Top Strategies to Enhance Your Ambulatory Patient’s Experience, Part 2

Patient Engagement

July 26, 2023
Happy woman using her phone to complete medical forms

Easy-to-implement ways to enable patient convenience & selecting a vendor partner

In Part 1 of our 3-article series, we presented the business case validating why action must be taken now to upscale the patient experience ─ or face losing the primary care market to new entrants and market share. In Part 2, we share easy-to-implement digital ways enabling convenience plus tips to select the right digital patient engagement solution.

Actionable ways to vastly improve the patient’s experience using conversational chatbots are numerous and growing since AI exploded onto the healthcare scene over the past decade. Quick, affordable and easy-to-implement “low-hanging fruit” is fast becoming the preferred approach for patient-friendly digital interactions, especially in a time of limited healthcare budgets and resources.  

These quick wins provide healthcare leaders with a strategic alternative, dovetailing perfectly with “scrappy innovation,” an emerging mindset that rejects long-term, traditional IT approaches. Instead of waiting months or years relying on electronic health record (EHR) vendors to release a patient engagement product, IT innovators at hospitals, health systems, and practices are adopting simpler and less costly digital solutions to improve the patient and staff experience and get ahead of the competition now. Organizations today can introduce new AI-powered strategies deployable within a reasonable time to support patients and consumers, who are now the central players in the healthcare delivery system.  

Seven Simple Use Cases to Transform Medical Practice

Accenture’s 2021 Health and Life Sciences Global Experience Survey reveals four factors for creating a positive patient experience: Emotional support, digital adoption, trust, and access.  

Digital technology doesn’t replace the human touch, but it can promote empathy-driven patient experiences by ensuring that relevant information is available at the right time and place, freeing clinicians’ time, building trust and ultimately improving health outcomes.

Digital services support a positive patient experience by enhancing access, engagement, and health outcomes, closing gaps and fostering continuity of care. They improve the patient journey by enabling convenience.

The following are common benefits achieved by patients and providers.

  1. Improve access to care. Helps patients manage their health with:  
  • Self-scheduling of appointments made within a reasonable time.
  • Auto-reminders sent prior to appointments to reduce no-shows, leading to new revenue growth.  
  • Pre-procedure guidance, which is distributed prior to scheduled visits and ensures patients are prepared, preventing the need to reschedule.
  1. Minimize wait times and optimize patient flow. Digital intake promotes faster patient throughput while enabling more meaningful time to engage with the patient.
  1. Enable convenience. 24/7 access to care via omnichannel options, including digital self-service, improves employee work-life balance, productivity, and staff and patient satisfaction.
  1. Strengthen personalized, proactive communication. Digital interactions delivered in simple, conversational human language reinforce verbal instructions, helping patients prepare for doctor’s visits or procedures, and becoming better stewards of self-care.
  1. Enhance partnership with patients and staff. Clinicians and staff guide patients with a series of outbound outreach activities, such as:    
  • Proactive patient campaigns to close gaps in care.  
  • Post-visit or post-procedure check-in to monitor a patient’s condition and medication adherence.
  • Appropriate health literacy-informed patient education.
  • Fast-tracking of patient feedback to address concerns from surveys and online reviews.
  1. Increase patient time with physicians. Disseminate pre-visit assessments, education and treatment information, and complete digital intake to reduce busywork during the visit and to create more time for quality interactions.
  1. Lower cost of care delivery. Utilize a combination of increased patient throughput, decreased staff costs, and reduced no-shows to generate new revenue.

The Benefits of Improving Patient Experience Extend Beyond the Patient

Automation, advancement in communication technologies (e.g., HIPAA-secure texting), and digital front door solutions such as conversational chatbots and virtual visits give healthcare staff more time to focus on their patients as opposed to time-consuming, routine administrative tasks.

The following illustration presents a series of proactive communications spanning the patient’s journey. Shown are the power and advantages of asynchronous remote communication, an effective tool that creates workplace efficiencies to improve the patient and staff experience.  

Decorative image for gaps in the patient journey.

Why Keeping People Healthy Requires Proactive, Not Reactive, Care

Most healthcare services delivered today start when patients contact a clinic, hospital or health system. But what if the patient doesn’t know that they need to call?  

As consumers, we are accustomed to receiving preventive reminders from our veterinarian, our dentist, our children’s school, and even our auto repair shop. Why not from our primary care provider?  

