Healthcare is changing on so many levels. Patients’ needs are evolving, and expectations are increasing for the quality and access of services offered by providers. The main catalyst igniting these changes, as is the case with most things these days, is technology.
In years past, patient experience and doctor-patient relationships weren’t at the forefront of healthcare. Recent developments, however, like the shift toward value-based reimbursement coupled with patients’ increasing demand for improvements has brought them into focus.
Individual practices and mammoth health systems alike need to adapt to the changing face of healthcare. Staying on top of technological advances can help organizations stay relevant in a constantly evolving environment. Here are a few tools that can have a serious, positive impact in that effort.
Face-to-face communication between providers and patients is no longer a necessity like it was just a few short years ago. The advent of telehealth changed that. Providers are now able to connect and offer their services to patients remotely.
Receiving a diagnosis about an ailment doesn’t have to mean spending 45 minutes in a waiting room. Receiving care from the best hospital available doesn’t have to involve crossing state lines. Doctors can now analyze a condition, monitor vital signs, setup video chats with patients, share records and much more, all from a computer or even a mobile device.
Patients gain access to doctors independent of geography. This makes receiving care more efficient and convenient for patients, but it also opens new revenue streams for providers. The ability to reach patients who live hours (and sometimes days) away allows providers to offer their services to a wider audience and increase revenue significantly.
The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), a Charleston landmark, has been at the forefront of the telehealth movement. With the goal of bringing high quality healthcare services to underserved communities, MUSC is leading the way in this advancement in the way patients receive care, and helping to change the face of the healthcare industry.
Quality Improvement Tools
The shift toward value-based reimbursement is sending providers scrambling to improve their services. When this happens, both patients and providers benefit. Patients receive higher quality care, and providers ultimately become more effective.
Determining how well your practice is performing in different areas, however, is not easy. That’s where quality improvement tools come into play. These tools allow administrators to dig deep into patient satisfaction, how particular providers are performing, overall clinical effectiveness and much more. The data they collect from surveys and other efforts can then lead to positive changes through just-in-time learning materials and the ability to expose and correct flaws.
Located in Charleston, SE Healthcare has developed a platform that is helping healthcare providers across South Carolina and beyond to improve the patient experience, enhance operations and be able to negotiate higher reimbursement from payors. Through a specialty-specific software, the Charleston-based healthcare consulting company is helping make a difference for both providers and patients.
Electronic health records (EHR) allow providers to collect detailed records about patients. Ideally, these records go beyond just basic info and include medical history, test results, allergies, and other critical information that can help improve the quality of a patient’s care.
The data can easily be accessed by the ER, specialists, new practices, or whoever needs to access a patient’s records (confidentially, of course) in relation to the care they’re providing. The records travel with the patient. This creates efficiency for both patient and provider.
Health systems across South Carolina are realizing the importance of getting away from paper and shifting record keeping into the digital space. Greenville Health System, for example, approved a $97 million investment into an EHR system spanning 8 hospitals. Investments like these are quite common in recent years and have allowed health systems like GHS to more efficiently access patient records across multiple locations and improve operations significantly as a result.
While companies communicating via social media isn’t new, adoption of the practice for marketing and for communicating with patients has been a lot slower in healthcare than in other industries. Considerations like HIPAA compliance and other legal issues have scared healthcare providers away from using social media in many cases.
The problem is, there’s a ton of value in using social media to communicate with patients. Incorporating social media into a practice’s communication strategy can really help engage patients and improve their overall experience. The ability to disseminate information to patients quickly and efficiently can help keep them aware of what’s going on at your practice and keep them abreast of important news.
Trident Health, which services the Charleston area, has developed a robust social media presence. With over 5,000 followers on Facebook, and a decent presence on Twitter, YouTube and Google+, the health system has effectively built a platform for blasting out information and engaging with its patients on a higher level.
Getting on Board
While the tools presented above are essentially in their infancy, they have each already proven to be of significant value. Studies have shown a correlation between higher quality care and increased revenue coupled with lower costs.
Statistics also back up the value of EHRs. 75% of physicians in a recent study stated that EHRs had increased practice efficiency. They also touted over an hour of time saved per day as a direct result of EHRs. It’s hard to ignore the value there.
Early adopters of these technologies are reaping the benefits. Practices and providers that hesitate are at risk of falling behind. The evidence is plenty, so it’s critical that organizations get on board now and not wait. Playing catch up is never fun.
Author: Anthony Gaenzle, Director of Marketing and Communications, Saxton & Stump, LLC and SE Healthcare Quality Consulting
Anthony is the Director of Marketing and Communications for Saxton & Stump, LLC and SE Healthcare Quality Consulting, as well as the founder of the AG Integrated Marketing Blog. He previously served as Director of Marketing for a global content marketing agency and founded AG Integrated Marketing Strategists, serving in a marketing consulting role.