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From the PRM Pro 5/6/19

Want to Get Patients in the Office? Talk to Them Outside of It
By Jim Higgins

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

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Do you ever wish you could just “swipe right” and magically find happy patients? If so, you’re not alone. Developing strong patient relationships is almost as hard as developing personal relationships. That’s because these are real relationships that need to be carefully nurtured and grown. Strong patient relationships have a huge impact on the success of your healthcare organization. And just like personal relationships, putting time and effort into your patient relationships is crucial to success.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for weeks, months, or even years (ouch!) to go by between patient visits. It is during these gaps that patients often decide to take their business elsewhere. In fact, the Patient-Provider Relationship Study found that one in three patients will change practices in the next couple of years. One way to help patients stay loyal to you is to reach out during that lull between visits. Email, phone, text message, social media, newsletters, patient portal, instant message …even old-school postcards. There are a ton of ways you can reach out to between visits. Of course, you want to use the most effective and time-efficient methods of communication.

What are those methods?

1. Personalized text messages — Texting has become pretty much ubiquitous. This means that it’s the perfect way to reach out to patients and feel confident that your message will be seen. Studies show that 98 percent of text messages are read. When using text for sending appointment reminders, set up messaging that feels more personal. Using dynamic appointment reminders can allow you to include information that is applicable to individual visits — reminders to fast before a patient arrives, for example. But think about using text messaging beyond just appointment reminders as well. Whether you send a birthday greeting, acknowledge a wedding anniversary, or congratulate a patient on their graduation, your kindness will go a long way toward cementing a real relationship with your existing patients.

2. Educational newsletters — In the Information Age, patients are out there searching for information on all sorts of health concerns every day. It’s no wonder that they appreciate it when they receive this information from their healthcare provider. Nearly all — 92 percent of patients — say that they feel more connected to a healthcare organization when they receive digital education. But, the hardest part about sending educational newsletters is consistency. To make it easy, put together a content library and deliver that information automatically over time. A tool that helps you create, schedule, and send your newsletters will make it even easier.

3. Social media — Americans spend enormous amounts of their time online connecting with other people. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr, Reddit, LinkedIn, YouTube … the list of ways we connect goes on and on. Patients don’t just want to connect with friends and family. They also want to connect with their healthcare practices online. This means that social media is no longer optional. It’s where your patients are hanging out, just waiting to hear from you. Not only does social media have the potential to boost patient trust levels, but it can also do the opposite. When a patient seeks you out on social media and you are not available, the message they receive is that “We do not want to connect with you.” Set up a schedule to post regularly — at least two times per week — and stay abreast of what your patients are saying online.

4. Mobile payments—You may not have ever considered billing to be a way to build stronger relationship with your patients, but it is actually one of the things that impacts patients the most! By connecting with patients the way they prefer to address billing issues, you can make a potentially hot-button issue much smoother. What do they want? Well, they really want it to be a whole lot more like they find in the retail and service world. Unfortunately, 77 percent of providers still use paper-based patient billing methods … even though the majority of patients say they would prefer to receive their bill online. This is troubling, especially when you look at a recent study which found that a whopping two out of three patients say they would switch healthcare providers for a better payment experience. Make your billing experience one that is the most convenient and desirable for patients and you’ll see some of those frustrations disappear.

Staying in contact with patients when they are away from your practice can be the difference between having them show up in your practice at all! Fortunately, there are lots of ways you can connect with patients year-round. And through the use of technology and automation, creating regular patient touchpoints can be efficient and easy.


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Jenn, Mr. H, Lorre

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From the PRM Pro 3/6/19

Digital Technology: The Key to Patient Satisfaction
By Jim Higgins

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

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It’s time to face the truth—we’re not living in the same world we once did. According to the Pew Research Center, 95 percent of American adults own a cell phone and 89 percent use the Internet. This is a huge increase since the year 2000, when nearly half of the population reported not using the Internet at all.

With such incredible growth in access to (and comfort with) technology, it’s easy to see why patients say the use of digital tools is a priority to them in a healthcare organization. In fact, one study found that the use of technology increases patient satisfaction scores by 10 percent or more. And while a majority of healthcare facilities understand the need, many have not yet adopted streamlined digital communications or payment options that meet current patient needs. In fact, only about 9 percent of providers offer all of the digital tools patients want.

