Thanks to health tech innovations in recent years, patient expectations have changed dramatically — and the patient experience has changed as well.
Take, for example, time spent sitting in waiting rooms filling out paperwork. Patients used to arrive at appointments early, manually fill out countless forms, and wait until those forms were processed before speaking with their care team.
Now, patients can complete their paperwork online before their appointment. This improves the patient experience, but it also gives clinicians time to review that information before meeting with the patient.
Patient Relationship Management takes that progress and expands upon it. Patient Relationship Management helps healthcare organizations improve communication, patient engagement, and access to care. It can also help care teams deliver dependable, high-quality care that leads to better outcomes.
All in all, patients expect convenient, online access to their healthcare organization, their providers, their health histories, and their care plans. This was seen most dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic. One consumer survey found an 82% increase in the use of telehealth services and a 50% increase in at-home lab testing during the pandemic.
While many healthcare organizations have since returned to offering in-person care, the need for virtually delivered care is not going away. That’s why digital Patient Relationship Management (PRM) software is needed to maintain your current patients, reach new patients, and improve patients’ experience and outcomes — now and in the future.
Streamline communications with a unified platform
According to the Duke Center for Personalized Health Care, effective communication between care teams and patients is an integral part of clinical practice. It serves as the building block for a strong, long-lasting relationship.
In fact, studies have shown that the communication approach or style used by clinicians is just as important as the actual information itself!
Unfortunately, even when clinicians self-report high levels of communication, patients don’t always feel the same way. When sharing their opinions via surveys, patients consistently report that they want better communication with their healthcare providers.
Several communication-related factors have been shown to positively influence patient outcomes. For example, communication can improve patient recall, boost patients’ understanding of care plans, and increase patients’ adherence to care plans. There are several principles of successful communication:
- Use uncomplicated, simple language.
- Be specific.
- Use some repetition.
- Avoid the use of jargon.
- Check to ensure patients’ understanding.
On the other hand, the rise of electronic health records (EHRs) and other health tech tools is making communication even more tricky. Clinicians using health tech tools need to split their time between speaking with patients and entering data into a computer or other device.
This can reduce time spent communicating with patients and stall patient journeys. Similarly, poor communication tactics have been linked to higher malpractice rates, patient nonadherence to care plans, and a lack of emotional support for patients.
What complicates matters is that patients and clinicians often use multiple channels for communication. While some patients prefer email and text messages, other patients may not have access to a smartphone and can only accept phone calls. Documenting all of these scattered touchpoints can be tedious for clinicians and support personnel without an integrated, intuitive platform.
Care teams also have to mix and match EHRs, PRM software, spreadsheets, and patient portals to gain a full view of the patient’s care plan and progress. Without a unified platform, these teams can miscommunicate, misplace patient data, or unknowingly overlook patient drop-off.
Healthcare doesn’t begin and end in the clinical setting. Patients need to be active partners in their health to achieve the best outcomes. For example, if a patient needs to report an adverse event during their program, they should be able to easily share that information in real time with their care team. Their care team should then be able to see a complete view of all the patient’s records to update or evaluate their care program.
To improve the patient experience in healthcare, a unified platform is necessary to streamline communications.
Make your health IT work for care teams
“Multidisciplinary” isn’t just a buzzword; it’s an expectation. Healthcare is more collaborative than ever, especially with the shift to value-based care. Patients expect their providers to take a cohesive, coordinated approach to their care delivery.
However, the more people involved, the more important it is to create standard operating procedures for Patient Relationship Management. If you’ve ever had a patient “fall through the cracks” — miss scheduling a follow-up appointment, fail to follow their care plan, or skip a medication refill — you know that it can be detrimental to their health.
Mistakes in clinician hand-offs, poor data retention, and click fatigue are common reasons why a patient might not have true continuity of care.
Why seamless patient hand-off is so important
Consider when team members take a vacation or when staff members move to other departments. It’s not always possible for one patient to interact with the same care team member for every single appointment.
Hand-offs between care team members are essentially transfers of responsibility. You should do whatever is necessary to ensure both parties are actively involved in and understand the patient’s status, needs, preferences, and more.
