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In the transition to value-based care, patient relationship management technology bridges the information gap

Jim Higgins, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Solutionreach

Written by: Jim Higgins

With the doctor shortage amid a rise in healthcare costs, patients and physicians are feeling nervous about future changes in health care.

Nevertheless, the shift toward value-based health care continues, even in an era of regulatory uncertainty.

By 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will require 50 percent of payments to be value-based, while an increasing number of studies indicate a growing number of reimbursement plans are linked to outcomes.

For physicians who are uncertain about what the shift towards value-based care means to them specifically, as well as their patients, there are two options: Wait to learn more about the unknown, while staying silent, or reframe this uncertainty as a unique opportunity to educate patients and shape their outlooks (and outcomes) while providing high-quality care. Physicians should focus on the second option as value-based care takes off, especially considering that physicians are already experiencing challenges when it comes to patient engagement.

In moving forward, physicians will benefit from taking this time to familiarize themselves with technology solutions that can help practices improve their patient communication and engagement, while arming patients with the tools and resources they need to make their best decisions.

Leveraging communications technology to educate patients

The evolution of technology gives patients a choice in their healthcare decisions, and more resources to make those choices, such as online price-comparison tools. Patients are savvy decision makers who expect more value out of their provider relationships, and they want physicians who are true stakeholders in their healthcare.

However, as patients become more like consumers, providers need to increase their use of technology solutions, such as patient relationship management tools, to manage their patients’ healthcare needs within and beyond the exam room. This includes their patients’ needs to be informed and educated about everything from healthcare regulations to disease-specific care trends.

The data varies, but one recent study indicates more than 75 percent of patients use online reviews as their first step in finding a new doctor. Meanwhile, 62 percent of consumers have used mobile apps to look up information about a health condition, according to a Pew Internet Research smartphone study.

While technology can help consumers learn more about medical conditions, healthcare laws, and insurance – and compare providers, too – nothing can truly replace a trusted healthcare provider’s guidance.

Patients tend to favorably rate physicians who are able to attend to their individual needs and offer a personalized touch both in and out of the office. They appreciate a physician who can guide the patients in understanding not only their own healthcare, but how healthcare policies could affect the quality of their lives.

While physicians’ attempt to connect with patients by way of generic email blasts through an EHR or patient portal is a well-intentioned effort to deliver value, it carries the risk of turning patients off. Most patients are already bombarded with email messages and may be more inclined to tune out any communication that is not personalized.

Patient relationship management (PRM) platforms offer physicians the ability to create and send custom messages to different demographics. For example, a practice could reach out to patients over the age of 50 with comorbidities such as hypertension and diabetes to provide them with information on their at-home care and make sure their next appointment is scheduled.

In addition to reaching patients in the way they want to be contacted, PRM technology can also help reduce the staff workload by taking away their administrative burdens, such as calling patients when they need to reschedule an appointment or sending appointment reminders.

Empowering individuals through personalization

Through personalized messaging, PRM technology can help a practice provide its patients with the information they need to make decisions based on their health status, demographics and life circumstances. However, in order to understand how it works, we should consider the hypothetical example of a medical practice with a mixed patient demographic:

Say a practice wants to push out a campaign to its patients with hypertension, who are at greater risk of a heart attack. A practice that uses the PRM tool could push out a heart attack based campaign to specific groups – such as all high-risk patients, or just those who have previously asked about heart health – filled with the most important information hypertension patients need to know. Within that email, a practice could also include links to other websites for additional information on heart health.

Then, a week later, a practice could pull up the PRM tools’ analytics features to observe the specific data, such as the “open” or “click through” rate of the email. By doing this, a practice might learn, for example, that 60 percent of its patients over age 65 clicked on a link in the email for more information. It might also see troubling data: that few individuals engaged with a particular email campaign. This could prompt a conversation about whether existing patient engagement efforts should be revamped to do a better job of reaching patients.

Knowing that a particular group of patients had a high “click through” rate on an email is valuable information to the practice, as it can help determine future actions. For example, perhaps elderly patients with diabetes need additional assistance, and would welcome follow-up calls and further education from the practice. Whatever a practice decides to do, the PRM tool provides the opportunity to open lines for further, and more personalized, communication.

Implementing personalization in the real world

As physicians continue to navigate uncertain times, technology that is built around the patient experience can help them stay ahead of the curve. Patients will continue to look for guidance, and the physicians who can engage patients through messaging will be the ones who stand out in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Given that, patient relationship management technology aligns nicely with the shift into value-based care.

 

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