What are the best ways to take advantage of modern technology? (Hint: They are all related to improving the patient experience.)

Digital Payment Options

Are you still sending the good old paper bill? If so, you are not alone — 86 percent of patients report receiving paper medical bills. This is true regardless of the fact that 85 percent say they would prefer to pay online! But is it really such a big deal? The answer to that is a resounding YES! Experts report that 65 percent of patients say they would switch healthcare providers for a better payment experience.

Fortunately, using digital methods to send and process payments has never been easier. Not only can you process payments through typical methods like a patient portal, but with today’s technology, balance notifications can be sent directly to a patient’s phone via text message or email. These messages can include a direct link to a secure payment screen where patients can process their payments within minutes. It’s easy and fast—but more importantly, it’s what patients want.

Online Scheduling

For years and years, the only way to make an appointment with a healthcare provider was to call the office. That is all changing. We now live in a time where we’re accustomed to doing everything from buying movie tickets to scheduling a haircut via a simple click on our smartphone. The use of online scheduling — where patients book their own appointments whenever or wherever they may be — is becoming a must-have for healthcare organizations. It takes less than one minute, on average, to schedule an appointment online. In contrast, appointments scheduled by phone take an average of eight minutes. That’s just not practical for patients OR their healthcare organizations.

Seventy-seven percent of patients prefer to schedule appointments online. And practices can make that experience even easier with the right technology. When online scheduling is integrated with your practice management system, it can identify existing versus new patients and adapt the forms so existing patients don’t have to provide information that you already have.

Two-Way Texting

Texting is the most popular way to reach out to friends and family these days — even 85 percent of senior citizens own a cell phone! But people want to text more people than their friends. They like the ability to text businesses — including their healthcare provider. As one study found, 73 percent of patients would like to have back-and-forth conversations via text message with their healthcare provider. With two-way texting, you can:

  • Answer care questions.
  • Schedule new appointments.
  • Discuss follow-up instructions.
  • Reschedule appointments.
  • Anything else you might need!

Of course, you want to make sure you stay HIPAA-compliant whenever you may be sending PHI via text message. Make sure to use technology that offers the tools to stay compliant.

Automated Surveys

It’s something every healthcare organization has experienced: A patient posts a negative review about your services. Most of the time, these negative experiences can come as a complete surprise. Fortunately, there is a simple way to drastically improve your chances of handling issues before patients lash out online. The simple solution is the use of patient surveys. Patient satisfaction (and provider success!) is closely tied to how patients feel about what happened during an appointment. Sending a survey to patients after a visit is a great way to better understand problems and be able to address issues.

In the past, most organizations asked patients to fill out paper surveys in the office. This method is now very outdated. Paper survey results are very ineffective at making any real change. Using technology to email or text your patients a survey after their appointment increases the likelihood that they will give more honest responses. It also makes it a whole lot more likely that they will be filled out. When it comes to making patient satisfaction a priority, it’s critical to gauge if your current technology is up to the challenge. Technology can greatly improve how your patients view you and your entire practice. It can also improve the productivity and efficiency of you and your staff.

Digital technology has changed the world as we know it. From business to education to health, no corner of the world has been left untouched. It allows for better communication between a healthcare organization and their patients, smoother methods for scheduling and payment, as well as an improved patient experience. Now is the time for you to take advantage of the benefits offered by the digital revolution.


Contacts

Jenn, Mr. H, Lorre

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From the PRM Pro 1/9/19

January 9, 2019 From the PRM Pro No Comments

Fielding Regulatory Change in a Cloud-Based World
By Jim Higgins

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

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We all know that the United States has one of the most complex healthcare systems in the world — and much of this complexity comes from regulatory oversight. The vast number of rules and regulations that govern the industry can be absolutely confusing and overwhelming. Virtually everything that happens in healthcare is overseen by at least one regulatory body — and many tasks are overseen by multiple organizations. A recent study looked at the regulatory burden placed on health systems, hospitals, and post-acute care providers just by federal regulations and found that these organizations must comply with 629 independent regulatory requirements from nine different entities, and spend nearly $39 billion annually in efforts to stay compliant.

