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Why Provide Consumer-minded Communications? Patients Expect Them

Posted on March 9, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Chelsea Kimbrough, a copywriter for Stericycle Communication Solutions, as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter: @StericycleComms
Chelsea Kimbrough
With technology advancing rapidly, communication has become both more accessible and more difficult than ever before. Today, Americans nationwide communicate with their smartphones via various social media platforms, mobile calls, text messages, applications, and more. In fact, 80 percent of consumers now own a smartphone for personal use, which could include making purchasing decisions and seeking out support with not only commercial industries, but with healthcare organizations as well.

Patients instinctively utilize the communication methods they are most comfortable with when interacting with healthcare organizations. These often include traditional methods such as live voice appointment scheduling and telephone answering. But as healthcare consumerism has grown more prevalent, these methods also frequently include digital and automated solutions such as online self-scheduling, appointment reminders via text message, and other automated messaging options.

As a self-professed consumer-minded patient, I tend to seek out the latter communication methods when it comes time to contact my healthcare provider. If there is an option to schedule an appointment online from the comfort of my own home, I take it. When asked if I’d like to opt in for email, voice, or text message reminders and messaging, I always indicate ‘yes.’ And if given the opportunity to meet with my physician virtually rather than in the office, I jump at it.

These features and functionalities provide me with the freedom to more proactively manage my healthcare needs without disrupting my day-to-day responsibilities. This freedom is also why I’ve become a loyal patient to my local provider. And I’m not alone.

As reported by the Beryl Institute, 87 of consumers say the patient experience is extremely important overall and 67 percent report that it plays an extremely important role in their decision-making process. Communication plays a major part in what patients view as their patient experience. If my healthcare provider were to only provide traditional live voice services, I may not have been as apt to schedule an appointment. Similarly, if they focused solely on digital solutions, they could miss out on other valuable patients.

So, what’s the answer?

Healthcare organizations should holistically approach communications with a combination of traditional and technology-based communication methods. Patients must be able to communicate however they feel most comfortable, including via a traditional phone call or by receiving important appointment information via automated emails or texts. Healthcare organizations that provide a combination of live voice, digital, and automated communication support tools are more apt to meet the diverse and evolving expectations of their entire patient population. In turn, these same organizations are more likely to successfully foster ongoing patient loyalty and satisfaction.

The Communication Solutions Series of blog posts is sponsored by Stericycle Communication Solutions, a leading provider of high quality telephone answering, appointment scheduling, and automated communication services. Stericycle Communication Solutions combines a human touch with innovative technology to deliver best-in-class communication services. Connect with Stericycle Communication Solutions on social media: @StericycleComms

Top 3 Tips for Taking on Digital Health

Posted on January 18, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The following is a guest blog post by Brittany Quemby, Marketing Strategist of Stericycle Communication Solutions as part of the Communication Solutions Series. Follow & engage with them on Twitter: @StericycleComms
Brittany Quemby - Stericycle
The other day I deleted several apps from my mobile phone. One I had downloaded when I was traveling, one took up too many gigs on my phone, and the last was one I downloaded to track specific health activities last January probably hoping to achieve one of my many New Year’s resolutions.  This happens to me all the time – I download an app or tool, use it once or twice, realize I don’t have any use for it or haven’t used it in 3 months and end up deleting to free up space on my phone.

This got me thinking about digital technology in the healthcare industry. Unfortunately, every day there is a slew of digital health tools developed that take a lot of time, money and effort and then go unused by the user for a variety of reasons. I picture something like a digital health tool graveyard that exists somewhere in the cloud.

After I got the mental image of a technology version of the Lion King’s Elephant Graveyard out of my head, I began to ask myself why so many digital heath technologies went stale. What needed to change? The time, money, and beautiful design that is put into development won’t draw patients by the masses.  The thing about digital health is that there has to be something in it to evoke a user’s actions.  Below are 3 important strategies I believe we need to all keep in mind when taking on digital health:

1. What does the patient EXPECT?

It’s no surprise that patients want technology incorporated into their healthcare.  However, it’s essential to couple the right technology with appropriate expectation of the user.  What you THINK a patient expects, might not always turn out to be the case.  According to a recent study by business and technology consulting firm West Monroe Partners, 91 percent of healthcare customers say they would take advantage of mobile apps when offered.  However, according to an Accenture report, 66% of the largest 100 US hospitals have consumer-facing mobile apps, 38% of which have been developed for their patients, and only 2% of patients are actively using these apps. When users are met with digital health technology that lacks the expected user experience, they are left feeling disappointed, unfulfilled, and begin looking elsewhere for services.

