No matter how big or small your medical practice is, most administrative leaders and physicians are stressed about outcomes, paying bills, compliance, and — most importantly — keeping patients happy.
Unfortunately, while realizing your practice has the same issues as any other brings a feeling of camaraderie, it doesn't solve any problems. Many practices still carry the mindset that, "if you build it, they will come." However, the day-to-day challenges of staying profitable in a challenging patient environment dominated by Google reviews and a major push for value-based care are becoming harder to bear.
As patients are behaving more like consumers, practices need to embrace a patient-centered mindset in order to remain profitable. Investing in patient relationship management (PRM) strategies will help make your relationships with patients stronger, while making sure you're staying profitable.
Technology, Practice Culture, and the Patient Experience
It can't be stressed enough that excellent patient relationship management is the key to improving the patient experience. However, most physician practices aren't doing enough to nurture their connections both inside and outside the exam room.
EHRs simply weren't designed for supporting patient care and clinical workflows, but geared more towards data collection and aggregation. For example, if you want to get your diabetic patients to comply with a desired care plan, you have no way of knowing what percent of your patients with diabetes would respond to engagement efforts through an EHR.
As practices ponder ways to leverage their investment in EHRs to improve the patient experience, the way patients want to be engaged is changing faster than anticipated.
For example, adults rely on their smartphones for medical information, and are often harder to work with when it comes to traditional practice marketing strategies. If not engaged in the way they prefer, they may be likely to miss appointments, which has a direct financial impact on a practice's bottom line.
Even if a practice utilizes appointment reminders, it will still have a hard time keeping patients coming back without actively seeking new ways to engage them. Most patients expect a seamless, personalized technology experience with their healthcare practice. Research conducted by Google and the Pew Research Center found that 72 percent of internet users seek online health information and 77 percent of those patients used an online search prior to booking an appointment.
Putting Patient Relationship Management (PRM) into Action
Leveraging PRM technology can help practices address the above challenges and achieve a higher level of patient personalization without burdening its clinicians and administrative staff.
One of the most successful examples of personalization through PRM technology is the use of timely appointment reminders. Through the technology's appointment-reminder application, patients can set preferences for the frequency of alerts they'd like to receive, as well as the delivery system they'd prefer (e.g., text, call or email). With that in mind, if a patient wants an alert two days before an appointment, and would like to see it in the form of a text message, a practice with PRM technology could deliver the message in the preferred method.
As an added benefit, by using technology such as digital appointment reminders, practices' front desk staff spend less time on the phone. The time the practices' front desk staff used to spend talking on the phone could now be redirected easily to other tasks, such as greeting patients or educating them about a new product or service. This shift could offer additional revenue opportunities for a practice such as an ophthalmology clinic which regularly sell products to patients.
PRM can also help a practice build a patient-centered reputation through technology like email newsletters. For example, if a medical practice has a high rate of diabetic patients, it can create an engaging email newsletter campaign directed toward those patients, filled with information about their disease and links to resources such as support groups or healthy recipes. Likewise, if a practice wants to get the word out about its satisfied patients, it can direct front-desk staff to use the PRM tool to dispatch and monitor online patient satisfaction surveys. If a patient is particularly unhappy, the PRM tool could alert the practice immediately, so staff could follow up with that unhappy patient before a problem — and online ratings — spiral out of control.
Bridging the Patient Experience Gap through PRM
By using PRM technology, a practice can better engage and satisfy their patients, improve loyalty and enhance their revenue retention.
PRM technology isn't meant to replace EHRs, as collecting and sharing data is an imperative part of practicing medicine. It can, however, help to fill the experience and engagement gaps that EHRs have left behind by helping practices do what they are best at- helping patients get better.
However, practices will always need to stay on top of their patients and look for ways to provide the best experience possible. The more patients rely on technology in their personal lives, the bigger the opportunity a practice has to boost their experience and develop a relationship using PRM tools.
Jim Higgins is the CEO of Solutionreach, which he also founded. Higgins launched the company in 2000 to help support practices with the common, yet costly problem of patient no-shows. Since then, Higgins has innovated and guided the direction of the Solutionreach technology to meet all the patient relationship management needs of practices. Follow him on Twitter @higgs77.