If you do not have a unified system to store your patient data, that might mean sharing hard-copy notes, trying to recall important patient information, manually setting reminders, or stalling a patient’s care program.
Research shows that this more manual hand-off process has many associated dangers, including increased complications, delays in diagnostic tests, uncertainty around care plans, and an increase in preventable adverse events. Patients may therefore have longer hospital stays and increased costs.
Unfortunately, not all health tech solutions offer a better solution. Many EHRs do not support patient hand-off communication or documentation. Clinicians must use other tools as a supplement, forcing them to re-enter data. This is inefficient and may lead to transcription errors.
So how can teams provide an uninterrupted, improved patient experience?
Implementing a unified, organization-wide PRM software enables everyone on the care team to access the same, real-time information. This can help facilitate better internal communication between team members and better coordination between managers and other health staff.
This can also help patients feel like they aren’t getting lost in the system. They don’t have to repeat the same information over and over again to multiple providers or staff members. The patient has a team that knows them by name, understands their health needs, and has a plan in place to guide them toward better health.
Why you need to eliminate “click fatigue”
“Click fatigue” is not unique to healthcare organizations or providers, but it is a unique challenge. When care teams use traditional EHRs or CRMs, they must use a computer mouse and keyboard to manually input patient data. This results in an overwhelming amount of clicks and time spent behind the computer screen.
Due to their use in many organizations, EHRs are the main contributors to this problem. Large periods of screen time can lead to fatigue and decreased efficiency. The longer a clinician uses the EHR system, the greater the fatigue becomes. This fatigue can carry over into subsequent patient visits, leading to a greater number of negative patient experiences.
In fact, it’s been reported that poor usability and inefficient data input is a common complaint from clinicians who use EHRs. A 2017 study found that 70% of physicians who use EHRs say that the software contributes to their administrative burden.
Luckily, these opinions improved when their healthcare organizations optimized how the EHR software was used, meaning it’s time to reevaluate how you can better use health IT solutions to improve this experience for patients and care teams.
Reduce barriers to care using Patient Relationship Management
What prevents a patient from getting the healthcare they need?
You might initially think of high costs, lack of health insurance, or difficulty finding a clinician. But there are also less obvious barriers to care.
- Limited access to reliable transportation
- Clinician shortages in rural or underserved areas
- Living in a food desert, or lack of access to a healthy, varied diet
- Lower socioeconomic status
- Identifying as a certain race and ethnicity, or holding different cultural beliefs
- Citizenship status and language differences
- Living environments affected by environmental hazards
- Poor health literacy
- Lack of internet access, or no access to devices that connect to the internet
- Intellectual or physical disabilities
- Religious beliefs
- Limited access to clinicians knowledgeable in sexual orientations, gender, and gender identity
Health inequity and inequality affect people from all walks of life, but particularly your patients who are socially disadvantaged. Work needs to be done to address these barriers to care so that patients are engaged throughout their healthcare journey.
The rise of telehealth is tearing down many of these barriers. As a wider range of clinicians adopts telehealth platforms, patients who may not be able to attend an in-person appointment are still able to access the healthcare they need. These integrated, patient-friendly, and secure telehealth platforms are even reducing language barriers by increasing access to a more diverse clinician workforce.
Research from Deloitte does caution against thinking that our current, virtual health solutions are the answer, however. Of health executives surveyed, 94% believe that data and interoperability solutions will lead to widespread data sharing. However, 75% also believe that the challenges caused by social determinants of health will remain in the future.
Instead, what is needed are data systems that work in partnership, synching information across platforms and tools for a complete picture of a patient’s health. We also need patient- and clinician-focused digital solutions that increase accessibility, allow teams to better collaborate, and are designed to improve the patient experience throughout their healthcare journey.
Patient Relationship Management gives care teams the support they need
Patient Relationship Management, and PRM software, is designed to not only help clinicians and payers meet their goals but also to assist care teams in improving the patient experience. This approach to Care Management is both team-based and patient-centered.
Patient Relationship Management can streamline communications, assist with seamless patient hand-offs, eliminate clinicians’ administrative burdens, and ensure improved access to healthcare for vulnerable populations. Read the Welkin Health guide to better Care Management to see if this could be the health IT solution for your managed care organization.