2. What does the patient WANT?

Patients are longing for a consumer experience when it comes to their healthcare.  New research shows that “patients today are choosing their providers, in part, based on how well they use technology to communicate with them and manage their health,” says Joshua Newman, M.D., chief medical officer, Salesforce Healthcare and Life Sciences.  Patients crave technology, customization and convenience.  There is no doubt that digital health tools satisfy the convenience factor.  However, they are nothing without a customized experience. Limiting your interactions with patients to an out-of-the-box, one-way digital communication strategy can be disadvantageous and could mean you aren’t reaching patients at all.  Digital health that is personalized, optimized, and sent through multi modalities allows you to be sure that you are engaging your patient in a way they want.

3. Where does the patient GO?

It’s no surprise that patients expect a consumer experience when it comes to interacting with their healthcare provider. But mastering digital health must include more than just mobile apps and the doctor’s office.  A digital health strategy that connects with patients across the entire continuum of care will optimize their experience and satisfaction.  In a recent study by West Monroe Partners called No More Waiting Room: The Future of the Healthcare Customer Experience, Will Hinde, Senior Director says “we’re starting to see more providers incorporate the digital experience with their office visit, by shifting to more online scheduling of appointments, paperless office interactions, following up via email, portals, and mobile apps and taking steps towards greater cost and quality transparency.”  Connecting with patients outside of the doctor’s office and in places where they frequent most allows for better changes of engagement, leading to greater experiences.

Tackling digital health can be daunting and unsuccessful if it’s looked at solely from the angle that technology is king. Looking at it from the lens of the patient becomes less intimidating and more likely that your digital health efforts don’t end up in the Elephant Graveyard.

The Communication Solutions Series of blog posts is sponsored by Stericycle Communication Solutions, a leading provider of high quality call center & telephone answering servicespatient access services and automated communication technology. Stericycle Communication Solutions combines a human touch with innovative technology to deliver best-in-class communication services.  Connect with Stericycle Communication Solutions on social media: @StericycleComms

5 Tips When Implementing a Secure Text Messaging Solution

Posted on December 20, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Matthew Werder, CTO, Hennepin County Medical Center. Thanks to Justin Campbell from Galen Healthcare Solutions for facilitating this guest post for us.

Now twelve months into our secure messaging implementation, and it’s safe to say our transition to a secure-messaging application with the aspiration to eliminate pagers has been quite a journey.  Recently, I answered a couple of reference calls on the selection process from some of my healthcare colleagues and determined it was time to share 5 (of many) tips for implementing a secure messaging solution.  Like most healthcare technologies, what may appear to be simple isn’t and even with the best of the best implementation plans, project manager, and leadership support – the road to implementing a secure messaging solution contains many challenges.

To start, here are five tips that have left me with scars & memories:

#1 – Define Your Strategy.  Are you just adding another technology, enhancing an existing, or just buying into the hype of secure text messaging applications?  In his post dated January 26, 2016, Mobility Solutions Consultant, Jason Stanaland from Spok stated, “secure text messaging should be implemented as a workflow solution, and not simply a messaging product.”  Before putting ink to paper, ensure that your goals are aligned, providers are supportive, and a measureable outcome has been identified.  Just because you can implement a technology doesn’t mean you should.

#2 – Beware of the Pager Culture.  In the words of Peter Drucker, “culture eats strategy for lunch,” and the same can be said for the pager culture.  This was impressed on me last summer when a physician stopped me in the hallway and had questions about the new text messaging solution we were implementing.  She was very excited and encouraged to hear that we were taking communication, mobility, and security seriously.   What I wasn’t prepared for was her question, “What is your plan to address the 4, 5, and 9-digit callback needs?”

In many institutions, a pager Morse code exists.  Telemediq’s Derek Bolen wrote in December last year that the, “Pager culture’ is real, and extremely persistent, in healthcare.” Judy Mottl, of Fierce Mobile Healthcare, talks about “Why the pager remains a viable and trusted tool for providers.” She wrote that the pager has been a resilient tool and in order for new technologies to replace it, they must overcome the benefits of such a simple mobile device – the pager!  Don’t underestimate #PAGERPOWER!

