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Switching EHRs, The Trends And What To Consider

Posted on September 8, 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.

The following is a guest blog post by Winyen Wu, Technology and Health Trend Blogger and Enthusiast at Stericycle Communication Solutions as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter: @StericycleComms
Winyen Wu - Stericycle
In recent years, there has been a trend in providers switching Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems: according to Software Advice, the number of buyers replacing EHR software has increased 59% since 2014. In a survey by KLAS, 27% of medical practices are looking to replace their EHR while another 12% would like to but cannot due to financial or organizational constraints. By 2016, almost 50% of large hospitals will replace their current EHR. This indicates that the current EHR products on the market are not meeting the needs of physicians.

What are the reasons for switching EHRs?

  • Complexity and poor usability: Many physicians find that it takes too many clicks to find the screen that they need, or that it is too time consuming to fill out all the checkboxes and forms required
  • Poor technical support: Some physicians may be experiencing unresponsive or low quality support from their EHR vendor
  • Consolidation of multiple EHRs: After consolidating practices, an organization will choose to use only one EHR as opposed to having multiple systems in place
  • Outgrowing functionality or inadequate systems: Some current EHRs may meet stage 1 criteria for meaningful use, but will not meet stage 2 criteria, which demand more from an EHR system.

Which companies are gaining and losing customers?

  • Epic and Cerner are the top programs in terms of functionality according to a survey by KLAS; cloud-based programs Athenahealth and eClinicalWorks are also popular
  • Companies that are getting replaced include GE Healthcare, Allscripts, NextGen Healthcare, and McKesson; 40-50% of their customers reported potential plans to move

What are providers looking for in choosing an EHR?

  • Ability to meet Meaningful Use standards/criteria: In September 2013, 861 EHR vendors met stage 1 requirements of meaningful use while only 512 met stage 2 criteria for certification, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. Because stage 2 criteria for meaningful is more demanding, EHRs systems are required to have more sophisticated analytics, standardization, and linkages with patient portals.
  • Interoperability: able to integrate workflows and exchange information with other products
  • Company reliability: Physicians are looking for vendors who are likely to be around in 20 years. Potential buyers may be deterred from switching to a company if there are factors like an impending merger/acquisition, senior management issues, declining market share, or internal staff system training issues.

Is it worth it?
In a survey conducted by Family Practice Management of physicians who switched EHRs since 2010, 59% said their new EHRs had added functionality, and 57% said that their new system allowed them to meet meaningful use criteria, but 43% said they were glad they switched systems and only 39% were happy with their new EHR.

5 Things to consider when planning to switch EHRs

  1. Certifications and Compliance: Do your research. Does your new vendor have customers who have achieved the level of certification your organization hopes to achieve? Does this new vendor continually invest in the system to make updates with changing regulations?
  2. Customer Service: Don’t be shy. Ask to speak to at least 3 current customers in your specialty and around your size. Ask the tough questions regarding level of service the vendor provides.
  3. Interoperability: Don’t be left unconnected. Ensure your new vendor is committed to interoperability and has concreate examples of integration with other EHR vendors and lab services.
  4. Reliability and Longevity: Don’t be left out to dry. Do digging into the vendor’s financials, leadership changes and staffing updates. If they appear to be slimming down and not growing this is a sign that this product is not a main focus of the company and could be phased out or sold.
  5. Integration with Current Services: Don’t wait until it’s too late. Reach out to your current providers (like appointment reminders) and ensure they integrate with your new system and set up a plan for integrating the two well in advance.

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

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

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

Can Online Self-Scheduling Really Change the ER and Urgent Care Experience? – Communication Solutions Series

Posted on June 9, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Laura Alabed-Olsson, Marketing Manager of Stericycle Communication Solutions, as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter:@StericycleComms
Laura Alabed-Olsson
As a part of the team behind online self-scheduling solution InQuicker, I am asked this question a lot. When you’re dealing with the sickest of the sick of patients, can online self-scheduling really make a difference? Yes, it can. Let’s begin by looking at things from a patient’s perspective.

Imagine you’re sick. Really sick. You haven’t showered in a day or so. You’re in your pajamas and buried under the covers in your bed. Even if your favorite ER or urgent care is the best of the best – think big-screen TV, a beverage bar and a tall stack of your favorite magazines – wouldn’t you rather wait from home than this palace of a waiting room? Online self-scheduling makes this possible. You simply go to your preferred provider’s website. Select an estimated treatment time. Provide some basic information. And then you wait from home until it’s time to be seen. It’s that easy. (You still feel crummy, but at least a little bit happy that you won’t have to wait long when you get there, right?)

