The following is a guest post by Barry Haitoff, CEO of Medical Management Corporation of America.
Patient engagement is a popular topic with policy makers and patient advocates. They see the obvious benefits of an involved patient helping to improve their own health and eventually lower costs. Unfortunately, most doctors just see patient engagement as unreimbursed work. The majority of them can see the healthcare benefit of engaging the patient, but they have a much harder time seeing the financial benefits to them for doing so.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the ways engaging your patient can benefit your bottom line:
Meaningful Use Requirements – This was the easy one. Meaningful Use stage 2 requires an organization to engage with at least 5% of their patient population. This is how serious the government is about patient engagement. The 5% requirement means that the $44k-$65k in EHR incentive money is tied to your ability to engage with patients. For those who aren’t interested in the EHR incentive money, you’ll still be subject to the 1-5% EHR Medicare penalties that are quickly approaching (start in 2015).
Get Paid – I’m sure that many doctors don’t think of this as patient engagement, but it’s a very important part of your engagement with the patient. There’s a growing trend towards high deductible plans where the patient is shouldering more of the financial burden for their care. Finding multiple ways where you can engage with the patient and collect their portion of the bill is going to become increasingly important. Many new patients don’t even check their snail mail regularly. This means you’re going to have to find new electronic methods for collecting payments (ie. engaging the patient electronically). We’ve seen significant success with the implementation of automated calls (IVR) and patient payment portals.
Drive New Patient Referrals – In some areas of the country this isn’t an issue, but many doctors live in an area where attracting patients is highly competitive. Since the start of medicine, one of the best ways to get new patients is through patient referrals. Providing great customer service is a fantastic way to increase the number of patient referrals you receive. (yes, patients are a type of customer). Superior patient engagement is one way to demonstrate great customer service. In fact, I believe many patients will start choosing their doctor based on the quality of engagement they get as patients.
Engage Pre-patients – How do you convert a visitor to your website into a patient? The simple answer is that you engage with them on your website (Side Note: your phone number on your website is not engagement). Many practices are afraid of engaging with patients on their website because they think that patients are trying to get a free consult without having to come into the practice. From my experience, this is a minor issue and is far surpassed by the number of new patients you can find on your website. When you engage the visitors to your website, you turn those who were on the fence about scheduling an appointment into actual appointments. Plus, much of this engagement can be done by your office staff. Think of it like a virtual telephone and answering machine for your office.
Increase Adherence – Many of you might be asking how increased patient adherence can benefit a practice’s bottom line. Let’s go back to the patient referral comments above. The best way to ensure someone provides your name as a referral to their friend is for you to help a patient get better. Ensuring adherence and health improvement is the ultimate customer service and a great way to create a true patient ambassador for your office.
ACOs and Value Based Reimbursement – While we’re still currently living in the fee for service world of healthcare, the powers that be are pushing towards value based reimbursement and Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). As part of this shift, your reimbursement will be tied to how effectively and efficiently you care for your patient population. Engaging the patient in ways that are efficient and improve the quality of care you provide are going to be the bedrock of these initiatives. If you do not engage the patient in a thoughtful way, your future reimbursement will be dramatically less than you’re receiving today.
These are a few examples of why it pays to spend some time and effort engaging with the patient. I’m sure that many of you could add to the list in the comments. What value have you seen in your office from increasing your engagement with patients?
Medical Management Corporation of America, a leading provider of medical billing services, is a proud sponsor of EMR and HIPAA.