#3 – Text Administration and Etiquette Policy.  If your goal is to replace your paging system or add a secure text messaging solution in addition to pagers, your paging and messaging policy will need to be archived and a new text messaging/secure messaging policy will need to be authored.  Who authors the policy will be a collaborative effort between the medical staff, legal, IT, nursing, compliance, and operations.  Gentle reminders as written by Dana Holmes, Family Lifestyle Expert of the Huffington Post, in her 2013 blog, “A Much-Needed Guide to Text Etiquette”, highlights the necessary rules and guidelines of texting. Many of these are well known, yet good reminders in the adoption of secure text messaging in healthcare.

#4 – Think Beyond Text Messaging.  Regardless of your strategy, text messaging alone will provide minimal value.  Organizations implementing secure text-messaging solutions should think beyond the implementation and think in terms of “Connection Point” or “Communications Hub” opportunities with the patient/customer in mind.  On August 19, 2015, Brad Brooks, TigerText Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, stated that secure texting not only fosters a collaborative environment, but it also enables users to quickly communicate and coordinate with other colleagues while eradicating the need for multiple devices and tedious communication channels. Unlike emails, secure texting is instantaneous and avoids outside threats or hackers. Secure texting encompasses everything we love about mobile messaging, but with built-in features and tools to help one work faster and more easily with his or her team.  Does the vendor have a roadmap to take you where you want? Intersect it with patients, and make for texting amongst patients and provider. Include the patient, how can they take advantage of the texting platform?  Turn it into an engagement tool.  Drive collaboration and improve the patient experience and family experience.

#5 – Enjoy and Have Fun.  I am amazed at times when technologists don’t embrace the adoption of a new technology that could have a significant impact on their organization.  The secure text messaging industry is rich and deep right now with countless options and innovative solutions at every corner.  You run into unforeseen obstacles and workflows, and despite the promise of a short implementation multiple it by two.  We all know that change in healthcare is challenging and exhausting so enjoy the ride!

Of course there are many more. At last count, about 37 additional lessons and tips should be considered when implementing your new secure-messaging solution, so feel free to comment and share your experiences.

About Matthew Werder
Matthew Werder brings over 20 years of healthcare experience in his position as Chief Technology Officer at Hennepin County Medical Center, a 477-bed Level 1 Trauma Center and Academic Medical Center in Minneapolis. In his role, he is responsible for advancing HCMC’s technology vision and strategy to enable the organization to achieve its critical priorities.  Currently, Matthew is leading the development of an enterprise telemedicine strategy, migration to a new data center, and leading the execution of the organization’s technology strategy.

Prior to his role as CTO, Matthew was the Director of Supply Chain at HCMC, where over the course of 4 years achieved over $12M in cost savings while transforming the supply chain organization whom received recognition by Supply & Demand Chain Executive as Pros to Know.  He also worked as a Supply Chain Manager for Medtronic, Inc. at their Physiological Research Laboratories and in the Global Strategic Sourcing group. Matthew is a certified Master Lean instructor and previously worked as a Lean Consultant with Operational Excellence, Inc. 

Matthew holds a Master’s Degree in Health and Human Services Administration from Saint Mary’s University and graduated from Concordia University with a degree in natural science.  He has presented and been published on several topics focusing on operational excellence, cost management, technology and the patient experience, and strategic sourcing for services in healthcare.

Patients Want the Ultimate Experience – Convenient, Considerate, and Compassionate

Posted on October 13, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Chelsea Kimbrough, a copywriter for Stericycle Communication Solutions as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter: @StericycleComms
Chelsea Kimbrough
For many patients – myself included – braving the doctor’s office can be a difficult, scary task. So, when I moved to a new state, I put off finding a new healthcare clinic. My procrastination recently turned to panic when the time for an annual wellness check arrived.

After researching local providers, reading countless patient reviews, and cross-examining healthcare capabilities, I hesitantly scheduled an appointment. When the appointment finally passed, I was surprised to not only enjoy the experience, but to confidently schedule another. Here’s why:

  1. They offered patient-friendly online self-scheduling. With a majority of my weekdays absorbed by work, I had little opportunity to make phone calls. But with the option of online self-scheduling, I was able to schedule an appointment at a time and in a way that worked best for me.
  2. They ensured I was aware of and prepared for my upcoming appointment. I received a text message prompting my appointment confirmation and an email outlining what I needed for the appointment. Both these nontraditional communications supported my appointment’s success.
  3. My wait time was minimal. From the moment I arrived, I was met with friendly, courteous support. And before leaving the facility, I was able to quickly schedule a follow-up appointment – all of which minimally impacted the remainder of my day.
  4. I received one-on-one, thoughtful attention and service. And for a nervous patient, this was the difference between loyalty and abandonment.
  5. I was able to provide feedback about my experience. Though my feedback was primarily positive, I appreciated that my opinions and experience were valued.

