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From the PRM Pro 6/20/18

Why Every Medical Practice Should Make the Leap to the Cloud
By Jim Higgins

Jim Higgins is the CEO and founder of Solutionreach in Lehi, UT.

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Just over a decade ago, the only cloud we knew about was that big, white, fluffy thing in the sky. Since around 2006, however, “the cloud” has changed life as we know it. We use the cloud to binge watch Netflix. To create a work report via Google Docs. It enables us to protect and save pictures through apps like Dropbox. We use the cloud to connect with loved ones on Facebook or Skype. And — without question — cloud computing has completely changed the face of business. It is estimated that by 2020, 60-70 percent of all software, services, and technology spending will be cloud-based.

While healthcare traditionally lags behind the rest of the business world, research shows that cloud computing is making its mark here as well.

  • Ninety-two percent of healthcare providers see the value of cloud services.
  • Sixty-seven percent of healthcare offices are currently using SaaS applications.

Moving to cloud-based applications has a number of advantages for medical practices. The top reason people in the industry like cloud computing is because it saves money. But beyond the financial advantages, there are many other reasons every practice should consider moving to the cloud:

1. Improved patient satisfaction. The cloud gives patients unprecedented access to their own medical information, keeping them informed and engaged in their own care. And they like it. In fact, the majority of today’s patients say that they would choose a doctor that uses the cloud over a doctor that does not.

Today’s patient platforms (powered by the cloud) make it possible for patients to “meet” with their doctor virtually. For those patients who live far from healthcare facilities, have a strong fear of the physician’s office, or don’t have readily available transportation, this option can be the difference between being seen or not. The growing desire for cloud-based virtual visits is backed up by research that shows three out of four patients (77 percent) say that they want access to virtual care and telehealth.

In addition, the cloud gives physicians unparalleled access to information about a patient’s potential condition, based on data from thousands of patients with similar symptoms — all accessed via the cloud. As doctors are able to more accurately diagnose disease in their patients, patient satisfaction rises.

2. Disaster protection. A few years ago, one of our clients experienced a devastating fire that destroyed their entire practice. Fortunately, they had all of their appointment information set up on the cloud. This meant that they were able to know which patients were scheduled to come in that day and easily shoot off a text letting them know about the disaster.

Using patient communication through the cloud keeps you in contact with patients no matter what your situation (even if the only problem is a power outage). In addition, when patient files are stored on the cloud, they are easily accessible if you move to a temporary facility while rebuilding. In the case of a large-scale disaster, where the patients have been impacted as well, the cloud gives patients access to their own medical information—making available everything from important prescriptions to a full health history.

3. Better collaboration. It is generally agreed upon that collaboration is one of the most important aspects of effective healthcare, indicated by the 96 percent of executives that say a lack of intra-office collaboration or poor communication leads to mistakes. Cloud computing is a great way to improve communication and cooperation between doctors, staff members, and office managers.

By allowing professionals to communicate instantly via the cloud, everyone in the office can have the information they need — wherever they may be at that moment. If something unexpected pops up during the course of a regular day, cloud-based applications make it possible for the entire team to handle the change without needing to hunt each other down.

4. Reduced burden on everyone. More than half of all practices say that using systems via the cloud reduces the burden on staff or allows them to function with fewer staff members. In addition, 68 percent of patients say they feel relief when their provider offers the ability to complete tasks through the cloud. The cloud moves some of the burden from staff to patients — giving them a feel of more control over their care at the same time.

By moving many administrative tasks to the cloud, practices also leave the window open to growth. Administrative tasks that once took up a large part of a practice’s day can now be taken care of without any work required by staff. A majority of patients say they have paid their bill over the cloud via a patient portal. And 77 percent of patients say the ability to schedule appointments online is important to them. The cloud allows practices to be flexible and scalable when it comes to adding new patients.

Simply put, cloud computing is no longer just a nice-to-have option for healthcare practices. It is critical to the future growth and competitiveness of every office. By moving to the cloud, you can maximize your resources all while making patients happier. It’s become a no-brainer.


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From the PRM Pro 4/11/18

April 11, 2018 From the PRM Pro No Comments

Putting the “Value” in Value-based Care
By Jim Higgins

Jim Higgins is the CEO and founder of Solutionreach in Lehi, UT.