Some of the most important regulations have a huge impact on communication with patients. These are especially important to pay attention to, as patient communication is critical to practice success. Let’s take a quick look at some of the regulatory issues you should be paying attention to as you move into 2019.

What to Watch in 2019

The first step to staying compliant with all relevant laws and any changes is knowledge — you must understand what the laws currently say. The major regulations that you should be aware of related to patient communication include:

  • HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)
  • TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act)
  • CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act)
  • CASL (Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation)
  • PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act)

At this point, there is nothing official in the works for the upcoming year for the regulations listed above. However, the TCPA tends to be litigated a lot, so there could be some incremental changes or rulings that you may need to adjust to in 2019. Keep a close eye on that.

In addition, patient communication may be affected by some other upcoming changes, including:

  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This is a European regulation that went into effect in May 2018, and governs privacy and the protection of consumer information. You will need to comply with these rules if you serve anyone outside of the United States in 2019 and beyond.
  • California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). This is a California privacy law that goes into effect in January 2020. It adds an additional layer of compliance over HIPAA when it comes to patient data.

Finding ways to quickly (and affordably!) respond to regulation changes like these is critical to the success of your organization. This is one of the benefits of cloud technology.

Compliance and the Shift to Cloud-Based Technology

Cloud computing has changed the world as we know it — and healthcare is not exempt. Cloud-based technology has been embraced as a win for both practices and patients alike. Experts note that the use of cloud-based technology has been proven to reduce costs, improve backup and disaster recovery, and make data easier to access. Cloud computing allows information to be passed easily and quickly between providers, patients, and labs. With secure, yet simple access from any location and a lack of cumbersome software updates, cloud technology is scalable — meaning that small practices can take advantage of the same technology that large enterprise organizations do without hassle. It’s easy to see why 84 percent of healthcare organizations use cloud-based services and 69 percent have plans to expand their use of the cloud.

How Does Cloud-based Technology Impact Compliance?

Cloud computing has been nearly universally embraced as a way to improve an organization’s performance, accessibility, and revenue. But it is also very good at responding to change quickly and effectively. Think about it — vendors can roll out updates and changes much faster on the cloud than old-fashioned, server-based systems (which have to be physically visited on site). In healthcare’s regulation-filled world, this speed and flexibility can be a huge benefit.

But is it Really Safe?

It hasn’t been that long since many healthcare professionals worried that using the cloud was far too risky. The thought was if all of that data isn’t locked down securely on your site, how could you be certain that the information was safe? If you could access it from anywhere, couldn’t cyber criminals do the same? Fortunately, the answer to that is a big NO.

According to one study, 91 percent of businesses said the cloud actually makes it easier to meet government compliance requirements. Data that was once stored in a physical location is now protected by advanced encryption methods online. This encryption makes sensitive information more difficult for unauthorized parties to access. In addition, the government has set up processes for organizations to take advantage of cloud-based services while staying compliant.

What should you do to ensure compliance when working on the cloud? HHS recommends the following:

  1. 1. Make sure service provider enters into a HIPAA-compliant business associate agreement (BAA).
  2. 2. Address specific concerns in a service level agreement (SLA).
  3. 3. Select a vendor that is reputable and experienced.

There are two truths healthcare organizations must acknowledge: Government regulations will always be a big part of the industry. And taking advantage of consumer-driven technological advancements (like the cloud) is critical to the future success of healthcare practices. Fortunately, these two facts are not mutually exclusive. With a little legwork, it is possible to stay ahead of regulatory change while still meeting the demands of today’s digital world.


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Jenn, Mr. H, Lorre

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From the PRM Pro 10/10/18

October 10, 2018 From the PRM Pro No Comments

What does HIPAA Mean for the Future of Patient Relationship Management?
By Jim Higgins

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

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Technology that was the stuff of science fiction just 50 years ago has now become commonplace. Nowhere is this more evident than in healthcare. From mobile communication to wearable devices to remote visits to AI-directed care, technology is rapidly evolving to meet the needs of a consumer-oriented patient base. As Tom Martin, director of healthcare information systems at HIMSS, put it, "The healthcare ecosystem is increasingly converging on patient-centric technology solutions. The role of the provider is to expand far beyond the walls of the exam room, especially as our healthcare system transitions towards value-based purchasing.”