Though online reviews helped me make my initial decision to schedule an appointment, the entire experience is what put my nervousness at ease. From an online self-scheduling option to a post-appointment survey, this organization’s patient-focused approach was both a novel and welcome experience, and is what will ensure I continue trusting my health in their care for years to come.

The Communication Solutions Series of blog posts is sponsored by Stericycle Communication Solutions, a leading provider of high quality telephone answering, appointment scheduling, and automated communication services. Stericycle Communication Solutions combines a human touch with innovative technology to deliver best-in-class communication services. Connect with Stericycle Communication Solutions on social media: @StericycleComms

Taking Healthcare Communication to the Next Level

Posted on August 17, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As most of you know, we’ve been doing an ongoing series of Healthcare Scene Interviews where we talk to top leaders in healthcare IT. They’ve been a huge success and we just passed our 50th video interview. If you’ve attended one of our live interviews, you know that we grew quite fond of the Blab platform that we used to host these interviews. Unfortunately, we just got word that Blab has been shutdown. It was a sad day, but we still have options.

While we loved Blab, we use to do our interviews on Google Hangouts and so we’re planning to go back there again to keep bringing you great content and discussion about the challenges that face Healthcare IT. Plus, Google Hangouts has been merged into YouTube Live and that brings some great opportunities for those watching both the live and recorded version at home including being able to Subscribe to Healthcare Scene on YouTube.

With that as background, I’m excited to announce our next Healthcare interview happening Friday August 19, 2016 at 11:30 AM ET (8:30 AM PT) where we’ll be talking about “Taking Healthcare Communication to the Next Level.” This is an extremely important and challenging topic, but we’ve lined up a number of incredible experts to take part in our discussion as you’ll see below:

Taking Healthcare Communication to the Next Level-Headshots

You can watch the interview live and even join in the conversation in the chat on the sidebar by watching on the Healthcare Scene YouTube page or the embedded video below:


(You’ll have to visit the YouTube page to see the live chat since the embed doesn’t include the chat.)

We look forward to learning about healthcare communication from this panel of experts. Please join us and offer your own insights in the chat or ask these amazing panelists your most challenging questions.

Be sure to Subscribe to Healthcare Scene on YouTube to be updated on our future interviews or watch our archive of past Healthcare Scene Interviews.

Modern Day Healthcare Tools and Solutions Can Enhance Your Brand Integrity and Patient Experience

Posted on August 11, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Chelsea Kimbrough, a copywriter for Stericycle Communication Solutions as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter: @StericycleComms
Chelsea Kimbrough
Digitally speaking, the healthcare market is more crowded than ever – and finding the perfect provider, practice, or physician online can quickly become an arduous task for even the most tech-savvy patient. But healthcare organizations that dedicate the time, effort, and resources to create a unique digital presence, enhance their search engine optimization (SEO), and reinforce their brand integrity can cut through oversaturated search results to acquire and retain more patients.

In today’s consumer-driven world, shopping for the ideal healthcare organization is quickly becoming the norm. More and more frequently, patients are turning toward the internet during their hunt. In fact, 50 percent of millennials and Gen-Xers used online reviews while last shopping for a healthcare provider. And with 85 percent of adults using the internet and 67 percent using smartphones, accessing this sort of information is easier than ever before.

This ease of access has led patients to adopt more consumer-like behaviors and expectations, such as valuing quality and convenience. Healthcare organizations that proactively ensure their brand image, digital presence, and patient experience cater to these new expectations could be best positioned to thrive. By providing convenient, patient-centric healthcare tools and services, organizations can help facilitate this effort throughout every step of the patient journey.

One such tool is real-time, online appointment self-scheduling, which 77 percent of patients think is important. In addition to adding a degree of convenience for digitally-inclined patients, online self-scheduling tools can support your healthcare organizations’ key initiatives – including driving new, commercially insured patient growth. By using an intuitive way to quickly schedule an appointment, potential patients’ shopping process can be halted in its tracks, ensuring more patients choose your organization over a competitor’s. And with the right tool, your search rankings and discoverability, or SEO, could be significantly enhanced.

Reaching patients where they are most likely to be reached is another way to improve your brand experience. Like consumers, patients are often connected to their phones – so much so that text messages have a 98 percent open rate. Organizations that leverage automated text, email, and voice reminders can successfully communicate important messages, boost patients’ overall satisfaction and health, and improve appointment and follow-up adherence – ultimately setting themselves apart from competitors.