Now, let’s look at it from a provider’s perspective. With online self-scheduling, you have the benefit of knowing who’s coming in, why they’re seeking care, and when they’ll arrive – giving you plenty of time to prepare space and allocate resources. Online self-scheduling supports operational efficiency, big time.

Running behind and fearful that you can’t see a self-scheduled patient at their estimated treatment time? No problem. Just let them know when you’ll be ready, so that they can adjust their timing. Then, bask in the glow of knowing that when they do arrive, they’re certain to be happier than they would have been had they been sitting in the waiting room the entire time. Talk about getting the patient-provider relationship off on the right foot!

Today’s patients want – and increasingly expect – a patient-centric approach to healthcare. Online self-scheduling supports this (along with patient acquisition and retention, operational efficiency and care coordination). In fact, across the clients that use InQuicker for their online scheduling needs, we see patient satisfaction rates that average 90 percent.

Yes, online self-scheduling really can change (and improve) the ER/urgent care experience. Do you want happy patients and happy providers? Online self-scheduling could be the answer.

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

EHRs Don’t Have to Be a One-Stop-Shop – Communication Solutions Series

Posted on May 16, 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
We have talked a lot about healthcare consumerism on this blog series, and it appears that as we discuss many topics, the importance and relevance of healthcare consumerism continues to grow.  More and more patients are demanding to be treated and have access to their healthcare as they would any other commodity they buy.

As I started to think more and more about patients as consumers, I started to think about my own buying behaviors.  If I were to be put into a category of buyers, what would I be? As consumers we don’t always fall into one particular bucket of buyers. We typically fall into several buckets of buyers depending largely on the type of commodity that we are buying. You may be a “One-Stop Shopper” or a “Bargain Shopper” for one thing, but become a “Research Shopper” for other things.

But what about when it comes to healthcare? Do we follow the same trends?  Typically when I shop, I’m a “One-Stop Shopper”.  I travel a lot for work and the convenience of a one-stop-shop significantly increases the time I have to do other things I enjoy. However, when it comes to my healthcare, I quickly become “The Researcher.”  I scour websites and reviews to ensure that I am getting the best healthcare I can.  I chalk it up to the fact that at the end of the day, I really don’t want to be getting my healthcare from the gas station around the corner from my house.

How we shop varies depending on a consumer’s lifestyle and what we are shopping for. But what about providers? Do healthcare providers receive the same liberties that patients have with their vendors?

Take shopping for an EHR for example.  Were physicians given the same consumer rights and liberties when it comes to EHRs? Do EHRs really provide everything a physician needs? The consensus is saying no.  Although studies have shown that EHR adoption rates have increased over the last few years, satisfaction rates from physicians have declined. Reports found that in 2010, 61 percent of respondents claimed they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their EHRs, compared to just 34 percent in 2014.

So what happened? Did EHR vendors miss the mark?

Lack of Inclusion
A big portion of what went wrong can be linked back to the lack of inclusion from EHR vendor’s biggest consumer….physicians.  Many EHR vendors rushed to the market with software that dictated a user’s workflow rather than providing them with software that actually complements how they normally work. What transpired were cumbersome and difficult to use EHRs that significantly slowed physicians down.

Big Promises
EHRs had big promises for healthcare delivery and many doctors continue to be disappointed that they have not met their promises when it comes to quality, safety, efficiency and enagement.  A report titled “Physicians Use of EHR Systems 2014” found that 55% percent of physicians said it was difficult or very difficult to use their EHR to improve efficiency and 72 percent said it was difficult or very difficult to use their EHR to decrease workload. A far cry from the promise of efficiency and better patient engagement.

Interoperability
Another major drawback is the current lack of interoperability of EHRs with other products that exist in the market.  There is a growing number of healthcare platforms and technologies in the market that actually increase a physician’s quality, safety, efficiency and engagement, however many EHRs whether due to stubbornness or fear of loss of control have made it difficult for physicians to easily integrate with these platforms.

Needless to say, physicians are quickly realizing that their pseudo one-stop-shop of an EHR is not cutting it when it comes to satisfying the patient’s needs and their own needs.  Patients’ demands for things like access to their medical records, appointment reminders and mHealth have got physicians on alert for vendors who can deliver. Not to mention, their own demands for things like patient engagement tools and better overall efficiencies.  These crucial demands have begun to shift their buying behaviors to that of a healthcare consumer.  Many physicians are taking a stance with their own healthcare consumerism, recognizing that their EHR can’t and won’t be their one-stop-shop and have begun researching the market for the many niche products and vendors that can and will deliver better results and ultimately happier patients and a happier physician.

