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Value-sizing The Patient Experience

Posted on June 8, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Sarah Bennight, Marketing Strategist for Stericycle Communication Solutions, as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter: @StericycleComms

In health IT, we talk about the patient experience all the time. Many of us have dedicated our entire careers to improving the patient experience. It has become so central to improving healthcare that patient-reported experience results determine a significant portion of reimbursement.

But today’s patient experiences do beg the question: are they a pie in the sky dream or something tangible that can be addressed in our organizations?

To tackle the patient experience, we have to audit all contact points to determine areas of weakness. A great way to start is by creating a healthcare consumer journey map. Identifying each point a patient could potentially interact with your organization is key to ensuring their experience will be great. Once you have identified each potential encounter, mystery shop that experience as if you were the patient to test your brand’s current performance. When determining whether or not your organization provides a great brand experience, you may find yourself comparing your performance to the top brands you work with on a daily basis.

For example, I recall a time when I studied abroad in the United Kingdom. Upon arriving in a foreign country after 22 hours of travel with little sleep, I needed to eat. I vaguely recalled passing a familiar restaurant sign on the way to my flat: McDonalds. And though I didn’t really love the golden arches at the time, I chose to eat there. Why? Because I knew what to expect. I knew how to order, what menu items would be available, and what it would taste like.

By focusing on consistent interactions and expectations for their customers, McDonalds has created a strong brand. In fact, when asked about introducing new products during a 2010 CNBC interview, former CEO James Skinner said “[McDonald’s doesn’t] put something on the menu until it can be produced at the speed of McDonalds.”

Can your healthcare consumers count on a consistent experience when contacting your organization? Your brand experience should encompass the entire health system to build confidence and loyalty in your brand. Creating consistency across each encounter begins with simple questions. Was their initial call met with a timely, sincere, and welcoming voice? Was parking convenient? Are average waiting times reasonable? Do Center A and Center B provide the same quality support? Is their bill easy to understand? If your answers are all yes, it’s more likely that patients will continue to choose your organization.

When patients feel confidence about provided services and perceive value in the care you provide, brand loyalty is achieved. What’s more, many studies show that patients who have great healthcare experiences and are confident in the level of care they receive will have better clinical outcomes. Value-based care demands consistent, evidence-based clinical interactions. But we can’t leave out the important patient experience outside the walls of the exam room.

After my exhaustive travels, I certainly had a better outcome by relying on my trust in McDonalds’ brand. I chose to value-size my meals frequently throughout my England journey – not because it was the best tasting food, but because I could always rely on consistently convenient and quality experiences. The healthcare industry can certainly learn a lot more from cutting edge commercial companies when it comes to creating loyalty. To learn more about the patient journey and loyalty, download our e-book.

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

Staying Connected Beyond the Patient Visit

Posted on April 20, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Brittany Quemby, Marketing Strategist for Stericycle Communication Solutions, as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter: @StericycleComms
Brittany Quemby - Stericycle
I see it everywhere I go – heads down, thumbs flexing. We live in an era where our devices occupy our lives. When I’m sitting at the airport waiting for my flight, standing in line at the grocery store, waiting to be called at my doctor’s office, I see it – heads down, thumbs flexing. Although I wish we weren’t always heads down in our phones, it is inevitable, we rely on our smartphone to stay connected.  As it stands today, roughly two-thirds of Americans own a smart phone, meaning they have access to email, voice, and text at their fingertips.

The increase in connectivity that the smartphone gives its user provides physicians a whole new way to communicate beyond the patient visit. Below are some tips that can help healthcare professionals stay connected while improving engagement, behaviors, and revenue outcomes.

Consider the patient’s preferences
Quite often only one piece of contact information is gathered for a patient and it is typically a home phone number. Patients expect to be communicated with where it is convenient for them, and in a recent survey on preferred communication methods, 76 percent off respondents said that text messages were more convenient above emails and phone calls.  If you are looking to connect with patients in a meaningful way, consider asking them their preferred method of contact to help maximize your engagement.

Use a various methods of communication
Recently we surveyed over 400 healthcare professionals to learn about the ways they are communicating and engaging with their patients. Our findings revealed that 41 percent of physicians and healthcare professionals utilize various methods to connect and communicate with their patients.  Long gone are the days when you could reach someone by a simple phone call. Today, if I need to get in touch with someone this is how it goes down: I will email them, then I will call them to let them know I emailed them, and then I text them to tell them to go read my email.  A recent report shows that on average 91 percent of all United States consumers use email daily and that text messages have a 45 percent response rate and a 98 percent open rate. Connecting with patients through multiple channels of communication can show a significant change in patient responsiveness and behavior, including an increase in healthcare ownership, a decrease in no shows, and a substantial increase in revenue.

Automate your patient communication messages
Investing in an automated patient communication solution is a great way to connect with your patients beyond the doctor’s office. It will not only increase patient behaviors, efficiencies, satisfaction and convenience, but will also dramatically impact your bottom-line.

A comprehensive automated patient communication platform allows include regular and frequent communication from your organization to the patient in a simple and easy way.  Consider implementing some of the following automated communication tactics to help you increase your practice’s efficiencies while continuing to engage with patients outside of the office:

  • Send appointment reminders: Send automated appointment reminders to ensure patients show up to their appointment both on time and prepared.
  • Follow-up communication: Patients only retain 20 to 60 percent of information that is shared with them during the appointment. Send a text or email with pertinent follow-up information to increase patient satisfaction and decrease readmissions.
  • Program promotion: Connect with patients to encourage them to come in for important initiatives your practice is holding like your flu-shot clinic.
  • Message broadcast: Communicate important information like an office closure or rescheduling due to severe weather.