Other digital tools, technologies, and communication strategies can help fortify your brand’s digital standing and patients’ satisfaction, including social media outreach, useful email campaigns, and more. Whatever method – or methods – best serve your organization, it’s important they help improve your SEO, enhance patients’ overall accessibility and experience, and support your brand values and initiatives.

The Communication Solutions Series of blog posts is sponsored by Stericycle Communication Solutions, a leading provider of high quality telephone answering, appointment scheduling, and automated communication services. Stericycle Communication Solutions combines a human touch with innovative technology to deliver best-in-class communication services.  Connect with Stericycle Communication Solutions on social media:  @StericycleComms

Lessons Learned from Practice Fusion’s FTC Charges and Settlement

Posted on July 21, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Almost 3 years ago I wrote an article about Practice Fusion violating some physicians’ trust in sending millions of emails to their patients. It’s still shocking to me to read through the physicians’ reaction to having emails unknowingly sent out in their name to their patients. I spent about a month researching that story. That’s longer than I’ve done for any other article by a significant margin. What I discovered was just that compelling.

When I first was told about the story, it seemed possible that each of those emails (we estimated 9 million) was a HIPAA violation. However, as we researched the story more and talked with multiple experts, it seemed like only a small subset could have possibly been considered a HIPAA violation. Practice Fusion had done a pretty reasonable job on the HIPAA front in our opinion. We all learned a lot about HIPAA and patient emails from the experience. Not to mention the importance of physician trust in your EHR product.

With that said, Forbes read my articles and decided to write an article that extended on the research that I’d done for the story along with a follow up article that looked at some of the things patients were posting publicly in these physician reviews. Forbes didn’t link to my article since I was pretty cautious with the whole thing after Practice Fusion had threatened sending their lawyers my way. I didn’t have a bevy of lawyers behind me like Forbes. Plus, some other crazy things happened like people trying to discredit me in the comments from the same IP address in San Francisco and a fabricated blog post to try and discredit what I’d written. Needless to say, it was quite the experience.

There were some people encouraging me to take it much further and to expose some of the crazy things that went down. That wasn’t my interest. I’d told an important story that needed to be told in what I believed was a fair an accurate way. I didn’t have any other goals despite some people insinuating that I might have other intentions.

Three years after I wrote that story it’s interesting to see that the FTC finally published the complaint against Practice Fusion (they also shared an analysis) and the Settlement agreement. I guess our government does work as slow as we all imagine.

I’m not going to dive into the details of the settlement here, but I did discuss the lessons we can learn from Practice Fusion’s FTC complaint and settlement with Shahid Shah and from our discussion I came up with these important lessons that apply to any company working in healthcare IT.

Healthcare Needs to Worry About More Than HIPAA and OCR
I think that many healthcare IT organizations only worried about HIPAA and OCR (which enforces HIPAA) when developing their products and implementing them in healthcare. This example clearly illustrates that the FTC is interested in what you do in healthcare and they’re not just going to defer to OCR to ensure that things are going right. This is particularly true as healthcare becomes more and more consumer oriented. This advice is also timely given ONC’s report to congress about health data oversight beyond HIPAA.

Healthcare Interoperability and Public Disclosure Might Be Worse
One challenge with the FTC settlement is that it could cause many other healthcare IT vendors to use it as an excuse not to take the next step in engaging patients, sharing health information where it’s needed, and other things that will help to improve healthcare. The fear of government condemnation could cause many to balk at progressive initiatives that would benefit patients.

While I do think healthcare IT companies should be cautious, fear of the FTC shouldn’t be used as an excuse to do nothing. The reality of the Practice Fusion case wasn’t that they shouldn’t have built the product they did, it was just that they needed to better communicate what they were doing to both doctors and patients. If they had done so I wouldn’t have had an article to write and the FTC wouldn’t have had any issue with what they were doing.

Communicate Properly to Patients
Reading the FTC claim was interesting to me. In the month I spent researching the story, I felt that Practice Fusion had done a great job in their privacy notice saying that the patient’s review would be posted publicly. It stated as much in their policy and I found no fault in their posting the patient reviews in public. That’s why I didn’t write about them in my articles. Certainly they could have made it more clear to patients, but I put the responsibility on the patient to read the privacy policy. If the patient chooses not to read the privacy policy when sharing really intimate personal details in an online form, then I don’t have much sympathy for them.