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

Healthcare in an E-Commerce World – Communication Solutions Series

Posted on April 14, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Laura Alabed-Olsson, Marketing Manager of Stericycle Communication Solutions, as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter:@StericycleComms
Laura Alabed-Olsson
These days, it seems as though I can’t pickup an industry publication, or even a major daily newspaper, without finding at least one article on healthcare consumerism. Consumers want to shop for healthcare the way they shop for TVs and cars, they say. Consumers expect cost information, quality ratings and anytime access, too, they tell us.

All of this makes me wonder: For healthcare providers that have long operated in a traditional, not so consumer-centric world, where does one begin? Results from a handful of recent surveys offer some insights:

  1. More than 40% of consumers say that information found via social media affects the way they deal with their health.
  1. 77% of consumers use online reviews, often found on sites like Yelp and Healthgrades, as their first step in finding a new doctor.
  1. 56% of consumers have actively looked for healthcare cost information before getting care; 21% of these have compared prices across multiple providers.
  1. Consumers expect the same online service in healthcare that they see in other industries, and they will switch providers to get it.

So, let’s dig in.

Insight #1: 40% of consumers turn to social media for healthcare information. This statistic may not come as a surprise, especially when you consider the number of patients sitting in waiting rooms – or restaurants or coffee shops or wherever  – with phone in hand, endlessly scrolling Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.  What is surprising is how relatively few healthcare providers are pursuing this captive audience with educational content that accurately informs consumers about health-related issues (while simultaneously addressing demands for a “connected” experience). Is your organization leveraging social media to educate and engage with patients? Perhaps it should be.

Insight #2: 77% of consumers look to online reviews when choosing a provider. To further validate this point: Did you know that Healthgrades.com, the for-profit site that shares a variety of information about physicians, hospitals and other provider organizations, gets a million hits a day? Clearly, consumers have an appetite for information on patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes. Is this information readily available on your organization’s website? If you don’t provide it, others will and, in doing so, they are poised to steer prospective patients elsewhere.

Insight #3: 56% of consumers are paying attention to healthcare costs. While the idea of comparison shopping for healthcare is a relatively new one, it’s one that consumers and providers alike must embrace (consumers, because they’re increasingly accountable for a greater share of out-of-pocket costs, and providers, because cost transparency is the new norm – and if you want to effectively compete with traditional providers, retail clinics, telemedicine, docs-on-demand and whatever comes next, you’ve just got to get onboard). Is your organization empowering patients to make thoughtful decisions? A cost estimator on your website – or even a promise to have cost information available when patients request it – could make for a great start.

Insight #4: Healthcare consumers want an online experience that mirrors what’s being offered by retailers like Amazon, Southwest Airlines and OpenTable. When consumers want to book an airline ticket or reserve a table at their favorite restaurant, they don’t have to pick up the phone and call between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. They hop online when it’s convenient for them and, in just a few clicks, they’ve gotten what they want. Why should healthcare be any different? By offering online self-scheduling on your website, you’re giving patients 24/7 access to care – and you’re doing it in a way that is familiar and convenient for them. Does your organization offer a way for consumers to access care when and how they want to? Research suggests it should.

Healthcare consumerism requires a significant shift in how providers serve patients, for sure. But in just a few, small steps – like those mentioned here – you can be on your way.

The Communication Solutions Series of blog posts is sponsored by Stericycle Communication Solutions, a leading provider of high quality telephone answeringappointment 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

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency – It’s a Must in This Age of Healthcare Consumerism

Posted on March 10, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Laura Alabed-Olsson, Marketing Manager of Stericycle Communication Solutions, as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter:@StericycleComms
Laura Alabed-Olsson
Whether I’m visiting my favorite restaurant, online shopping from the couch, or navigating airport security (grrrr), for me, consistency counts.  In fact, it’s amazing how even the most daunting of tasks can seem more manageable when I know exactly what to expect.

Research shows that I’m not alone in my preference for predictability and familiarity, especially as it relates to consumerism.  A 2014 study of 27,000 American consumers by McKinsey & Company found that a consistent customer experience across the entire customer journey increases satisfaction, builds trust and boosts loyalty.  Similarly, a 2015 study by King Brown Partners found that 80% of people agree that consistent consumer experiences strongly impact brand perception.

