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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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


Jenn, Mr. H, Lorre

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From the PRM Pro 10/19/17

October 19, 2017 From the PRM Pro No Comments

Trusting Tech: Integrating Technology While Managing Patient Relationships
By Jim Higgins

It’s the peak of the fall 2017 convention/conference season. Healthcare professionals have spread out across the country, educating themselves and checking out all kinds of health IT vendors and solutions. One thing that always comes up, regardless of specialty, is, “How can I integrate technology in a way that doesn’t make life harder for my staff, threaten compliance, or damage the personal relationships we have developed with our patients?”

Integrating technology with regular practice procedures is often met with concern and skepticism from healthcare practices. Fears about compliance issues and the challenges of implementing technology keep many practices from making the shift. Experts agree that the healthcare field is notoriously slow when it comes to the integration of new technology.

Yet patients are increasingly demanding the integration of technology into their healthcare experiences. According to a recent study by Accenture, 65 percent of health citizens globally believe that the benefits of being able to access medical information electronically outweigh the risk of privacy invasion. Of course, no one wants their privacy breached. But, citing security concerns probably won’t appease patients who don’t have much patience when it comes to getting what they want.

With such a large percentage of patients both desiring and trusting a shift to technological integration in healthcare services, practices now must adapt. Luckily, there are options today to ensure that everyone can get what they need. Practices don’t have to give up being compliant to accommodate changing patient expectations.

Embracing Changing Patient Expectations

Patient relationships are becoming increasingly complex. A generation ago, practices simply interacted with their patients in the office and then were done. Today’s patient relationships rely on more than just face-to-face communication — they also have a significant technological component. Just as patients communicate with friends and family via technology, they want to reach out to their healthcare offices through technology as well.

In addition to this shift to technology, patients are also developing more of a retail-oriented mindset. For example, according to the Patient-Provider Relationship study, one in three patients say they will switch practices in the next couple of years. A concerning (and growing) percentage of these patients are switching for service issues. Never has it been more imperative to meet the shifting demands of your patients—including technology integration.

The most prevalent reasons practices are afraid to integrate technology into their patient relationships can be summarized as follows:

  1. Fear of change.
  2. Concerns about technology and compliance.
  3. Inability to build personal relationships through a screen.

Let’s discuss each of these challenges in detail and explore the solutions to these very legitimate concerns.

Challenge #1: Fear of Change

Practices often become so comfortable with “how things have always been done” that they can actually stand in their own way. This is particularly true when it comes to emerging technologies.

Solution: Ensure that each member of the staff is mentally prepared for the improvements that are coming. Using the word “improvement” is a better way to look at it than just “change;” it’s change in a positive direction. Although it is inevitable that some of your staff will be more open to new ideas than others, the commitment to improve can help motivate people. The most effective way to make any new technology a success is to involve everyone throughout the implementation process. When people are involved, it becomes “their” change and they are motivated to make the implementation a success.

Challenge #2: Technology and Compliance

HIPAA, TCPA, Can-SPAM, MACRA, OSHA. The list alone is daunting. Along with the fear of change, the fear of not being compliant with the myriad of required rules and regulations is one of the biggest deterrents to adopting new technologies.

Solution: Ask the right questions when investigating new technology. It is possible to be compliant when integrating technology into your patient relationships. Modern technology allows you to communicate with patients via email and text message while remaining compliant. You simply must address these issues when looking at the change.

Challenge #3: Building Personal Relationships Through Technology

Personal relationships almost feel like the antithesis of technology. We tend to think of technology as cold and unfeeling, and it is true — technology can be a deterrent to warm relationships. But if patients prefer to communicate via high-tech means, it is important to learn how to build relationships virtually. People are comfortable having conversations via text. It’s all about the interactions.

Solution: Select the most popular technologies and then personalize wherever possible. Texting is the most used form of communication in the world. Seventy-six percent of patients prefer texting to phone calls. Texting your patients just makes sense, but simply texting is not enough. Personalize the types of messages, the tone of the messages, and their frequency to better develop your relationships. Personalization is not only critical to success, but very possible with today’s technologies.

It’s time to stop holding on to old ways of doing things and move into the future. Technology holds the key to improving patient relationships. Trust tech to do the job it was designed to do; you may be pleasantly surprised with the results.


