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How to meet healthcare consumerism head on

By: Nextech | May 12th, 2014

Blog Feature

Increases in copayments, deductibles and co-insurance rates over the past 10 years, as well as the increasing use of health savings accounts, have put a much greater emphasis on individuals taking an active role in how they purchase health services. In short, the age of consumerism has finally arrived for healthcare, but a greater question remains: Are healthcare organizations prepared for the patient-as-a-customer, and how do they positively engage these healthcare consumers to choose their practices over others offering the same services in a very competitive market?

The good news for healthcare practices is there is an abundance of tools available to them that provide effective methods for engaging their patients as consumers while also providing better customer service. Increasingly, these tools reach patients online and via their mobile devices, where the majority of their attention is focused. One way to engage patients is with appointment reminders that enable a medical practice to send a text message to a patient’s mobile device. When the patient confirms the appointment, it is automatically loaded into a practice management system’s scheduling tool. E-prescribing is another service that provides for better customer service by electronically transmitting a new prescription directly from the doctor’s office to a patient’s preferred pharmacy. E-prescribing can also provide alerts to potential drug interactions or allergies based on past prescriptions and medication history.

If patient engagement is the key to influencing healthcare consumer behavior, then perhaps the Holy Grail of patient engagement is the patient portal. This interactive tool gives the power to patients to easily pay bills, schedule appointments and lab work, share lab results, and ask simple, post-office-visit questions of their care team. The patient portal is designed to integrate with a practice’s EMR and provide patients with a hands-on connection directly to their doctor’s office, enabling them to enter personal information and insurance information, as well as past medical history. This saves time at the doctor’s office and provides easy access to medical information while on the go. In short, patient portals position practices as trusted partners in patient care. Portals can also simplify the process of getting a second opinion. Without even scheduling another visit, providers can securely share test results and imaging files, thus boosting efficiency while also proactively engaging with the patient.

Not all tools for that foster greater patient engagement are forward-facing. Providers have a bevy of back office analytics tools they can use in conjunction with their practice management system to help them use their own patient data, as well as third-party data, to more effectively foster loyalty among new and existing patients. When integrated with marketing applications, practice managers can easily track ROI on patient recruitment activities, track prospects and automatically schedule follow-ups at the click of a mouse. Since patients will increasingly use their purchasing might to make decisions based on price and quality of care, it only makes sense that medical practices – especially those that focus on elective procedures – find effective ways to compete for the healthcare consumer’s dollar.

The good news is there are myriad tools available to practices today that make it much easier for patients to do business with them. And the easier it is for patients to get the services they want at an attractive price, the more likely they are to choose a practice over one of its competitors.