Effective patient relationship management is defined by its ability to create meaningful connections with patients. This ensures that patients will not only return, but also refer friends and family to their provider’s practice. Implementing new technology is a big part of that — and has been shown to have significant benefits for practices. Beyond a jump in patient satisfaction and loyalty, medical facilities that take advantage of new health technology are more profitable, efficient, and productive. The future of strong patient relationships lies in the adoption and integration of a variety of different technologies.

Preparing for the Future

Whether we are ready or not, these technological advancements are here to stay. While exciting, they have also left many scrambling to understand how to take advantage of their benefits while staying compliant with regulations like HIPAA. By preparing now, you can better ensure a smooth transition when your practice does adopt PRM technology. One key to being ready is to stay abreast of the latest technologies and assess which might eventually be a good fit for your particular specialty and individual practice.

To get you started, here are just few examples of cutting-edge technology currently being used by medical facilities to improve patient relationships.

Chatbots

In 2017, UCLA unveiled their Virtual Interventional Radiologist. Using the power of artificial intelligence, they have created a virtual radiologist in the form of a chatbot. The VIR is able to quickly provide evidence-based answers to frequently asked medical questions. Chatbots are also being considered for use in triage, research, patient engagement, and care coordination.

Robotic Care

In February 2018, Humber River Hospital introduced Pepper, their four-foot-tall, humanoid robot. The robot is used to interact and engage with patients and visitors at the reception desk. A second Pepper robot is programmed to work specifically as a part of the hospital’s Child Life Program. In Japan, robots are doing even more. Terapio the Robot makes hospital rounds, delivers medications, and retrieves records. The use of robots in healthcare is expected to explode in coming years. In fact, in anticipation of the predicted nurse shortage, the National Science Foundation has allocated $1 million to the development of robotic nurses.

Virtual Care and MHealth

Another recent addition to the healthcare world — virtual care — is already upon us. In 2018, one in four US adults received some kind of virtual care, and there are four times more who say they would like to give it a try. Nearly half would select an immediate virtual appointment over a delayed in-person one.

Virtual access to health information and communication has also soared. The use of mobile health apps has tripled since 2014, and wearable health monitor use has quadrupled. And the vast majority of users say they’re interested in sharing that health data with their provider. Add to that the widespread use of patient texting and email use, and it’s easy to see why around 76 percent of practices say they use mobile health on a regular basis — with the main use being communication.

Organizations are Working Towards Compliance

These PRM advances bring up a lot of questions about compliance. Fortunately, many organizations are working to find solutions now — before the technologies have completely taken off. One popular idea is implementing the use of biometric data (like fingerprints, heartbeat, or even brain waves) to verify identity before sending sensitive information remotely. In addition, vendors like Fitbit, Samsung, and Apple are all working to create HIPAA-compliant options for healthcare organizations. And just this year, the AMA set new standards for the physician use of AI.

However, you cannot solely rely on outside organizations to do all of the legwork. To be ready for the future, you should start considering what you can do now to make the transition to more high-tech PRM solutions easier. Begin by creating a model of your current patient experience and identify where it would make sense to someday implement these new technologies. Once you’ve identified your anticipated additions, consider how they would be impacted by HIPAA. That way, when that technology becomes more widely available, its implementation will be much easier and more secure.

HIPAA Review Best Practices

Here are a few compliance best practices for the future of healthcare PRM technology … as well as for today:

Regular Security Risk Assessments – It’s easy to become complacent about security, but cyber-attacks get more sophisticated every day. Make sure to institute regular security risk assessments, including IT-specific assessments. Getting into the habit of conducting quarterly risk analyses (not just yearly) will keep security top of mind as you move into the future.

Thorough Vetting of Vendors – Taking a hard look at the vendors you work with is critical — especially as patients demand the latest tech. Choose carefully. Do your research before signing on — look at each individual component of a new technology to ensure it is not vulnerable to attacks. Consider having a specialist on standby for instances when you are unsure about the security of a particular technology.

Up-to-Date Business Associate Agreements – It is very important that you require all vendors to follow proper security protocols to reduce compliance risks. These agreements should clearly outline the vendor’s responsibility and compliance protocols.

