18 Nov Short on medical staff? Try digital patient engagement
by Jayneel Patel
If you’re feeling the pinch of smaller medical office staff, you are not alone. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics saw healthcare employment fall by around 17,500 jobs in September of this year. A study published by the Association for Medical Colleges estimates a physician shortage ranging from 37,800 to approximately 124,000 by 2034.
Although experts report a rather unhealthy outlook on the volume of healthcare workers, the demand for an improved patient experience is more significant than ever. So how can healthcare delivery services stay proficient, productive, and profitable when faced with labor shortages? Use strategic digital transformation that focuses on digital patient engagement.
One of the benefits of digital transformation is the ability to do more with less. By using a combination of digital engagement with automated, data-based tools, providers can deliver excellent patient care based on an efficient workflow that optimizes your staff’s resources where they matter most.
The key is leveraging a more meaningful use of patient data. A CRM system is only as good as the data it houses. When you create a single source of comprehensive patient data that interfaces with EMR and includes the patient’s medical history, medications, exams, imaging, billing history, caregiver or other personal information on lifestyle habits, etc., you are enabling your CRM to help enhance your patient relationships with thoughtful patient engagement with services your patients prefer—without a huge staff.
From self-service portals and online education resources to remote telehealth services and remote monitoring devices, here are four ways digital patient engagement can be your trusted partners in healthcare delivery when finding employees is a challenge.
Patient self-service portals
Measures to improve patient access to their medical information is top-of-mind for healthcare providers, with the CMS Interoperability Cures Final Act Initiative mandating patient access by 2022. Implementing self-service patient portals not only meets those requirements but also eases the strain on office staff since patients can (and prefer) to handle scheduling appointments, accessing test results, imaging, or billing, and updating their personal contact information on their own.
Studies show that six out of 10 of us were given access to a patient portal in 2020, and almost half (40 percent) of us used it at least once. Around half of patients used a smartphone health app to access the patient portal, and one-third of patients downloaded their online medical records.
When it comes to scheduling appointments, people want quality healthcare services that work with their preferences. For instance, 43 percent of patients prefer booking appointments online, and over half (60 percent) would like to use email or text messaging to schedule appointments.
Implementing applications like Salesforce Health Cloud helps streamline what is typically the most labor-intensive tasks for your medical staff with a centralized platform where patients can submit appointment requests and staff can view availability, confirm appointment requests with automated appointment reminders, and complete intake information and documentation before the scheduled appointment. This information can integrate into the patient’s EMR for seamless access by the healthcare provider.
What was once a fringe novelty for avant-garde healthcare professionals is now the cornerstone for modern healthcare. “Telehealth is now commonplace whereas a year ago it was nascent,” says Patty Riskind, Head of Global Healthcare at Qualtrics. “Patients have become much more comfortable interacting with their physician virtually.”
Polls show that many patients not only use it—they prefer it. One in three adults would choose a telehealth service over an in-person doctor’s visit. For people aged 18 to 44, almost half (45 percent) prefer telehealth services to in-person visits.
Remote patient monitoring devices
A concerted pivot to preventative care makes 2022 the year to strategically promote remote patient monitoring devices for patients. As a subset of telehealth services, RPM refers to the specific technology that electronically transmits information between patients and their doctors.
“This type of patient care extends the reach of physicians, enables a constant relationship between patients and caregivers, and offers providers a continuous stream of real-time health data,” say experts at insideintelligence.com, adding that RPM technology doesn’t require interactive audio-video and virtual visits, nor must patients be located in rural areas. “They simply require technology that collects and interprets physiologic data,” they said.
They estimate that around 30 million US patients will use RPM tools by 2024.
Focus on preventative care through education
There’s indeed no substitute for face-to-face visits with your doctor. But with a physician shortage limiting the time spent on in-person visits, patients can learn more about their condition, treatment options, and other general questions through an online library.
“Your patients can feel more confident about their prognosis and the treatment plan you develop when they have a better idea of just what they can expect to happen to them,” explains Christina Rosario. “Beyond printed brochures and wall posters, you can show them informative videos and use interactive software to educate them about a disease or a treatment modality.”
Now, providers can create and share on-demand educational videos, informational presentations, general health tips, wellness information, payment information, tutorials, etc.
While the state of the healthcare workforce is uncertain, the good news is that CRM software paired with emerging digital engagement technologies can encourage and sustain personal connections with your patients that help them feel better informed about their medical treatment and more empowered when making informed decisions about their care.
Jayneel is VP, Healthcare & Life Sciences, here at Simplus. With a Ph.D. in engineering and MBA from Duke and over 15 years of experience, Jayneel designs and delivers empathy-driven innovative solutions in healthcare. He has developed digital strategies to reduce risk, increase visibility, and improve patient and member satisfaction. His passion is to enable better care through technology.