Of course, I’m not a lawyer and the FTC found very different. The FTC thought that the disclosure to the patient should have reached out and grabbed consumers and that the key facts shouldn’t be buried in a hard-to-understand privacy policy. A good lawyer can help an organization find the balance of effectively meeting the FTC requirements, but also not scaring patients away from participating. Although, it can certainly be a challenge.

If You Can Identify Private Information You Should
There are some obvious things that we all know shouldn’t be posted publicly. These days with technologies like NLP (natural language processing), you can identify many of these obvious pieces of private data and ensure they’re hidden and never go public. These technologies aren’t perfect, but having them in place will show that you’ve made a best effort to ensure that consumers health data is kept as private as possible.

Communicate Better with Doctors
This might be the biggest thing I learned from the experience. I find it interesting that the FTC complaint barely even talks about it (maybe it’s not under the FTC’s purview?). However, what came through loud and clear from this experience is that you need to effectively communicate what you’re doing to the doctor. This is particularly true if you’re doing something in the doctors name. If not, you’re going to lose the trust of doctors.

The FTC has a blog post up which has more lessons for those of us in the healthcare industry. They’re worthy of consideration if you’re a health IT company that’s working with patients (yes, that’s pretty much all of you).

P.S. I find it interesting that the Patient Fusion website still lists 30,061 doctors on patient fusion, 181,818 appointments today, 1,844718 reviews, and 98% doctors recommended. The same numbers that were listed back in 2013:

I guess that page isn’t a real time feed. I also looked at the Patient Fusion website today to see how they showed reviews now. I didn’t scour the whole website, but it appears that they now only show the quantitative review score and not the qualitative review.

Has Technology Changed The Way We Interact With Each Other, Our Healthcare Providers And Healthcare Organizations?

Posted on July 19, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Brittany Quemby,  Marketing Manager of Stericycle Communication Solutions as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter: @StericycleComms
Brittany Quemby - Stericycle

In this blog series, we have talked a lot about healthcare consumerism, the importance of communication in the patient/provider relationship and how embracing technology can lead to an increased patient experience. Today I want to talk about how technology is changing the way we interact with each other in the healthcare industry.

The other day I tried to book a doctor’s appointment with my family physician.  I looked up my family physician’s phone number online and called in. After about 25 rings, 20 minutes on hold and a cranky voice on the other end, I hung up the phone feeling extremely frustrated and couldn’t event remember the time of my appointment.

This left me thinking. Everyday we rely and crave the use of technology to help us be more efficient and to simplify our lives.  I would argue, even more so, when it comes to our health. Approximately 58% of patients believe that technology leads to better care.  Technology has truly transformed the way patients want to interact with providers.  And to be fair, a lot of healthcare organizations and clinicians have been quick to adopt as they see the efficiency and patient experience benefits – so what was the hold up with my family physician?  I think perhaps they just weren’t aware of the facts.

So let’s take a look at them:

Fact 1 – Mobile Health

The truth hurts.  Many of us are addicted to our phone and are guilty of driving home when we were almost at work to retrieve it. When it comes to mobile health, the addiction is just as strong. Over 50% of smartphone owners, have used their phone to look up health or medical information.  A staggering 80% of patients want the option of using their smartphone to interact with healthcare providers.  Traditional methods of inquiring about our health and interacting with healthcare providers are long gone. Today’s technology makes it much more convenient for both physicians and patients to connect, research and communicate right from their smartphone.

Fact 2 – Online Health

Face it! Most of us have gone down the rabbit hole of searching a particular ailment online.  At least 35% of U.S. adults say they have gone online to try to figure out what medical condition they or someone else might have. Research indicates that 77% of online health seekers began their last session at a search engine such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo.  The presence of the internet has given patients easy access to information and has empowered them to make more informed choices about their health. It has also allowed physicians to easily update new information and build interactive treatment plans that can increase patient adherence and retention.

Fact 3 – Online Scheduling

Truth be told, I did scream when I got off the phone with doctor’s office.  Why was calling in to book my doctor’s appointment the most painful thing I had done all week? I am not alone, 77% of consumers think that the ability to book, change or cancel healthcare appointments online is important. Technology has us conditioned to want the quickest and easiest way of getting things done.  It is much quicker and convenient to go online to book the next available appointment than the 8.1 minutes it takes for a patient to complete a scheduling call.  Online scheduling helps to satisfy a patient’s need for quick gratification and alleviates the significant amount of time staff spend scheduling appointments.