Employee Training – One of the most common causes of HIPAA breaches is employee behavior. Make sure that every person who may come in contact with Protected Health Information (PHI), from your cleaning crew to your executives, is trained on HIPAA compliance on a regular basis. You can never do too much training.

Technological advances are coming to your PRM and it’s up to each individual practice to be prepared. As you take the time to review new technologies and actively pursue regular HIPAA compliance activities, you will be prepared to meet the future head-on.


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Jenn, Mr. H, Lorre

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From the PRM Pro 8/22/18

August 22, 2018 From the PRM Pro No Comments

Motivating Your Practice to Communicate Effectively Starts From Within
By Jim Higgins

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

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For years, the healthcare industry has been undergoing a dramatic shift in the way providers communicate with their patients. Modern patients demand timely, effective communication from their practices. If you don’t provide it — they leave. But somewhere in the rush to improve patient communication, internal office communication has fallen by the wayside.

Intra-office communication is the glue that holds a practice together. Poor collaboration and communication within the office leads to mistakes. Whether this is double-booking a last minute appointment, multiple staff members contacting a patient for the same info, or letting a patient walk out the door without scheduling their follow-up visit, these mistakes can be stressful for your staff and may make your patients feel like your practice is disorganized.

Disorganization and poor communication contribute to an unhappy staff. One study found that the top three reasons people don’t like their jobs were all related to communication (lack of direction from management, poor communication in general, constant change that is not well communicated). Motivating your staff to improve internal communication is a multi-pronged process.

Start by making training a focus of your practice. Communication does not come naturally to everyone. Each of your employees will have different backgrounds and different abilities. They may all communicate slightly differently. But cohesive communication is critical to the success of your practice. Studies show that we spend between 70-80 percent of our day in some form of communication. This number is likely even higher in the healthcare industry. Strong communication is really the backbone of a strong team. Scheduling required training sessions on a regular basis where your entire staff can be taught how to ask clarifying questions and practice active listening skills is crucial. This will not only help as they communicate with one another, but as they interact with patients as well.

It is crucial that you practice what you preach. It’s not going to be enough to simply tell your employees about the importance of communication; you’ve got to show them. Healthy, open communication should be a fundamental part of your practice’s culture. And it starts with you. This may mean that upper staff members (including you!) need to receive extra training in communication methods. Then, in every interaction with staff members, model the type of communication you expect from them.

At least yearly, use anonymous internal surveys to allow a way for employees to freely share concerns they have about how things are running. Surveys are a great way to open the floodgates of communication that some employees may not feel comfortable sharing in person. Best practices for internal surveys include being digital, easy to understand, and short enough to complete within just a few minutes. There are a variety of survey tools you can use, including free options like Survey Monkey. The key is to make sure that employees feel comfortable that their responses will be anonymous. In order to get high participation levels, make sure employees recognize the benefit of filling it out. If employees see that changes are made based on survey results, they are much more likely to participate.

Make sure you meet regularly. Practices are busy. Crazy busy. It can be easy for everyone to just move directly to their regular area in the practice, address their duties, and never efficiently communicate with one another. Regular meetings provide the opportunity for additional collaboration among your staff. These meetings do not need to be extremely long or formal to be effective. One of the most successful ways to do this is to provide lunch for your staff once a month to sit, eat, and share ideas with one another.

Finally, find ways to use technology to fill any communication gaps. It’s important to find a messaging tool to improve communication between official meetings. At any given time, your staff members maybe be spread throughout the practice. Giving office staff the ability to communicate with each other, either through group messaging in a chat room or direct messages to a specific team member, can help your team circulate information quickly without ever leaving their desks. The average practice staff spends over an hour every day just trying to track down coworkers and find important information, adding up to over 20 hours each month spent just trying to communicate with each other. With a tool that allows them to quickly message each other and share information, that time can be better used to interact with the patients in the office.

Effective internal communication is important for every single practice. No exceptions. Effective communication boosts employee morale, reduces mistakes, and improves processes. The best communication starts with the practitioner and spreads to each member of the practice. As meaningful communication becomes the culture of your practice, your patients will feel the benefits, too.


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Jenn, Mr. H, Lorre

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