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Healthcare in America has struggled with multiple challenges in recent years. Costs are at an unprecedented high while health outcomes are subpar. As of 2017, the cost of healthcare in the US averaged $10,345 per person — the highest healthcare costs in history. And yet, despite spending twice what other developed nations spend for health care, Americans experience a lower life expectancy, greater prevalence of chronic disease, and overall poorer health outcomes. Walter Cronkite once echoed the thoughts of the general public when he said, “America’s health-care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.”

In an effort to make care more convenient, effective, and affordable, the healthcare industry has recently been shifting away from volume-based care towards value-based care. This means providers are increasingly receiving payments based on the value of care they deliver rather than the amount of treatment completed. While the push to make this move has been going on for nearly two decades, it’s only recently that the shift has really picked up steam with both government and commercial payers. Experts note that the trend towards value-based care will continue into the foreseeable future. According to a 2016 survey from ORC International, 58 percent of payers are moving towards full value-based reimbursement, and 63 percent of hospitals were part of some ACO. Those numbers continue to grow about 10 percent each year.

What does value-based care mean?

As with any big change, adopting a value-based care model leaves providers with questions. Many of these questions revolve around the meaning of value. How is value defined? What services constitute value? How can a practice determine if they are providing sufficient value? To understand how to implement value-based care, it is critical to know how value is defined. The following are the key initiatives payers use to determine value in a value-based care payment model.

1. Patient experience. At the center of value-based care is the patient experience. Not to be confused with patient satisfaction (which is a subjective measurement), the patient experience encompasses every interaction that can be easily measured. Measurement is key. The patient experience includes things like ease of scheduling, wait times, patient access to healthcare records, and clear communication between the patient and provider. To provide excellent value, every aspect of the patient experience should be as seamless and easy as possible.

2. Proactive care. A major goal of the value-based care model is to improve poor health outcomes through proactive care. Proactive care includes preventative care as well as on-going care for patients with chronic conditions. In days gone by, proactive care often meant simply outlining a health plan and hoping patients adhered to it. Today, practices are expected to implement specific strategies to actually motivate patients to follow those health instructions and show up for regular appointments. Proactive care starts with uncovering the reasons behind non-adherence and then removing those barriers. This often requires more touch points of communication than many practices have historically given. Proactive care strategies can include everything from appointment reminder texts to educational newsletters to video explanations of treatment to medication reminders and more.

3. Patient risk assessment. Using technology, patient data can be analyzed to identify those who have potential health risks. These are the patients most likely to have poor health outcomes and, subsequently, need proactive care. According to a recent Chilmark Research report, current risk stratification models account for only 10 percent of a patient’s health outcomes and are not sufficient to meet the standards of value-based care. These risk models focus on the needs of the practice rather than the needs of the patient. Value-based healthcare organizations should include social, behavioral, and environmental factors in their risk assessments. These social factors account for as much as 70 percent of health outcomes.

4. Care coordination. One “value” pillar that practices should examine is the effectiveness of care coordination across the entire healthcare system. Care coordination, while important for all patients, is especially critical for those patients deemed to be high risk. When care is coordinated across all specialties, practices are better able to eliminate gaps in treatment. Care coordination requires comprehensive and timely communication between all of a patient’s providers and, when done well, leads to improved care and better health outcomes.

5. Patient-reported outcomes. Using a combination of surveys and questionnaires, patients are being asked about their healthcare experiences more than ever. Patient-reported outcomes are defined by the FDA as "any report of the status of a patient’s health condition that comes directly from the patient, without interpretation of the patient’s response by a clinician or anyone else." It is through PROs that the more subjective information about a patient’s experience is gathered. Collecting and evaluating this information provides insights that enables practices to develop a more patient-focused (i.e. value-based) process.

The shift to value-based care is often overwhelming at first, but knowing the basics helps ease the transition. The growing pains are worth it. As practices adopt value-based care, the entire healthcare system will benefit — including providers, patients, payers, and society as a whole. Value-based care reduces costs, increases efficiencies, boosts patient satisfaction, and results in better health outcomes. Dedicating the time and training needed to put the “value” in value-based care is a win-win for everyone.