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


Jenn, Mr. H, Lorre

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From the PRM Pro 9/21/17

September 21, 2017 From the PRM Pro No Comments

Understand Communication Preferences to Improve Patient Retention
By Jim Higgins

Patients want convenience. They expect your practice to deliver the same kind of “me-focused” healthcare experience they receive from other consumer-oriented businesses. If they don’t get it, they’re likely to switch to another provider. We’re not just talking about patients in the Millennial generation, either. Although this age group may top the list of doctor-hoppers, this Patient-Provider Relationship Study shows that one in five baby boomers (adults ages 52 to 70) is also likely to switch doctors in next few years.

Fortunately, providers have technology on their side. Mobile technology adoption is peaking for patients in every generation demographic. That means providers have a host of largely untapped communications tools at their fingertips, which can dramatically impact patient satisfaction, loyalty, and retention. Tools centered on improving patient relationship management can help providers give patients the personalized healthcare experience they seek.

Inside the Data

As the aforementioned study attests, patients often feel more like a number than a person to their physician practices. This is important to realize because patients who feel detached from their providers are at higher risk to leave and switch to a competing practice.

Based on phone surveys with more than 2,100 US consumers ages 21 to 70, the study reveals some interesting trends when it comes to patient loyalty. In addition to 20 percent of baby boomers who anticipate they’ll soon switch practices:

  • Twenty-four percent of boomers said they’d already changed practices in the past year.
  • Switching PCPs is more than twice as common among Gen Xers (individuals 35 to 51 years of age); 44 percent said they’re likely to change doctors in the next few years.
  • Millennials (21- to 34-year-olds) switch with even greater frequency; 54 percent already have made a recent change, and 43 percent will likely do so soon. 

Such practice-hopping isn’t good for practices or for patients. In addition to impacting a practice financially, this trend can also negatively affect patient outcomes. It doesn’t take a major practice overhaul, though, to make patients feel their individual needs are being met. In fact, the study also found that among patients in every generation, the same three things topped their “ideal doctor” wish lists – greater connectivity, convenience via text and online tools, and more time with their physicians.

Engage Patients with Smarter Communications

Making practice communication more personalized to each patient can be as easy as adding to or replacing traditional phone calls with text or email messages. According to the study, 73 percent of all patients desire the ability to text their doctor’s office, while 79 percent would like to receive text messages from their physicians. (It’s worth noting that a growing number of patients also say they would contact their doctors more often if they could text or email them.)

These data points make sense, considering smartphone adoption is at 77 percent, and patients are expecting more personalized technology experiences. Consumers of all ages use their smartphones to do everything from book flights to buy groceries. By providing personalized communications such as appointment reminders and practice updates — for example, a text that tells when the clinic plans to offer seasonal flu shots — practices have the ability to cement their places in the lives of their patients.

In fact, practices that adapt to the modern-day communication preferences of patients could easily set themselves apart from competing practices. Many medical practices still rely on older communication tools and marketing strategies, such as mailing postcard reminders for annual wellness visits. PRM tools could pave the way to better patient satisfaction — especially for patients looking for leading-edge doctor’s offices. PRM solutions are much like a Swiss army knife, offering numerous capabilities for communicating information and accommodating patient preferences to encourage engagement.

Let’s say, for instance, that a practice wants a more effective way to reach Millennial patients with information about wellness services like dietary counseling. A PRM tool could be used to create personalized e-newsletters, as well as filter the recipients so that the newsletters only reach the desired patient demographic (e.g., patients under 35 who are at risk for developing diabetes). The PRM solution’s analytics function could then measure the e-newsletter’s open rate, which would give the practice valuable data for designing future outreach strategies.

Another PRM solution that earns strong positive feedback from patients is online scheduling. These applications allow patients to set up their own appointments from their devices of choice. Online scheduling gives patients the power to actively select the appointment times that best fit their schedules.

Build Long-Term Relationships

Practices can set the bar higher with PRM technology that offers multiple applications for communicating timely information to patients, in formats that match their preferences. While communication isn’t the only factor in determining whether a patient will remain loyal, it’s one variable practices can control and improve over time. PRM technology is simply one way to deliver the personalized experience patients crave, so they are less likely to wonder if the grass is greener at another clinic.


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


Jenn, Mr. H, Lorre

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