You may be wondering what all of this has to do with healthcare.  Do your patients (and prospective patients) really think about shopping for a TV and shopping for healthcare in the same way? In this world of high-deductible health plans, narrow networks and walk-in clinics on every corner, yes.

Consider this:

  • 92% of consumers want more control over their personal health. [1]
  • 52% report searching online for health or care-related information. [2]
  • 91% say they are loyal to their doctor, yet 44% may change for a more convenient location and 33% may change for a lower cost. [3]
  • 67% say the overall patient experience plays an extremely important role in their decision-making process. [4]

The consumer mindset has clearly taken root in healthcare. While slashing prices or relocating to a more convenient location likely isn’t possible, thankfully, there are simple things providers can do now to deliver a consistent, consumer-centric experience that gets and keep patients.

  1. Ensure customer satisfaction during each and every encounter – and across all channels. This means having staff, protocols and supporting mechanisms (from online self-scheduling to after hours call support) in place during regular office hours and beyond. Today’s healthcare consumers expect 24/7 access and the most successful providers deliver.
  1. Communicate with patients frequently and in a way that’s convenient for them. A majority of patients believe that technology supports better care, so use it to reach out with appointment reminders, preparation and discharge instructions, preventive health reminders, and messaging that helps with disease management. Doing so supports a stress-free (and wonderfully predictable) care experience – while also minimizing scheduling gaps and boosting population health.
  1. Welcome questions (above and beyond the regular ones). This new age of healthcare consumerism can be challenging for providers and patients alike. By welcoming patient questions specific to once taboo subjects like cost, quality and alternative therapies, you’re helping build trust, loyalty and a better healthcare consumer – and that’s good for your patient, your business and the healthcare industry at large.

Yes, consistency is where it’s at…the numbers don’t lie. Are you delivering?

The Communication Solutions Series of blog posts is sponsored by Stericycle Communication Solutions, a leading provider of high quality telephone answeringappointment 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

References:
[1] Ipsos, Pfizer and the National Council on Patient Information and Education, April 2015
[2] Deloitte’s 2015 Survey of US Health Care Consumers
[3] RBC Capital Markets Consumer Health & Information Technology Survey, April 2015
[4] Beryl Institute, September 2015

Finding The Perfect Match…The Hunt For A Provider Patient Relationship That Works – Communication Solutions Series

Posted on February 11, 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
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, some of my single friends are sharing the difficulties they are having while trying to find “the one.” This got me thinking about the relationships in my life where I’ve struggled to find “the one.”

Most of us put in a lot of time and consideration when choosing a healthcare provider.  If you think about it, it’s almost like online dating.  We research our physicians online, take a look at their reviews, get feedback and recommendations from friends, and meet with them to make sure it’s the right fit.  After what could be months of trying to find the right doctor we finally make a decision and bring them onboard as a trusted healthcare advisor.  You entrust them with your health, your life, and your future.  This got me thinking…are our healthcare providers taking the same amount of time and consideration when evaluating the services they provide to us?

Healthcare providers offer a number of services and contract many different service organizations when it comes to running their organizations. Everything from EHRs, to Patient Engagement tools, to Lab Facilities, to Digital Health apps, to their telephone answering service is outsourced in one way or another. I wonder, how can you ensure you’re selecting a physician who takes as much care choosing service providers and their amenities as you did choosing them?  After all, your care and health outcomes are impacted by both people in the relationship being the “right match.”

After working in the healthcare industry for several years, I treat my visit to my doctor’s office like I would a first date. I take notes, try to spot the red flags and ask lots of tough questions. Anything from which EHR they are using, to how they document my visit, how they dispose or store patient files, how they remind me for my appointment, how they route my calls, what patient educational tools they offer me, my wait-time, and even who they buy their supplies from.

Now…I am able to spot these things because I have an idea of what I am looking for and the right questions to ask.  But what about patient’s who don’t know what to look for? Do they know what they are looking for in a long term provider relationship? What are the most important characteristics to them and what are they willing to compromise?