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

9 Ways IT is Transforming Healthcare – “Top 10” Health IT List Series

Posted on December 27, 2011 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 is often common at the end of the year, a lot of companies have started putting together their “Top 10” (or some similar number) lists for 2011. In fact, some of them have posted these lists a little bit earlier than usual. This week as people are often off work or on vacation, I thought it might be fun to take one list each day and comment on the various items people have on their lists.

The first list comes from Booz Allen Hamilton and is Booz Allen’s Top 9 ways IT is Transforming healthcare. Here’s their list of 9 items with my own commentary after each item.

Reduces medical errors. I prefer to say that Health IT has the potential to reduce medical errors. I also think long term that health IT and EMR will reduce medical errors. However, in the interim it will depend on how people actually use these systems. Used improperly, it can actually cause more medical errors. There have been studies out that show both an improvement in medical errors and an increase in medical errors.

My take on this is that EMR and health IT improves certain areas and hurts other areas. However, as we improve these systems and use of these systems, then over all medical errors will go down. However, remember that even once these systems are perfect they’re still going to be run be imperfect humans that are just trying to do their best (at least most of them). Even so, long term health IT and EMR software will be something that will benefit healthcare as far as reducing medical errors.

Improves collaboration throughout the health care system. I’m a little torn as we consider whether health IT improves collaboration. The biggest argument you can make for this is that it’s really hard to be truly interoperable in really meaningful and quick ways without technology. Sure, we’ve been able to fax over medical records which no one would doubt has improved health care. However, those faxes often get their too late since they take time to process. Technology will be the solution to solving this problem.

The real conundrum here is the value that could be achieved by sending specific data. A fax is basically a mass of data which can’t be processed by a computer in any meaningful way. How much nicer would it be to have an allergy passed from one system to another. No request for information was made. No waiting for a response from a medical records department. Just a notification on the new doctor’s screen that the patient is allergic to something or is taking a drug that might have contraindications with the one the new doctor is trying to prescribe. This sort of seamless exchange of data is where we should and could be if it weren’t for data silos and economics.

Ensures better patient-care transition. This year there was a whole conference dedicated to this idea. No doubt there is merit in what’s possible. The problems here are similar to those mentioned above in the care collaboration section. Sadly, the technology is there and ready to be deployed. It’s connecting the bureaucratic and financial dots to make it a reality.

Enables faster, better emergency care. I’m not sure why, but the emergency room gets lots of interesting technology that no one else in healthcare gets. I imagine it’s because emergency rooms can easily argue that they’re a little bit “different” from the rest of the hospital and so they are able to often embark on neat technology projects without the weight of the whole hospital around their neck.

One of the technologies I love in emergency care is connecting the emergency rooms with the ambulances. There are so many cool options out there and with 3G finally coming into its own, connectivity isn’t nearly the problem that it use to be. Plus, there are even consumer apps like MyCrisisRecords that are trying to make an in road in emergency care. I’d like to see broader adoption of these apps in emergency rooms, but you can see the promise.

Empowers patients and their families to participate in care decisions. Many might argue that with Google Health Failing and Microsoft HealthVault not making much noise, that the idea of empowering patients might not be as strong. Turns out that the reality is quite the opposite.

Patients and families are participating more and more in care decisions. There just isn’t one dominant market leader that facilitates this interaction. Patients and families are using an amalgamation of technologies and the all powerful Google to participate in their care. This trend will continue to become more popular. We’ll see if any company can really capture the energy of this movement in a way that they become the dominant market leader or whether it will remain a really fluid environment.

Makes care more convenient for patients. I believe we’re starting to see the inklings of this happening. At the core of this for me is patient online scheduling and patient online visits. Maybe it could more simply be identified as: patient communication with providers.

I don’t think 2011 has been the watershed year for convenient access to doctors by patients. However, we’re starting to see inroads made which will open up the doors for the flood of patients that want to have these types of interactions.

Helps care for the warfighter. This is an area where I also don’t have a lot of experience. Although, I do remember one visit with someone from the Army at a conference. In that short chat we had, he talked about all the issues the Army had been dealing with for decades: patient record standards, patient identifiers, multiple locations (see Iraq and Afghanistan), multiple systems, etc. The problem he identified was that much of it was classified and so it couldn’t be shared. I hope health IT does help our warriors. It should!

Enhances ability to respond to public health emergencies and disasters. I’ve been to quite a few presentations where people have talked about the benefits and challenges associated with electronic medical records and natural disasters. They’ve always been really insightful since they almost always have 5-6 “I hadn’t thought of that” moments that make you realize that we’re not as secure and prepared for disasters as we think we are.

It is worth noting that moving 100,000 patient records electronically to an off site location is much easier in the electronic world than it is in paper. With paper charts we can’t even really discuss the idea of remote access to the record in the case of a natural disaster.

Possibly even more interesting is the idea of EMR and health IT supporting public health emergencies. We’re just beginning to aggregate health data from EMR software that could help us identify and mitigate the impact of a public health emergency. Certainly none of these systems are going to be perfect. Many of these systems are going to miss things we wish they’d seen. However, there’s real potential benefit in them helping is identify public health emergencies before they become catastrophes.

Enables discovery in new medical breakthroughs and provides a platform for innovation. Most of the medical breakthroughs we’ve experienced in the last 20 years would likely have been impossible without technology. Plus, I don’t think we’ve even started to tap the power that could be available from the mounds of healthcare data that we have available to us. This is why I’m so excited about the Health.Data.Gov health data sharing program that Priya wrote about on EMR and EHR. There’s so many more medical discoveries that will be facilitated by healthcare data.

There you have it. What do you think of these 9 items? Are there other things that you see happening that will impact the above items? Are there trends that we should be watching in health IT in 2012?

Be sure to read the rest of my Health IT Top 10 as they’re posted.