Most individuals are unfamiliar with best practices for preventive medicine nor do they possess the clinical knowledge of how to apply these practices to their own situation. This lack of healthcare access and early detection and treatment are linked to poorer health outcomes. Numerous studies show the implications of preventable health conditions that go undiagnosed and untreated becoming more severe and life-threatening. As consumers, we are accustomed to receiving preventive reminders from our veterinarian, our dentist, our children’s school, and even our auto repair shop. Why not from our primary care provider?  

Physicians and their staff must adopt proactive reminders to educate and guide patients to follow evidence-based best practices to better manage their health. Today, organizations use office staff or care coordinators to provide telephonic outreach individually to patients to communicate their next doctor’s appointment. This antiquated approach is unscalable from a staffing and cost perspective.  

Digital outreach is the solution to coordinate patient outreach communications. Organizations can leverage data in their EHR and scheduling systems to determine which patients should be seen and integrate that patient list with a digital communication platform. A digital reminder can then distribute health literacy-informed education while offering online appointment scheduling options to the patient list. The result is better health for the patient, incremental revenue for the primary care physician, and overall lower costs for the health plan for preventable conditions caught early and treated.

A man and female older doctor talking inside an office.

How to Select the Right Digital Patient Engagement Solution

Applying the K.I.S.S. principle (keep it simple, stupid) to your digital health strategy removes unnecessary complexity. In this context, your investment plans do not require an overhyped enhancement to your EHR application, millions of dollars, or hours of wasted time strategizing or hiring contract resources.  

Start with the quick and easy, such as selecting digital tools that solve problems patients care about and the pain points overwhelming your staff. Equally important, select affordable digital technologies that are agile, scalable, and deployable within a reasonable time, deliver immediate results, and can integrate with your organization’s EHR system.

✓ Offer what the patient wants, such as:

  • Diverse channels of two-way communication. To support individual patient preferences, present digital tools that initiate virtual visits and HIPAA-secure patient texting. Look beyond clinician-to-patient texting for 24/7 convenient self-service options, such as conversational chatbots and self-scheduling.  
  • Personalized patient education. For providers wanting to increase digital adoption, it’s important to note that receiving better information about their health is one of the top three reasons why consumers use digital technologies. Most organizations have content partnerships. Select a vendor who can incorporate your existing content in pdf, video or other multimedia formats into their tools.
  • Patient health literacy at their level. Many patients do not have the level of health literacy needed to access a portal, navigate and search for information independently, and read and comprehend generic content to apply to their self-treatment. Pick out a solution that provides personalized information in both traditional and digitally innovative ways written at the fifth-grade level. For example, instead of disseminating generic procedure prep instructions when scheduling a procedure, employ conversational chatbots to support personalized education and instruction timed to when the patient needs to take action.

✓ Focus on what your staff needs, such as:  

  • Reduces phone calls. Invest in HIPAA-secure patient texting to curtail the daily frustration of ceaseless phone tag between patients and providers. Ensure the solution supports the creation and choice of Quick messages for common response generation, and easily creates and supports use of forms and consents.
  • Alleviates staff burden. Conversational chatbots are a widely used tool to automate routine administrative tasks, freeing up time for staff to spend on meaningful and satisfying patient interactions.  
  • Get rid of the clipboard. Look for a solution that supports automated patient campaign outreach. The tool must be capable of auto-capturing signatures on forms plus other needed information and images, e.g., insurance cards, and then automatically uploading the materials to the patient’s EHR. These automated activities reduce staff overtime spent creating, scanning, and shredding reams of paperwork.
  • Integrates with workflow and EHR. Design the workflow to reduce duplicate documentation.

✓ Consider what your organization needs, such as:

  • Flexibility. Avoid niche solutions that solve limited problems. Select a platform with the power and flexibility to address a wide variety of needs. Come prepared with a curated list of specific problems and workflows for improvement to share with the chosen vendor; and request a product demo and customer testimonials displaying how their solution solved these problems.  
  • Self-serve tools. Opt for a solution that minimizes reliance on the vendor or expensive IT resources for content and workflow creation and modification.  

We recommend using this checklist to help you think through your needs and evaluate new communication platforms and vendors.

In the third series article Part 3, we will explore how to build a solid foundation for success with your selected digital vendor partner.

The Author
Bobbi Weber

Bobbi is a lifelong learner who is passionate about enabling healthcare transformation. She has 20+ years of healthcare experience in care delivery, consulting, healthcare IT, and market strategy.

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