money. One of the easiest ways to do this is to reduce missed appointments. While figures vary, a 2014 study published in the Medical Decision Making journal estimated the average daily loss of practice income due to no-shows to be between $472.14 $1,019.29 — that’s more than $50,000 a year, on average!
Automated appointment reminders allow patients to confirm their visit by email or text response, or reschedule as needed in a convenient manner. Since most patients own smartphones and often prefer SMS to voice-based calls, automated reminders can decrease patient no-shows. One dental practice recently reduced its no-show rate by 80 percent when it introduced this technology to its patient base.
Keeping patients from missing their appointments is a lot more patient-friendly than charging a nominal $50 cancellation fee.
#3: A boost to patient satisfaction
Online physician ratings have an ever-increasing influence over consumer decisions. According to a 2014 study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, 59 percent of consumers believe physician rating sites are “somewhat” or “very” important, and 37 percent of online review users say they avoid a physician with bad ratings.
Engaged patients whom your practice connects with, in and out of the office, tend to be happier patients who feel their physicians truly care about their overall wellbeing. PRM technology can help a practice boost smiles by offering services, through email marketing campaigns that are specifically targeted to their needs. For example, an OB/GYN practice can target mammogram services to patients within a particular age bracket, such as those over 35, rather than to the entire population.
Physicians need to continue to think in terms of fixing what ails patients, while also building real connections, inside and outside of the medical practice. PRM technology is one way that can help physicians do this, while addressing their financial losses and time management issues.