Patient Relations Management in 2019: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Healthcare is changing at a rapid-fire speed, leaving care clinicians and health workers frantically trying to keep up with regulations, policy, and expectations from patients.

In spite of all the progress that’s been made in patient recruitment, care management, care navigation, and care coordination, health systems are continuing to play catch up.

In order for healthcare to overcome these challenges, we need to take an honest look at the good, the bad, and the downright ugly aspects of patient relations management and how they all affect patient care.

Patient relations management in 2019

Before getting into specifics, let’s take a snapshot of where we are right now. Both clinicians and patients want to nurture stronger relationships, but they often don’t know where to start.

Care teams and providers’ biggest complaint is that they are struggling to navigate the shift to value-based care. In order to survive, they need to improve patient outcomes, reduce ER utilization, and reduce patient hospital readmissions. Meanwhile, they’re bombarded with new options for tools promising to improve patient relations management.

This leaves care providers asking:

  • How do I know which telehealth or care management solution to choose?
  • How can I best help my patients?
  • What’s the most cost-effective option?

These considerations extend from primary care clinics all the way up to massive health systems. They want to provide better care but are limited by cost considerations and faced with uncertainty when choosing a new solution.

After all, care teams are trained to focus on people, not follow along with the newest tech advancements. Sometimes IT can get in the way, making it harder for care teams to improve patient engagement and also report a healthy ROI.

On the other hand, patients are frustrated by radically different care experiences. For instance, even when they do locate a good doctor, time constraints might make it difficult to fit in time to ask the right questions—and get the answers they need the most.

Due to our fragmented healthcare system, patients also experience inconsistent levels of care both within care teams and between practices. The result is that patients’ standards are rarely met, leading to further detachment.

Based on these observations, let’s take a look at the best (and worst) of patient relations management.

The good: how modern medicine has positively impacted patient relations

Patient portals give patients and care teams more access to health data than ever before. This leads to more empowered and proactive patients and better patient relations.

Today, providers have many more options for helping patients via telemedicine—such as video visits and photo sharing. And even though there are still some remaining challenges associated with privacy, most offices have overcome the greatest HIPPA concerns and are ready to tackle other factors that influence reimbursement and revenue streams.

As a whole, healthcare is using health information technology (HIT) to give patients more input into their health choices while allowing care teams to step in when needed. With this trajectory, there’s hope for the future of healthcare in the United States.

The bad: holes in the data

A major challenge for patients and clinicians is data that’s either missing or unavailable. For instance, wearables like Apple Watches and Fitbits allow patients to track meaningful, useful data such as heart rate, physical activity, and the electrical activity of their heart. However, this data isn’t regularly sent to doctors. Even when it is occasionally shared, the burden rests on patients to follow up with their doctors to understand what the data means.

In addition, social determinants of health provide unique barriers to better patient care reports and engagement. For instance, some populations simply don’t have access to certain tools. In rural areas, patients often have limited access to highly trained medical staff. Others in urban areas may face socioeconomic factors or a lack of transportation that limits their options for health services.

Healthcare needs to develop better tools to reach all segments of the population. Care programs and workflows need to be centered around patients. Communication strategies need to make it easy for patients to get help. For example, if care teams are primarily focused on elderly populations, they need to anticipate a higher concentration of phone calls.

The ugly: patient nonadherence

Despite all the HIT innovations, patients are still falling between the cracks and care providers are left grappling with these questions:

  • How do we find them?
  • How do we reach them?

What makes this even more perplexing is that patient drop-off isn’t necessarily because care teams are failing to reach out (although sometimes that is the case). In reality, patient relations are more complicated than that.

Some urban patients may have little to no access to healthy meals. Others struggle with a lack of transportation and can’t make it to scheduled appointments or educational classes that will help them offset their conditions. Others still may be inhibited by traditional doctor’s hours because they interfere with their home life and work schedule. Care coordination and navigation still have a long way to go before patients experience a truly seamless care experience.

What care teams can do to fix patient relations management

Care teams need a system that gives them greater insight into patients’ conditions and their barriers to wellness—for Care Management and care navigation purposes as well as the ability to coordinate care with other providers.

This type of system will equip care teams with the ability to know how to help, who to help, and when to help.

To learn more, download our Patient Relationship Management guide to revolutionize PRM at your healthcare organization. 

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