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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.

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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 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.

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


Contacts

Jenn, Mr. H, Lorre

More news: HIStalk, HIStalk Connect.

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From the PRM Pro 8/24/17

August 24, 2017 From the PRM Pro No Comments

This is the first in a new monthly series on patient relationship management.


Leveraging PRM to Reach Patients Without Losing the Human Interaction Element
By Jim Higgins

These days, there’s not a health IT solution that doesn’t promise to “bridge the gap between patients and doctors.” You hear it from solutions across the health IT spectrum – from apps to EHRs. Admittedly, these tools do improve communication to some extent, allowing providers to collect patient data and use it to inform care interactions. However, they often still fall short of one critical aspect that is at the heart of every good patient-provider relationship – providing patients with personalized communication and outreach.

Even with smartphone adoption among US adults on the rise (77 percent of adults own a smartphone, according to Pew Research), nothing can replace human interaction. People want to talk to their doctors about their issues and concerns on a one-on-one basis. They want reassurance and information. Most importantly, they want a partner who has a vested interest in their care.

In order to maintain vital human interaction with patients, create lasting relationships, and improve patient experience, providers need technology that is tailored to patients and nurtures positive patient relationships. This is where patient relationship management (PRM) technology comes in.

Understanding Patient Needs for Human Interaction

Because human interaction is still so key to patient-provider relationships, physicians will only benefit from smarter technology that helps them better communicate with their patients. To do this, physicians should consider how the personal technology habits of patients have evolved. Whether they’re in their late 50s or early 20s, the growing majority of patients want to be reached by their doctors in the same way they’re reached by friends and family – via text messaging and personalized email. For example, 92 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 said they own a smartphone. Older adults, including Gen Xers and boomers, are following suit. Eighty-eight percent of adults ages 30-49 own a smartphone, as do 74 percent of those ages 50-64. Additionally, according to a recent study on patient-provider relationships, 73 percent of patients want to be able to text their physician’s office. An even greater number (79 percent) would like to receive text messages, especially about appointments.

The bottom line: Patients want to be involved in their healthcare. Using technology they are accustomed to from daily personal use can improve transparency; engage patients on a more frequent, personal basis; and, in doing so, boost overall satisfaction.

A More Personalized Approach to Communication Through PRM

PRM strategies can help providers communicate with their patients on a more personal level. PRM doesn’t simply offer a “one size fits all approach” to physician practices. A practice can incorporate tools like online scheduling applications, appointment reminders, texting capabilities, and email campaigns into their communication with their patients in a variety of ways.

Let’s say a practice wants to do a better job of reaching millennials. As millennials age and have more spending power, their preferences for convenience are expected to disrupt the traditional healthcare system. To address this, the practice could start texting or emailing appointment reminders to their millennial patients to better cater to that generation’s preferred method of communication. Doing this would help to limit missed visits, which can help improve care and reduce cost.

A physician may also consider other ways of personalizing communications. While regular e-newsletters that address the specific needs and concerns of millennials don’t replace the human touch, they demonstrate that a health organization is compassionate and committed. Finally, a provider can text invitations for patients to leave reviews after a visit, encouraging its most digitally savvy patient demographic to post positive reviews to attract and retain patients.

Or, let’s say the healthcare organization wants to reach its boomer patients. For these individuals, practices can employ similar PRM tools — but in a different way. Like millennials, boomers are also open to text and email communication. Digital appointment reminders and self-scheduling follow-up appointments offer patients the flexibility they look for in a physician. A PRM tool can also be used to dispatch marketing campaigns, letting boomer patients know about a new service or product that’s tailored to them, such as bone-density screenings or 3D mammograms.

Using PRM to Improve Patient Experience

Tools that help practices improve and maintain human interaction with their patients are key to improving efficiency, care quality, and patient satisfaction. While technology can’t replace the human touch, patient relationship management strategies and solutions can help practices build better, longer-lasting relationships with their patients, leading to more effective care.

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


Contacts

Jenn, Mr. H, Lorre

More news: HIStalk, HIStalk Connect.

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