Selecting the right patient engagement solution

Provider organizations should weigh several factors when selecting software that can help build patient loyalty.

For patient engagement software to be optimally effective, it must integrate with the patient access and electronic health record system environments

Healthcare providers are being deluged by vendors offering patient engagement solutions. A Google search on patient engagement products returns more than 62 million results.

The challenge for providers is determining which patient engagement applications will enable them to create stronger brand loyalty as they compete with other provider networks.

In my own experience, almost all my providers send text and email reminders of upcoming visits that have been scheduled. But only one, an orthopedic surgeon, uses a patient engagement application that also sends pre-visit/preparatory information, measures patient satisfaction with the visit and then follows up using several communication methods to measure progress in achieving desired outcomes.

Providers also may desire to optimize their business processes for patient services with referral management, prior authorizations, bill payments and analytics functions within patient engagement solutions.

For patient engagement software to be optimally effective, it must integrate with the patient access (for example, registration, scheduling and authorization/billing) and electronic health record system environments. But how can providers effectively integrate the workflows and data from patient engagement applications into the enterprise IT environments?

Organizations need to create a strategy for implementing patient engagement solutions that improves their efficiency as well as the quality of care. But what approach is best for the organization: incremental, focused application implementations or a big-bang implementation of a more complete patient engagement suite?

Evaluating needs

Each organization will need to carefully evaluate their patient engagement needs and strategies so they can acquire and implement an effective patient engagement solution. Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) and the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Outpatient and Ambulatory Surgery Survey (OAS CAHPS) are good programs to use to help evaluate solutions.

Provider organizations making their services more intuitive and effective for patients will be better prepared for the upcoming reimbursement transition.

As the market moves toward higher levels of value-based care, patient engagement solutions that drive higher HCAHPS and OAS CAHPS scores will be better investments. But one thing is clear: Organizations need to be focused on using patient engagement solutions that provide patient assistance and guidance through all phases of care and that are easily accessible from any device.

That doesn’t mean that provider organizations should ignore the back-office or non-patient-facing applications that also directly impact patient services. Scheduling, registration, prior-authorization and referral-management applications can also improve the patient experience by eliminating service delays.

A clear differentiator for solutions is their interoperability with enterprise revenue cycle management and EHR environments. Supporting care delivery by enhancing and simplifying enterprise workflows to create less overhead for the business and clinical staff should be a key objective.  

Preparing for value-based care

Value-based care reimbursement uses care-quality and patient-satisfaction metrics to determine provider payments.

The federal government has focused on these types of reimbursement models, and commercial payers likely will adopt similar payment models over time.

The current healthcare economic and political environments suggest that reimbursement will be driven toward Medicare fee schedules in the near term as consumers revolt against the high cost of healthcare. Provider organizations that prepare for this by making their services more intuitive and effective for patients will be better prepared for the upcoming reimbursement transition.

Choosing the right vendor

The KLAS website offers in-depth information on vendors offering patient engagement products.

Thousands of vendors are promoting solutions that range from focused applications to full-blown suites. Beware of large vendors not specifically focused on healthcare. In this market, big doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as successful.

Key steps when choosing vendors include:

  • Select those with a successful track record for effective implementations and proven interoperability.
  • Make sure patient-facing applications have an intuitive design to ensure ease of use and are device agnostic.
  • Validate that patient engagement applications supplement the workflows of enterprise applications to improve usability and operational efficiency.

Provider organizations need to conduct significant due diligence to determine the best fit for their enterprise IT environment and healthcare delivery strategy as the market transitions to new reimbursement models.

For some organizations, the risk of implementing patient engagement solutions can be mitigated by implementing the solutions in smaller, controlled environments where patient satisfaction metrics need improvement. Once proven and stable, the solutions can be extended to other patient care services.

Organizations that want to implement a full suite of patient engagement applications will be more successful using solutions that have been proven in other organizations of the same size and with the same enterprise application profile.

Mike Davis is an analyst for KLAS Research. This column was originally published on the KLAS website here.

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