Modernization is the key to improve patient engagement

October 1, 2020

Physicians feel pressured to provide a modern experience for their patients

The pressure has been on physicians to bring their patient experience up to a more modern patient experience for some time, says Ash Shehata, KPMG’s national sector leader for healthcare and life sciences, based in Cincinnati, Ohio. COVID-19 simply accelerated that process.

What does modernization mean? “We’re well beyond EHRs, some degree of call center handling and traditional communication methods such as phone, fax, and paper.”

He breaks it down into three key areas:

  • Creating a digital patient engagement platform. This means physicians should be able to connect with patients via secure texting, email or chat functions.

  • Having a digital presence. Physicians should have a website and portal with functional capabilities to transact, not just hours and phone information. These capabilities can include online scheduling, refills or other services.

Offering alternatives to in-office visits. Telehealth via video or phone is now a must for any practice that hopes to survive COVID-19. Physicians must be able to offer these services, and, when possible integrate other forms of care such as mental health or social work.

“Digital [processes] as part of the practice is a much broader part of the patients’ expectations,” Shehata says.

Additionally, physicians that will not just survive but thrive in this changing healthcare landscape will be those who capture and analyze data and analytics to create a better patient experience, he says. This includes such functions as being able to prepopulate information and ask for patients to confirm it, rather than asking them multiple times for the same thing, and making sure this is done digitally, not through paper.

“If I have a repeat client and they are coming into my office, why am I presenting them with a clipboard? I don’t even sign a receipt at my local store anymore,” he says.

Well-captured data, he says, is a cornerstone of “longitudinal care,” in which physicians use that information to create a robust, 360-degree view of their patients. He says that telehealth lends itself to this by capturing multiple forms of information that can be used to create a better assessment of the patient.

“If I’m calling my telemedicine doctor and asking about a skin reaction on my forehead, there’s a photo that gets taken, medical history, complaint form, and all of that info is pre-building the visit before the visit. So, having that rich data set gives a better sense of comfort and confidence and opportunities to increase the quality of care,” he says.

Once that data is captured, it also enables the physician to be more predictive, he says. He uses the metaphor of an automobile. “When certain elements of your automobile are depleted, sometimes we have to go back in for a refresh.” A physician can similarly assess their patients’ health with certain vital signs or markers such as cholesterol or blood sugar, he says.

Making the patient experience as modern as possible relies upon having a functional EHR, he stresses. “It’s hard to do any of this with paper forms and digitizing,” he says. However, to do this well might require some sort of third-party patient communication tools such as a care management platform that harvests data and creates prescribed communication plans for patients.

Lastly, physicians should take care to reach out to patients during the pandemic and reassure them that healthcare is still safe, and that staff are taking necessary precautions.“It’s important at this moment in time not to just treat patients as clinical recipients of care, but also as consumers concerned about going into healthcare environments just like other aspects of their lives,” he says.