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From the PRM Pro 2/21/18

February 21, 2018 From the PRM Pro No Comments

The Future of Healthcare: Artificial Intelligence in 2018
By Jim Higgins

We’ve all seen it. What was once considered to be something only found in Sci-Fi movies is quickly becoming part of our daily reality. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are integrating themselves into all aspects of our lives. Studies show that 74 percent of Americans already use AI every day. Healthcare is not exempt. Variations of AI are starting to pop up in every corner of the industry. From robots that can interpret lab results to programs that help doctors make intelligent decisions during surgery to bionic hands that can “see and learn” in order to improve movement, it’s hard to find an area of healthcare not impacted by AI. And although artificial intelligence is still in its infancy, 75 percent of healthcare executives say they have plans to invest in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and predictive analytics within the next three years. Here are the reasons I predict AI will be one of the biggest healthcare trends in 2018:

AI increases practice efficiency

Healthcare employees have been bogged down with repetitive, menial tasks for decades. These tasks take away from time spent with patients and increase burnout for employees. AI is finding ways to eliminate these challenges. According to reports from healthcare executives, the automation of these time-consuming tasks is one of the key ways they anticipate using AI. Some of the most popular AI systems include those that eliminate the burden of:

  • Routine paperwork (82 percent).
  • Scheduling (79 percent).
  • Timesheet entry (78 percent).
  • Accounting (69 percent).

By eliminating these time-consuming tasks, healthcare employees will be able to spend more time building relationships with the people who matter most — patients.

AI makes life easier for physicians

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, it is anticipated that the US will face a physician shortage of up to 88,000 doctors by 2025. With burnout rates for physicians already hovering above 50 percent, these added demands will only add to their burdens. AI is one way to reduce pressure on physicians while improving clinical care.

AI makes decision-making for complex care treatment much easier. We live in a world with an ever-growing number of diagnosable conditions as well as patients that now have two, three, four or even more diagnoses. With literally billions of people (and almost as many medical conditions), there are an infinite number of possibilities of overlapping diagnoses. Treatment that may work for one patient may not work for another. This puts a huge burden on physicians and can negatively impact outcomes for patients.

AI, used in conjunction with a physician’s care, can help with this challenge. AI systems can now use algorithms to analyze data based on treatment decisions that have been (and are still being made) throughout the world. Add to that data analysis the ability to continue to learn and apply predictive analysis, and it’s easy to see how AI will begin to help practices provide higher levels of safety and quality for their patients while potentially reducing the workload of physicians.

AI revolutionizes the patient experience

At first glance, AI seems to have the most application for physicians. However, it also provides ample opportunity to improve the patient experience. Today’s patient has high demands of their provider — demands that are often difficult to meet. AI is one solution. Patients are already interested in medical-based AI. A study found that, as of 2016, 54 percent of patients were willing to embrace AI and robotics in their healthcare, and that number is growing every year. What are some examples of what AI can do for patients?

Improve outcomes—there are currently medical apps like PeerWell that help patients take a proactive role in their own care before or after surgery. These programs give patients specific daily plans for care. As the patient enters their information each day in the app, the program can make adjustments to their recovery plan based on the results.

Enrich communication—AI offers the potential to reach out to patients in a much more detailed and individual way. Through machine learning and AI algorithms, practices can easily reach out to patients when and how they prefer with more customized communications, whether it’s for simple reminders or diagnosis-specific education.

AI combined with human touch is the key to success

AI is an incredible tool to help meet the evolving complexity of healthcare and needs of modern patients. Despite all the hype, AI will not replace physicians, but instead enhance the quality of care offered by them.  As Wipro CTO K.R. Sanjiv put it, "While it can learn on a basic level, AI doesn’t rise to the level of human intelligence or pose a meaningful threat to human workers. Once you understand what you can’t solve with AI, you’ll see just what you can." AI will not dehumanize the healthcare experience; instead, it will provide a more detailed and personalized experience for all involved.

