Provider organizations look to tech to improve the patient experience

Novant Health understands the value of getting patients involved in their own care, and it’s using technology to lure them in.

The four-state integrated network of physician clinics, outpatient centers and hospitals has been offering portals since 2011 and was one of the first in the country to have 100,000 patients using the technology to look at their medical records. And Novant is doing more than just providing access to health records. For example, it’s using its database of patient information to initiate personal contacts, such as its “birthday letters” to patients containing reminders about health services and tests that patients need.

It’s a key to the chain’s long-term strategy. “We’ve made it easier for patients to address their needs,” added Ryan Neaves, director of IT applications at Novant Health Lakeside Primary Care. “We can offer an e-visit for patients, and that has really made it a more cohesive experience for them.”

Novant’s experience isn’t unusual. Providers are increasingly seeing the need to improve patient engagement and enrich their experience when they come in for care. At least two key reasons exist—patient compliance with clinical orders needs to consistently improve for providers to improve outcomes and perform better under value-based care. And second, consumers have higher expectations of their interactions with care providers. They have increased control of transactions and their experiences in the retail environment—and they wonder, why isn’t it the same way in healthcare?

Executives of provider organizations say they’re using more technology to boost the effectiveness with which they support patient engagement and experience. IT will be crucial to meet the expected importance of meeting consumer expectations for healthcare in the future they say.

A just-completed survey by Health Data Management finds HIT executives found that 57 percent of respondents say their efforts to deliver patient engagement is either very effective (34 percent) or extremely effective (23 percent). Another 31 percent of respondents said their organization is somewhat effective in meeting rising demands for better patient engagement and experience.

In addition, nearly two-thirds of respondents said their organizations are either highly effective (38 percent) or extremely effective (28 percent) in delivering a positive patient engagement experience.

But expectations are high for the use of technology to improve patient interactions. Some 35 percent of respondents say this is their organization’s top priority; another 46 percent said it is very important, among their organizations’ top areas of focus.

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The study was conducted by Health Data Management and SourceMedia Research, the research arm of HDM’s parent company. A total of 160 responses, primarily from provider organizations, were received in late 2018.

Respondents from providers indicate their organizations are working hard to improve patient experience and engagement. In fact, fewer than 6 percent of respondents overall say their organizations are not at all effective or not very effective in meeting the rising demand for patient-centered activities.

Comments from respondents underscore the importance that healthcare organizations are placing on improving their ability to deliver top-notch service to patients.

“We aim to deliver 100 percent patient and caregiver satisfaction,” one survey respondent wrote.

Because of the rising importance of patient engagement, technology and other resources are being assigned to delivering better experiences.

“We are aligning our staff satisfaction with positive patient experience,” one respondent noted. “We’re utilizing technology to provide our staff with the tools necessary to provide care in a more efficient way,” which will pay dividends in the form of better service for patients.

“We want to better suit the needs of providers to enable value-based care and drive a positive experience (by patients) when engaging with our organization,” another respondent wrote.

Technology tools that enable improved patient satisfaction include virtual care, more informed outreach to patients by providers, an easier and more understandable patient billing system, improved care management and patient interaction after discharge, and bulking up the capabilities and ease of use of portals.

“We want to have all patients leave knowing they were cared for as if they were family,” one respondent noted. “Having the most current technology just improves the efficiency and overall delivery of care.”

The use of digital health and information technology can empower provider organization staff to improve patients’ experience with healthcare organizations.

“We want to provide human caring support, augmented with digital technology that helps track things like nutrition, exercise, medications and blood glucose readings,” one respondent wrote. “Our services are offered to individuals with nutrition-sensitive conditions like diabetes, hypertension, heart conditions and kidney diseases. Technology supports the patient and a heath coach share detailed eating patterns and provides insights into potential nutritional issues … The technology enables the coach and patient to focus on goals, motivations and barriers.”

“We are using technology to better meet the needs and wants of our patients,” another respondent concluded. “For example, telemedicine makes it easier for patients to be seen by specialists that have difficulty leaving the facility. Also technology is helping us to continue relationships after discharge through things like Skype and email.”

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