Here are some of my deal breakers:

  • Old Equipment and Technology. It’s important to me that my provider uses the best healthcare products and services on the market that can help manage my health effectively.
  • Lackadaisical Security. It’s imperative that my health data is secure. My provider must understand the importance of maintaining secure patient information and employing vendors who are HIPAA compliant.
  • Unavailability. I get that my healthcare provider may not work 24 hours a day, but there are times that I think their service providers should. What if I need an appointment on a Saturday? What if I need to get a hold of my physician after hours? Who will take that call? A provider who I can only communicate with Monday to Friday between 9am and 4pm is a deal-breaker for me.
  • Poor Communication. I always have questions about my health and how to better maintain it. For me, my provider has to be available, approachable, caring, and communicative to serve as a consultant in my healthcare journey.
  • Makes me pay. When I am searching for the right providers, insurance is the first place I start. Does the healthcare organization accept my insurance, or will I have to pay for my services? Don’t take my insurance? Deal breaker!

Unfortunately, there is not a Match.com to help pair the right patient with the right provider….yet. (With the demands patients are putting on healthcare organizations I wouldn’t be surprised if we are swiping left or right when picking our providers in the next 5 years). However, as patients become more and more involved in their care decisions and continue to expect more from their providers I’d encourage everyone to create their list of deal breakers and ask the hard questions, and when in doubt, introduce them to your mom!

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

Embracing Technology Doesn’t Have To Come At The Expense Of Engagement – Communication Solutions Series

Posted on January 14, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Amy Hamilton,  Marketing Manager of Stericycle Communication Solutions as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter: @StericycleComms
Amy Hamilton - Stericycle Healthcare IT
In the New Year I set the typical health/financial related goals, but I also like to make small changes to daily tasks in an effort to enrich my life. For instance, last year I made the commitment to add more novels to my obsessive reading habits. This year, I’m thinking about the screens that I carry in my pocket, my purse, my backpack and on my wrist and how I could step away from them more often to become more engaged in the relationships in my life. This got me thinking about how this notion of screens getting in the way impacts a variety of relationships differently whether it be professional, family, friend or even the provider/patient relationship. We all know technology isn’t going anywhere. So how can we adjust our lives to better accommodate tech while enhancing our engagement in our relationships?

I think it’s safe to say that most professionals are like me. We look like we’re moving out when we travel from meeting to meeting with a stack of technology that we “need.” Personal phone, work phone, laptop, and tablet…the technologies we’ve grown so dependent on that we believe we can’t have a successful in person meeting without them.  I believe we have good intentions when carting around this collection of technology, but in reality the majority of the time we end up using the devices for web browsing, texting, email checking, tweeting, Facebook friending and sharing. It’s rare that the technology is used solely for enhancing the agenda of the meeting. Oddly enough, it’s so commonplace that it’s no longer considered rude or unprofessional to be on a device during a meeting or presentation. (I’m live tweeting I swear!)

On the contrary, there is a movement among families to ban technology from the dinner table, even Pope Francis recently said how important it is to have device free family dinners. He said, “The sharing of a meal — and therefore, other than of food, also of affections, of stories, of events — is a fundamental experience.”  My family and friends definitely make an effort during special dinners, but on a daily basis we are a technology obsessed group and we are rarely offended if our guests are communicating more with a friend on another continent than the people sitting at the same table.

So I’m left wondering… if technology is openly accepted in the office, but doesn’t belong at the family dinner table, but is common place during friendly gatherings, what are my communication expectations for my providers?

It’s no surprise, as a Health IT professional, that I believe technology contributes significantly to improving care delivery and overall patient engagement and satisfaction. However, it’s the role technology plays in the exam room that has me scratching my head. I’m guilty of peeking over my providers’ shoulders to see what EHR they use and maybe even mildly judging them based on their selection, but the real judgement comes when they spend more time looking at their computer than me.

I know I may sound like a hypocrite because I want my information documented electronically. I want it to be easily shared and referenceable, but more than anything I want my provider’s attention. I often find myself struggling to “find the time” for the doctor. So when I carve out the time for my health I want that time to be maximized.   I want to be reminded of my appointment via a text. I want to have in-depth, in person conversations about my symptoms and to review all possibilities of conditions. I want all necessary tests to be performed and the results to be delivered quickly.

I understand and accept that none of this can be done today without the assistance of technology and as a high maintenance patient I want my providers to have the best technology. But more than anything, I want to be listened to.

But if I can tweet about an article I read while also taking notes about the presentation my boss is delivering, why don’t I trust my provider enough to listen to me with intention and take notes in her EHR at the same time. Why are my expectations for my provider completely out of touch with my expectations of my friends and family at the dinner table?

I think it’s because this is my health we’re talking about here, and at the end of the day healthcare is a relationship, but also a service and any service is enhanced by personal engagement.