Fact 4 – Digital Communication Platforms

The fact that I couldn’t remember the time of my appointment the moment I got off the phone was a bit embarrassing. But let’s face it, we’ve become so reliant on technology telling us where we need to be and what time we need to be there that our brains begin to ignore certain timelines. The truth is, the sticky note no longer holds the top spot in patient’s minds. A whopping 85% of consumers say that they would welcome digital appointment reminders, medication reminders and general health tips.   This type of technology is a win-win for both patients and clinicians.  Patients receive a simple reminder that can be added into their calendar allowing them to show up and be better prepared and clinicians receive appointment confirmations allowing them to increase their operational efficiencies, revenue and better manage their daily schedule.

Fact 5 – Tracking Health

Tracking health is not a new concept, but the exchanges and the method patients are tracking their health has revolutionized with newer technology. When recommended by a doctor, 3 in 4 consumers followed advice to wear technology to track their health. Over 20% of patients track their health indicators with the use of technology.  Technologies that assist in tracking one’s health have allowed for higher patient engagement which can lead to better monitoring and increased outcomes.  Both US consumers (77%) and doctors (85%) agree that using wearables helps a patient engage in their own health.

As technology evolves, so will our interactions as patients, providers and healthcare organizations.   It’s imperative to capitalize on the many benefits healthcare technology has given us to ensure we expand our connectivity, grow our data, increase our health outcomes and continuously improve our communication and collaboration. However, and unfortunately, in the meantime while we wait for everyone to catch up some of us will suffer from the frustration of expecting technology and not getting it. #Siricantyoujustrunmylife

The Communication Solutions Series of blog posts is sponsored by Stericycle Communication Solutions, a leading provider of high quality telephone answering, appointment scheduling, and automated communication services. Stericycle Communication Solutions combines a human touch with innovative technology to deliver best-in-class communication services.  Connect with Stericycle Communication Solutions on social media:  @StericycleComms

E-Patient Update: Don’t Give Patients Needless Paperwork

Posted on July 6, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Recently, I had an initial appointment with a primary care practice. As I expected, I had a lot of paperwork to fill out, including not only routine administrative items like consent to bill my insurer and HIPAA policies, but also several pages of medical history.

While nobody likes filling out forms, I have no problem with doing so, as I realize that these documents are very important to building a relationship with a medical practice. However, I was very annoyed by what happened later, when I was ushered back into the clinical suite.

Despite my having filled out the extensive checklist of medical history items, I was asked every single one of the questions featured on the form verbally by a med tech who saw me ahead of my clinical appointment. And I mean Every. Single. One. I was polite and patient as I could be, particularly given that it wasn’t the poor tech’s fault, but I was simmering nonetheless, for a couple of reasons.

First, on a practical level, it was infuriating to have filled out a long clinical interview form for what seemed to be absolutely no reason. This is in part because, as some readers may remember, I have Parkinson’s disease, and filling out forms can be difficult and even painful. But even if my writing hand was unimpaired I would’ve been rather irked by what seemed to be pointless duplication.

Not only that, as it turns out the practice seems to have had access to my medication list — perhaps from claims data? — and could have spared me the particularly grueling job of writing out all the medications I currently take. Given my background in HIT, I was forced to wonder whether even the checkbox lists of past illnesses, surgeries and the like were even necessary.

After all, if the group is sophisticated enough to access my medications list, perhaps it could have accessed my other medical records as well. In fact, as it turned out, the primary care group is owned by the dominant local health system which has been providing most of my care for 20 years. So the clinicians almost certainly had a shot at downloading my current medical data in some form.

Even if the medical group had no access to any historical data on my care, I can’t imagine why administrators would require me to fill out a medical history form if the tech was going to ask me every question on the form. My hunch is that it may be some wrongheaded attempt at liability management, providing the practice with some form of cover if somebody failed to collect an accurate history during the interview. But other than that I can’t imagine what was going on there.

The reality is, physician practices that are transitioning into EMR use, or adopting a new EMR, may end up requiring their staff to do double data entry to one extent or another as practice leaders figure things out. But asking patients to do so shows an alarming lack of consideration for my time and effort. Perhaps the practice has forgotten that I’m not on the payroll?

More Patient Demand, More Communications

Posted on May 31, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Andy Nieto, IT Strategist for DataMotion Health.
Andy Nieto
Nearly every news outlet does an annual recap about what has changed over the past 12 months. In recent years, we’ve learned we are now more connected, more aware, traveling more, doing more and so on. The role of the local family doctor being the only caregiver has also changed, giving way to more specialists, more providers and more needs. A survey by GfK Roper showed Americans over 65 saw an average of 28 doctors – and that was five years ago. There are now 8,000 of us reaching age 65 every day. By 2029, the 65+ group will comprise more than 20 percent of the population.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Healthcare is encountering numerous problems, fueled by an aging population. For the industry to adapt, move forward, and produce better health outcomes, one particular change is critical.

