Enhancing the Patient Experience With Digital Tools

Healthcare providers, from large medical systems to small practices, have their eyes on adopting software solutions that streamline administrative processes and workflows in 2024. By deploying new technology, providers can position themselves to grow their patient base, speed up the revenue cycle, and provide patients with the best possible experience.

Michelle Dowling, Executive Vice President of Marketing at Rectangle Health, shares her thoughts on how healthcare technology that simplifies the business ultimately impacts patients.

Rectangle Heath: Michelle, let’s talk about some of the trends and opportunities that healthcare practices have in the new year. Patient acquisition and retention is going to be a big focus in 2024, as practices look to grow in volume and see better margins. Healthcare costs have been on the rise for years and, according to recent research by Deloitte, CFOs in the industry expect premiums and out-of-pocket costs to surge for patients this year. Meanwhile, medical appointments can sometimes take months to schedule, which is frustrating for consumers who have become accustomed to the quick convenience of online commerce. What can providers do to bring in new patients, while maintaining the ones they already have?

Michelle Dowling: The patient/provider relationship is so important and critical for continuity of care. In today’s always-on, information-in-an-instant world, not having an open dialog with a provider presents a risk. Healthcare should not be a drive-through experience. Therefore, ensuring the practice has an established, digital footprint helps patients navigate complex systems and allows them to successfully create long-term, meaningful relationships with their providers.

Providers know that having a website and basic online tools like online appointment scheduling, text capabilities and reminders, are table stakes in today’s patient experience. Unfortunately, many providers are limited by legacy systems, and need to search out solutions that work seamlessly with their current practice management software so they can offer these services. Patients have high expectations for smooth, digital engagement with their practitioners, and this can mean the difference between gaining new patients and retaining current ones.

Rectangle Health: This is great advice for providers. But as more of them catch on to these trends and make changes, it may be difficult for one healthcare practice to stand out among their peers. What can practices do to attract new patients?

Michelle Dowling:  Marketing has become a key tool for providers because it enables them to inform potential patients about their services. But marketing a healthcare practice takes time, consistency and budget—all things that are hard to come by at busy practices. Yet the health of the business depends on it. Practices aren’t used to having to rely on online marketing to promote their businesses, so they have to learn this new skillset.

But marketing is only a piece of the puzzle. Today’s patients also want to be able to connect quickly and conveniently to their providers. Technology that emphasizes patient self-service can help. The digital tools mentioned make it easier for them to make appointments and maintain care. The best part is that they benefit patients, but also alleviate administrative burden on providers and staff. Less phone calls for reschedules and appointment reminders and increased show rates make for a smooth-running practice.

Rectangle Health: An online presence also requires reputation management. Patients put more stock into provider reviews and online profiles than ever before.

Michelle Dowling: Historically, or at least pre-pandemic, providers didn’t rely on surveys or online profiles to drive care and new patient acquisition. The future of their practices largely depended on interactions with patients and referrals to bring in new patients. Now, things are different; online reviews have become fundamental to provider selection.

Research by Press Ganey found that nearly 60% of patients today believe the process of finding care is easy or not difficult, compared to just over 45% a few years ago. Instead of choosing providers based on referrals, patients are handling the search and selection process online. Patients rely on digital sources three times more than provider referrals when choosing a new primary care physician.

Today’s consumers want to know what they can expect from their providers. Like a retail product, patients are scouring the web for reviews and details about others’ experiences. From there, they decide to book an appointment or move on and keep looking. This absolutely can create delays in care, making it even more important to be able to find the information they need online. That’s why practices must also be aware of, and address, any negative reviews.

Rectangle Health: Lastly, staff retention obviously continues to be a big issue for healthcare practices, and 2024 looks to be no exception. What do you see providers doing to attract and retain talent?

The pressure and demand for operational and clinical efficiency will continue to increase. In 2023, we saw a higher priority placed on looking inward and leveraging technology (e.g., automation) to improve the efficiency of existing processes over new technology investments. We believe many organizations are now focused, and will continue to do so, on efficiencies in the back office and better process automation.

Organizations will continue to struggle with physician and nursing burnout and on a positive note, are doing something about it. They want to support their staff and practitioners wherever possible, so, sign-on bonuses, increased pay, referral programs and enhanced benefits are all on the table.

And providers have good reason to address the challenge. A recent poll of revenue cycle management (RCM) executives by Experian Health found that the staffing shortage has hindered both RCM and patient engagement. Most respondents see this as a long-term issue, as hiring new people can be challenging with ramp-up time, passage of knowledge, and the time needed to train.

So, the question is, how do you alleviate some of the burden? One way is to lean in and on automation. As healthcare organizations confront the complexities between legacy workflows and the evolving demands of modern care, automating processes can significantly free up time, create savings, and make a better staff and patient experience.

Establishing relationships with vendors who can help fill gaps in the day-to-day workflows can solve some of the operational challenges in today’s practices.

We can’t wait to show you what Rectangle Health has in store for you in 2024, so stay tuned. And if you’d like to learn more about how Practice Management Bridge and our patient engagement services can improve your processes, schedule a demo today.



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