I have a great GP. She recently changed offices and is now in what I might describe as a “boutique or luxury doctor’s office.” There is herbal tea, large screen TVs and modern furniture in the waiting room. The office is equipped with state of the art healthcare technologies, and she was able to quickly acquire my medical records from her previous location. She does, however, sit in front of the computer when I’m in the exam room. At her previous location I felt like sometimes she was looking at her screen more than at me.

Since the move, I’ve never felt neglected like I used to. So what changed? It’s not her care style. She’s still on the computer. It’s not my expectations. I’m still a high maintenance patient. After thinking about it for a while I realized, it was so simple. It’s the type of technologies and the layout of the exam room that have made such a huge impact on her engagement with me. The new EHR has a more patient friendly workflow, less clicking and more dragging and dropping, less free text and smarter lookup functions. These small changes in technology allow her to be more engaged in our conversations. It allows her to document what I say in about half the time so she can look up at me more often.

In the old office the computer was set up so that her back was turned to me when she was typing. Without the swivel of her chair our eyes never connected. The new office, however, is set up in a way that when she looks up she’s looking right at me. Such a small change to furniture layout makes such a huge improvement in engagement.

It’s wonderful that we have the ability to multitask to the nth degree, but I think I have to agree with the Pope on this one; we’re losing the collaboration, interactions and affection that is at the heart of face to face meetings and gatherings. The changes needed to enhance engagement while embracing technology may not be as drastic as putting it down or walking away, but simply making intentional changes to the technologies we use, the way we use them and the environment we use them in.

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

Can Automation Assist The Patient/Provider Relationship When It Matters Most? – Communication Solutions Series

Posted on December 10, 2015 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
Have you had plans with friends or family that you had to cancel at the last minute? Maybe you’ve come down with a cold, maybe you’re stuck in traffic, or maybe you are caring for a sick child.  Whatever the case may be, we have all been there. We have all had to make a call or send a text and let the other party know that we won’t be able to make it.  In my case, I always feel bad about cancelling last minute, but know in the end that my friends and family will understand why I’m canceling if I let them know at my earliest convenience.

You see, for most of us in 2015 it’s easy.  Almost all of us have quick access to a phone and can easily send a message to any contact in our phone.  We can easily communicate the reason we need to cancel, thus avoiding any damage to the relationship, and avoiding conversations like, “I waited at the restaurant for 30 minutes for you to show up” or “Where were you last night? I drove all the way downtown and you were a no-show.”

But what about maintaining this same relationship within a healthcare organization? There is a lot of buzz around building a solid patient/provider relationship through communication and trust, however quite often due to many unforeseen circumstances patients don’t show up for their appointment, physician’s offices close unexpectedly, or a doctor is out sick and communicating these changes can be difficult.

In a perfect world, and hopefully in a 2018/2020 world, if my child was sick, I would be able to pick up the phone and text my doctor “Won’t be able to make it, Molly is sick.” My doctor would text me back saying “No problem, let’s reschedule for next week when she’s feeling better.”  On the contrary as I mentioned in my last blog post, my doctor may be unable to make our scheduled appointment and could send me a message saying, “Have a family emergency, Dr. Smith is covering for me.”

Unfortunately, it is not quite that easy in the healthcare world.  I do not always have the means to communicate effectively with my doctor’s office if I cannot show up.  Many doctor’s offices also may not have an easy way to communicate to all their patients of an unexpected event or closure.  Alerting each patient individually is an almost impossible task, and quite often we as patients encounter a surprise substitute provider, a closed office due to weather (that we fought to get there just to find out they’re closed), or extremely long wait times thus irritating us and potentially damaging our patient/provider relationship.

As I have said before, I think there has to be a better way.  Similarly to sending a text to a family member or a friend, implementing some simple automation solutions into a healthcare organization can strengthen communication between both the patient and the provider.  Sending an automated appointment reminder initiates the initial conversation and engagement between a patient and a physician.  It can prompt a patient to confirm or not confirm their appointment back to the physician office.  Sending out an automated mass notification to patients letting them know to stay at home during a severe snow storm goes a long way to strengthening that relationship and keeping the communication dialogue alive.

We talk about providers treating patients like consumers/customers and whether that’s good or bad. But, maybe the conversation should really be about the providers AND the patients treating each other like a friend, a neighbor, or even family. Communication and respect for time is an important aspect of those great relationships and in healthcare we still have a lot to learn from them.

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.  Learn more about the automations solutions discussed above here. Connect with Stericycle Communication Solutions on social media:  @StericycleComms