Problem One: More People Seeing More Doctors

A 2014 Journal of the American Medical Association article, “Finding the Missing Link for Big Biomedical Data” (jama.2014.4228), identified there are a tremendous number of data elements which affect a patient’s health, wellness, and ultimately, their outcomes from treatment.

There are two concurrent efforts underway to manage and control this data. The first was the HITECH Act and move to digitization, management and aggregation of patient data. This push for electronic health records (EHRs) has resulted in more than 3,000 certified healthcare technology products on the market. There are 900,000 active physicians, more than 5,700 hospitals, 60,000 pharmacies and 100,000 physical therapy entities. And this doesn’t include countless caregivers, ancillary staff, labs, etc.

That said, the volume of information is staggering and will only increase.

The second effort underway is to define care needs and create communities to effectively address these. The Health Information Management System Society (HIMSS) has created the Health Story Project in an effort to understand the scope of these needs. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has patient rights and wellness acts. And virtually every insurance and health system has some type of health outreach management plan.

All of these communities are empowered by access to, and utilization of, information about the patients under their care. Most importantly, it is imperative that the “left hand understand what the right hand is doing” in order to treat patients more effectively and safely, control costs, create greater efficiencies and much more.

Problem Two: So Much Information in So Many Places
“Americans are sicker” is a blanket statement that the media now seems to report daily. Obesity, chronic conditions and increased costs for healthcare are constantly in the headlines. At least one report has stated that 45 percent of all Americans suffer from at least one chronic condition. What’s more, by 2025 one half of all Americans will suffer from chronic conditions.

For many businesses and industries, there’s long been an 80/20 rule where 80% of the cost was from 20% of materials, 80% of revenue from 20% of customers, etc.  For healthcare though, there are many who feel the situation with chronic care patients is much worse.

Of course, effective treatment means a need for more specialists, more providers and more information to handle those with such conditions. But that vital information is now in so many places.

Problem Three: The Communication Crisis
When I was growing up, my mother always told me to “use my words” to address conflict. Unfortunately, our healthcare crisis has an even larger and more fundamental conflict – a lack of communication. How do we deal with any of these problems if we cannot communicate?

Communication in healthcare is a multi-pronged issue. Information must be exchanged. Care, providers, resources and schedules must be coordinated. Amidst this, we cannot forget the patient, and that today as a country we are less healthy and demands have increased.

One study found patients with chronic conditions as a result of poor lifestyle choices, obesity for example, are significantly less likely to be compliant with treatment plans. The fact is, patients that have regular and interactive communication with their providers are significantly more likely to be compliant with care plans and demonstrate better outcomes.

Communication, including feedback with the patient, is critical to addressing patient compliance

A Single Solution
Communication is the foundation of coordinating the volume of care providers, specialists and services needed to address patient health, wellness and outcomes. HIPAA, HITECH, Omnibus rulings, as well as the ongoing work of the ONC and HIMSS, all support interoperability and connected healthcare. Opening the lines of communication is the first step, though with this progress, the problem of data becomes clear.

Communication exists in many forms. Healthcare is both a science of medicine and an art of care, which means various types of information must be exchanged. To achieve the “holy grail” of interoperability, obstacles for clinical information exchange must be removed. Barriers around data types and formats are a blockade to progress. Conversation, consultation, planning and discussion are as critical to the delivery of care as discrete and diagnostic data elements. Therefore, messaging must be used that is open and empowered to ALL types of data – from structured digital data to images and unstructured documents – and security is obviously imperative.

Simple communication is a conversation between providers. So, why is it, then, that many “so called” clinical messaging solutions do not support the simple process of person-to-person dialogue? A communications solution must support both “science and art.” Care coordination, facilitating provider-to-provider and provider-to-patient interaction removes barriers, simplifies and improves care delivery, and by extension, improves health and wellness.

With this in mind, the themes of “more” must be extended to healthcare to move forward. And that means more communication, more coordination and more care.

About Andy Nieto
Andy Nieto is the IT Strategist for DataMotion Health, a provider of secure health information delivery services and solutions. An accredited HISP (health information service provider) of Direct Secure Messaging, the DataMotion Direct service enables efficient interoperability and sharing of a person’s data across the continuum of care and their broader lives. For more information, please visit http://www.datamotionhealth.com.