How advances in patient engagement technology help physicians overcome challenges and maximize profits by focusing less on administrative tasks and more on patient care.
Running a primary care practice is no easy feat. Between no-show appointments, combating negative reviews, staffing shortages, and tightening reimbursements, physicians and administrators have a lot on their plates. When these issues go unresolved, they bring severe financial pressures that can affect a health care provider’s bottom line.
One way to alleviate these pain points is through patient engagement technology. Advances in technology help physicians overcome challenges by better guiding patients through the complexity of the health care system, regaining lost revenue, and driving outcomes and patient satisfaction upward.
Here are a few ways patient engagement technology enables primary care physicians to work smarter, not harder.
Missed appointments cost the U.S. health care system a staggering $150 billion annually. In an effort to combat this loss, physicians often send the patient a reminder a day or two in advance of their appointment. But 76% of patients admit to ignoring or declining calls from a health care provider because they couldn’t identify the caller, and it’s easy to miss a single text message.
A better solution is to move beyond the simple appointment reminder to a patient experience technology platform. Instead of a one-way reminder text, engage the patient with a workflow that is multi-touch with more than one reminder and that gives them the option to confirm, cancel, or reschedule their appointment. Add in additional pre- and post-visit communication and the patient is now both aware and informed about their appointment journey.
Furthermore, digital intake solutions remove the need for paperwork that is a hassle for both patients and staff. With digital payment solutions, patients now have the option of when, where, and how to pay for their visit, reducing the burden on administrative staff who are often tasked with trying to simplify the complex world of medical payments.
Finally, studies have shown that it takes patients an average of 8.1 minutes to schedule an appointment via telephone, with staff transferring calls 63% of the time – a system that is clearly rife with inefficiencies. Instead, live-chat capabilities for staff and patients reduce this inefficiency by ensuring that patients don’t get lost in a phone tree and can go right to the source for the needed information.
The results of these digital solutions are substantially lower no-show rates and patients who have a higher affinity for their provider who eliminates the headaches commonly associated with medical appointment scheduling.
Staffing shortages are another major challenge in the medical field. Since the pandemic, the health care industry has experienced unprecedented resignations, with 84% of nurses and 62% of physicians reporting feelings of burnout. As staff shortages fuel burnout, focusing on technological solutions that relieve the burden on the remaining staff will be critical to staff retention.
This is where automation really pays dividends. By automating patient recalls with easy scheduling options, staff are free from administrative tasks to focus on patient care. Advanced providers and larger health care systems should also consider an AI-powered virtual assistant. In addition to providing 24/7 self-service scheduling options, it can also answer routine patient questions, send patients educational resources, assist in the check-in procedure, and offer medication refill reminders.
While it may seem counterintuitive for patients to “want” to come back and see their physician, we certainly know that there are times when they “should” come back. Annual physicals, flu shots, and general well checks are all beneficial to the patient’s health as well as their relationship with their physician. Regular campaigns programmed into a digital patient engagement platform can increase these types of visits, leading to better outcomes for the patient and more positive reviews for the physician.
Speaking of positive reviews, it’s somewhat surprising to see research that has found that patients value reputation over metrics such as clinical outcomes. That means that a potential patient may trust what they read on Google from a patient they never met more than the positive outcomes they (or a friend) received under care of a physician. While avoiding negative reviews should always be a goal, it’s just as important to secure positive reviews as well.
And this is yet another way where automation and digitization can help a physician. With today’s technology, physicians and their staff can now configure automated text or email-based patient notifications to solicit feedback. This feedback can then be either published online or a physician can be notified automatically of any responses that require immediate feedback. Not only does this increase revenue by attracting newer patients and ensuring higher retention rates, but it also helps physicians identify areas of improvement, including Net Promoter Scores and Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems scores.
While we looked at three primary components of a digital patient engagement platform above, there are many more services all designed to enhance the patient experience through their health care journey, while also improving the bottom line. In fact, the return on investment on digital patient engagement is paid back in multiple ways, including happier and healthier patients, an energized workforce, and the ability to see more patients to maximize business revenues and reimbursements.
With so many benefits, one final question remains: Why isn’t automation and digitization the standard of care for primary care practices?
Vik Krishnan, MBA, is the president of TeleVox, a business unit of West, and has been with TeleVox since 2020. Previously he was chief operating officer of West’s Cloud Collaboration and UCaaS business unit. He was also the cofounder and first CEO of CipherHealth, a digital engagement company in the health care space, and he has worked at Bain & Co. and the Boston Consulting Group.