While AI itself may not directly threaten a doctor’s job, experts warn that physicians who take advantage of AI will eventually place physicians without AI technology at a significant disadvantage. Similarly, healthcare systems that are integrated with AI will eventually replace those healthcare systems without. Integration will become a necessity, not a luxury. As with all technology, it is important to balance the benefits of AI with the vital need to engage and connect. Finding ways to leverage AI in order to put more of an emphasis on the human component of healthcare is key to long-term success.

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Jim Higgins is the CEO and founder of Solutionreach in Lehi, UT.


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Jenn, Mr. H, Lorre

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From the PRM Pro 1/22/18

January 22, 2018 From the PRM Pro No Comments

The State of the Patient-Provider Relationship in 2017
By Jim Higgins

The relationship between a patient and their provider has always been at the root of positive outcomes for patients and success for a practice. Unfortunately, this relationship has hit some bumpy spots in recent years. Providers can no longer rely on clinical care excellence alone to keep patients coming back. Patients expect the full customer experience. Never has this been truer than in 2017.

Here are some of the trends we saw in the patient-provider relationship throughout 2017:

The “Amazon Effect” moved to healthcare

It is a well-known fact that Amazon revolutionized the customer experience. As founder Jeff Bezos explained, “We’re not competitor obsessed, we’re customer obsessed. We start with the customer and we work backwards.” Their strategy worked. The Amazon effect created a shift in the way individuals view their relationships with businesses. Today’s customer now assumes that companies will anticipate and meet their needs ahead of time. These expectations have made the leap to healthcare. Patients now expect an Amazon-like experience, and they don’t just want stellar care, but connection and accessibility as well. Excellence is now expected to be the norm for providers, not the exception. Meeting these rising demands is difficult. In fact, a study of healthcare CEOs found that meeting these consumer-based expectations is one of the top three challenges facing those in the medical industry. Why?

Practices must juggle competing priorities

Declining insurance and Medicare/Medicaid payouts have left practices spread thin. Today’s doctors are seeing more patients than ever before, and yet their incomes are either flat or falling. Falling reimbursements have forced practices to increase the number of patients being seen—leading to extra stress on staff and a “Jiffy Lube” experience (where practices try to get patients in and out of the office as quickly as possible) for patients. Unfortunately, such an experience is not what Amazon patients demand. Today’s patients want personal, connected relationships with their practices—the opposite of a Jiffy Lube experience. The result of such a disconnect? One in three patients report they will switch practices in the next couple of years.

Patient relationship management tools — the “Amazon” of healthcare relationships

For the foreseeable future, the number of patients that practices must see each day to stay profitable will not change. Reimbursements are largely out of a provider’s control. How do practices meet the demands patients have for high-quality personalized care when seeing such large numbers of patients? Technology. Technology is healthcare’s answer to meeting the needs of Amazon patients. Connection through technology is not only effective, but it is what patients want. Studies show that 60 percent of patients would like to receive text reminders and 70 percent want text communication that goes beyond reminders. The same is true for email. Nine out of 10 patients prefer doctors who email their patients.

Patient relationship management tools enable practices to reach out to large numbers of patients and create real relationships. They support on-going communication through different mediums, making it much easier for practices to develop and nurture relationships with their patients. In addition, using technologies like these reduces the stress placed upon practices. For example, practices can save hours of time on phones. The average phone call to set up an appointment takes 8.1 minutes. Multiply that by the number of patients seen in a practice and the time wasted is astronomical. In fact, administrative tasks are one of the biggest irritants for practices. Using text, email, or online self-scheduling reduces the workload. Unfortunately, the majority of practices still do not use text or email to communicate with their patients. Implementing better patient communication technology is an easy fix that practices can—and should—tackle in 2018.

Looking to the future

The world is marching forward. It is critical that practices evolve with it. Embracing technology that helps move the patient experience from Jiffy Lube to Amazon is going to play a critical role in a practice’s success. According to McKinsey, over half of patients say they have the same customer service expectations from healthcare that they have from non-healthcare businesses. This trend is only going to grow. Now is the time for practices to embrace that reality and start making changes.

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Jim Higgins is the CEO and founder of Solutionreach in Lehi, UT.


