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EHR Integration is Key to Patient Communications

Sarah Bennight, Director of Product Marketing, Stericycle Communication Solutions

The Electronic Health Record (EHR) has been positioned as the source of truth, delivering real-time patient-centered records that make information available instantly and securely to authorized users. The dirty little secret is that hospitals initially invested in EHR systems to primarily track billing and coding, helping them run their business (not necessarily improve their care) more efficiently.

As the EHR has evolved, it has become an effective means of sharing a digital patient record with other providers across more than one health care organization such as laboratories, specialists, medical imaging facilities, pharmacies, emergency facilities, and school and workplace clinics – so they contain information from all clinicians and greatly improve a patient’s care. In fact, on February 11, 2019, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) released proposed rules aimed at driving the U.S. healthcare system toward even greater interoperability of electronic health records (EHRs)

But while EHRs are driving better healthcare, they’re not being used to drive other important aspects of the healthcare provider’s business. Specifically, there has been a lack of integration between EHRs and marketing and communications systems, precluding organizations from reaching patients quickly and easily.

Now don’t get me wrong. EHRs were not originally built for marketing. But the data included in a patient’s health record can be a goldmine for marketers. In an ideal world, EHR systems would seamlessly integrate with contact centers and even marketing and customer relationship management databases, enabling providers to deliver relevant communications that consumers desire. In general, organizations will have to spend thousands of dollars and lots of time writing custom code to make the systems talk. Even then, it might be worth the money. Why? Today’s patients have high expectations when seeking information and services about healthcare. As generations Y and Z mature and become responsible for their own healthcare, the industry needs to adapt and evolve its communications strategies in order to connect with customers in a format they prefer. This is also important for the business of the providers.

Patients don’t want to have to talk to or interact with multiple communication systems – they want a single and rewarding experience across all touchpoints when interacting with their healthcare provider.

Here are three benefits of integrating EHR systems with marketing communications activities:

  1. You can more easily customize communications. With more information you can effectively tailor the messaging that is specific to a patient’s appointment including what they specifically need to prepare, what they should bring to the appointment, pre-visit instructions, and when to arrive. This gives patients the feeling you are speaking to them directly and will likely motivate them to show up to their appointments on time and ready.
  2. Information is power. Today’s patients want more involvement in their care and more knowledge about their own health. The most efficient way to get patients involved is to engage with them often and empower them with information not only about compliance but about prevention based on their own personal medical history.

  3. Your business depends upon your patients. While caring for the patient’s well-being is your number one priority, you are also running a business. Engaging patients personally, tracking their progress, scheduling needed follow-ups based on their last visit, and helping them comply with any medication requirements shows them you are paying attention and ultimately care about their well-being because your communications are personal, accurate and timely.

Ultimately healthcare providers want their patients to feel they are doing everything in their power to best address and meet their patients’ specific health needs. But patients and providers are also human, and crave a personal connection – patients want you to know them. Integrating EHRs with marketing communication systems can provide this more complete picture of the individual patient, allowing you to be more personal in your outreach, create patient loyalty and generate valuable referrals to help grow your business.