Technology is an important factor in improving the way you care for your patients and handle the business functions of your medical practice. Unfortunately too many practices fail to recognize the power of technology when it comes to interacting with patients. Technology can improve the way you communicate with patients and enhance the patient experience far beyond what goes on during the patient visit.
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Your patients have enthusiastically embraced technology and are ready for more, including your senior population. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, 86 percent of Internet users 65 or older use e-mail, and 48 percent of them do so every single day. Sixty-nine percent of older Americans have a mobile phone; up from 57 percent two years ago. Even among those 76 years or older, 56 percent have some type of cell phone; also up from 47 percent two years ago. Add to this group those who are younger than 50, who are connected 24/7, and you can bet medical practices that aren't invested in this type of technology are missing the boat. Here are some important, but not difficult steps you can take to get "plugged in" with your patients.
Collect contact data
First, revise your patient information form to collect everyone's mobile phone number and e-mail address, and get permission to contact them through these various channels; including text messaging. Then ask what their preferred method of contact is, and if you can send them e-mail information about your practice from time to time ― don't forget to document their responses.
Jazz up your website
Next, give your website a report card. Be prepared to make major revisions to bring it up to date, make it more user friendly, and communicate more information to your patients. Your website needs to tell patients why you exist: In other words what are the services you provide and why do you provide them. If you have a mission statement, display it prominently. If you don't have one, think about making this a priority. It would be helpful for your patients if the website included links to information sources you trust, to provide information about the 10 to 20 most-common conditions you treat. Also, provide a map of your practice location, pictures of the providers, and short biographical sketches that discuss physician training and expertise. Include a menu of your services, the payers you contract with, and basic information about your practice.
I recommend you hire an objective expert on website design and copy writing, to lend their expertise. Homegrown websites can sell you short. The website needs to portray your image in the most positive way. Web content influences the impression you and your practice make on your local community. Make it a powerful statement, with creative design and strong messages.
Build a patient portal
Next, get in touch with your practice-management system vendor and find out what you need to do to develop an encrypted patient portal, as a means of communicating with patients. This can improve patient service and save both staff and patients time. There are many expanded services that can be offered through your patient portal if you choose. For example, you can allow patients to access a limited portion of their patient record, provide results from diagnostic studies, and remind patients when it's time for an annual check-up.
Find out what patients want
Patients love it when you create a patient management system that allows them to search for information, such as the date of their last appointment, last cholesterol testing/results, or when they had their last mammogram. All this allows them to help you better monitor their health. The beauty of this is you can choose what features you wish to offer. And by the way, you can even conduct a patient satisfaction survey through the patient portal to find out what patients really think and want from your practice.
The world of technology is full of opportunities to provide better service for your patients, and get them raving to their friends and family about you. So what are you waiting for?
Judy Capko is the founder of Capko & Morgan, a healthcare consulting firm. She is located in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Judy is the author of "Secrets of the Best-Run Practices," "Take Back Time," and coauthor of "The Patient-Centered Payoff." Capko is a national healthcare speaker may reached at [email protected]