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Jenn, Mr. H, Lorre

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From the PRM Pro: Utilizing PRM Tools to Treat the Person Inside the Patient

November 16, 2017 From the PRM Pro No Comments

Utilizing PRM Tools to Treat the Person Inside the Patient
By Jim Higgins

Patient satisfaction has been eroding for decades. Our recent study on patient-provider relationships found that around 50 percent of patients don’t feel like their practice cares about them. Of course this isn’t true, so what exactly has happened? Experts theorize that after Medicare changed its reimbursement program in 1992, it inadvertently rewarded practices for increasing the volume of patients seen each day. And increase they did. Today, 80 percent of physicians report being overextended or at maximum capacity. The result? Patients have started to feel more like a number than a person.

According to a separate 3,000-person survey conducted by Nuance, 40 percent of patients feel rushed during appointments. And an NIH study found that primary care doctors interrupt their patients after an average of 12 seconds, and spend just 11 minutes total with each patient (nearly the same amount of time patients spend filling out paperwork).

Patient-Provider Relationship Affects Health Outcomes

It’s not just patient satisfaction that is damaged by a poor patient-provider relationship. A growing body of research has found that health outcomes have a direct link to the connection patients feel to their physicians. For example, one study asked patients to rate their visits based on the connection they felt to their provider. Researchers then tracked how their health fared over time. When patients had a strong relationship with their providers, they not only felt more satisfied, but objective measures showed they had fewer symptoms of disease.

“There is something in the human body that says we are hardwired to get better when we have a certain relationship,” explains Howard Brody, MD a PCP and director of the Institute for the Medical Humanities at the University of Texas Medical Branch, in Galveston. Creating a personal connection between each patient and their medical practice is a key component of practice success. When patients feel like a number instead of a person, the risk that your patients will switch to a competitor increases. This can impact patient outcomes while simultaneously presenting a financial risk to providers.

Leveraging Technology to Enhance Human Connection

Medical offices are busy. Fortunately, there are ways to create a connection beyond the exam room. Technology is a big piece of the solution. According to results from a recent Surescripts survey, patients look favorably on practices that use technology, believing that doctors who use technology are:

  • 70-percent more organized and efficient.
  • 40-percent more innovative.
  • 33-percent more competent.

This is because technology has universally become part of the human daily experience — and not in a bad way. Because digital communication is so pervasive, contact that would once have been few and far between can now be more frequent. In other words, when used correctly, technology is actually enhancing human relationships, not replacing it. The key is to integrate the right technology, in the right way, into a practice.

Using PRM to Improve Patient Relationships

Patient Relationship Management is one of the latest tools in the medical technology toolbox. Through the use of PRM, practices are able to provide on-going communication with patients on a personal level, significantly improving the probability that patients will feel a connection to and relationship with their medical practice. While PRM platforms provide a wide range of communication methods, the following are the most likely to create a quick connection with patients:

1. Text message — Seventy-two percent of Americans currently own a heavily-used smartphone. Seventy-nine percent read email on their smartphone and 97 percent use their smartphone to text. Patients want to communicate with their healthcare provider via smartphone. Our study found that 60 percent of patients want text reminders. Seven out of 10 patients say they would like text communication beyond just reminders as well. And it’s not just Millennials. Even half of Baby Boomers would prefer text messages. Through personalized text messages, practices can regularly reach out to patients.

2. Email — Nine out of 10 patients prefer doctors who email their patients. Sending regular newsletters via email not only allows practices to convey important educational information, but also enables practices to provide a personal touch. Through regular emails, practices can keep patients abreast of things happening and changes going on at the practice.

3. Social media — Forty-one percent of people say that social media would affect their choice of a doctor, hospital, or medical facility. Social media is a place where practices can connect in a positive way with patients on a daily basis. Because social media is informal, it is also a good way for patients to get to know the people in their practice, further deepening the relationships they share.

Developing Relationships via Technology

Practices that adapt their communication methods to match those of modern-day patients improve patient satisfaction and health outcomes. Change is difficult in the healthcare industry and many medical practices still use outdated communication tools. Making the switch to technology such as PRM tools can lead to success for both patients and practices.

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Jim Higgins is the CEO and founder of Solutionreach in Lehi, UT.


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Jenn, Mr. H, Lorre

More news: HIStalk, HIStalk Connect.

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