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Utilizing Technology to Boost Patient Engagement Post-Pandemic

A word from Kevin Hidenfelter: Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Coming from a family of healthcare professionals, from doctors to nurses, counselors, and educators, drove my passion toward a career in healthcare. I am now a resident of North Carolina and live in a town called Wake Forest, which is on the north side of the triangle. I have been married for 25 years and have two wonderful children, one who just finished his first year of college and one who is now a rising senior in High School. I have now been in the healthcare industry for 24 years as a commercial leader for various services and technology companies, always trying to do my part to improve healthcare and serve the patient.

Recently my passion has shifted towards how revenue cycle companies need to help engage the patient as a consumer and help providers achieve their missions of providing quality patient care. My Mom who battled MS and was always strong-willed, did not want to rely on help unless it was necessary. My father became her caregiver, and the frustrations grew as they were forced to leverage technology that they did not enjoy or fill out many manual forms every time they went to the office. They were also frustrated with a lack of understanding about what their financial responsibilities were, due to the different insurance and payers that they were leveraging. This passion has led me to champion the need to move to Millennia because of my belief that patients are consumers, they will adopt different technology, and that adoption will help them with their patient financial journey.

The Shift in Healthcare Following the Pandemic

The world of healthcare has changed dramatically over the last several years. It was already making the shift toward a consumer-driven model, and the Pandemic has accelerated that conversion. However, while the patient is being treated as a consumer, they are not being treated as a consumer when it comes to the technology the provider requires the patient to adopt.  

According to Becker’s Healthcare, organizations had 3 main business objectives pre-pandemic.

  • Digital transformation
  • Growth and patient satisfaction
  • Diversification of business  

Everyone has witnessed the implementation and evolutions of the EMR systems, and this was a big initiative from the early 2000s until the present. There were financial incentives associated with meaningful use. Many Health Information Technology companies developed and deployed platforms to improve the way healthcare systems operated, gain efficiencies, reduce the amount of effort that was required to perform a task and begin to share medical data so that the providers could improve their patient care.  

Healthcare organizations began to look for ways to increase market share and consumerism of healthcare really started to come to the forefront. Programs such as the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCHAPS) were implemented.  

The recession in 2008 proved that healthcare, while protected from recessions, was no longer immune to the shifts in the economy. High deductible plans became the norm and patients started to decide when they wanted to have procedures done based on cost. Healthcare became more of the patient’s choice, especially for elective procedures. Patient satisfaction efforts increased as hospitals looked at amenities such as food service, parking availability, and others that were not tied to patient care but rather the overall experience.  

Healthcare systems were not only looking for ways to diversify their portfolio through mergers and acquisitions but rather where the patient would be treated. We saw a rise in urgent care, ambulatory surgery centers, and outpatient locations. Healthcare systems also diversified their business portfolios through investments and business ventures.  

Now that we are on the back end of the pandemic, two key things changed in our world: more employees are working in a remote environment and people are looking for information at a more rapid pace and they want to be met with convenience.  

4 trends are being monitored today, and those are:

1.      Patient Satisfaction is declining

2.      Patients are recognizing their role in healthcare

3.      Patient experience begins online

4.      Patients with greater access to data perceive higher satisfaction

It should not be a surprise that patient satisfaction scores are lower now than before March of 2020. The pandemic made it difficult to make an appointment for routine visits. Patients struggled to see their primary care provider even when they were sick. Some departments were closed in hospitals and certain practices that were temporarily closed. Each community approached the pandemic differently with rules and mandates and this also presented a challenge of trying to find information. Another huge hurdle is that family members of patients who were hospitalized with Covid often could not see their loved ones or had a hard time getting updates on the patient’s status.    

We have witnessed that online reviews of providers and health systems continue to increase, and it is a fact that people will post more often online about a negative experience compared to a positive one. Patients and caregivers are researching their providers now and determining from whom they will receive care. People are making life decisions such as where to retire based upon healthcare options in the area that they want to call home.  

Patients are more invested in their care, leading them to research the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment many times before they speak with the healthcare provider. They are asking more questions and trying to gain more of an understanding of their health. Patients are also more active in reducing their cost of health and are trying many more preventative measures than in previous years.  

Everyone now searches online to find a great place to eat or take a vacation and that behavior is more common in healthcare today than ever.

  • Patients are on WebMD and other diagnosis websites searching for information
  • Patients are reading online reviews of the providers and procedures.
  • There are social networking groups for people to be a part of a community to share information.
  • Telehealth use skyrocketed during the height of the pandemic and this method of treatment is going to be here for good…patients want to be seen where they are and when it is convenient for them, and not feel forced to fit it in during office hours. We are living in a world of convenience.  

The patient experience is such an important initiative that many CFOs are actively participating on the patient experience team or as executive sponsors.  

Using Technology to Boost Engagement

Many health systems are driving everything through the EMR’s patient portal, from scheduling to final bill pay. This is a great tool, but it is just one avenue to engagement. Patient portal use has not risen significantly during the pandemic surprisingly. Some studies are showing only a 13% increase in use since 2014, which is a telling stat that patients are individual consumers, and those individuals will adopt technology differently. Fierce Healthcare found in a study that 60% of younger patients will change providers due to the digital experience. Another study, that was completed by Medical Economics found that 69% of patients would change providers for better services.  

Patient engagement needs to be approached from the perspective of an ecosystem. Consumers shop using different methods, they purchase commodities through a variety of payment methods. Since healthcare is now consumer-centric, we need to give our patients options to communicate and manage their healthcare. Providers should look to create different entry points or doors for the patients instead of forcing them through the one door that is the Patient Portal. It is also important that the provider’s strategy is considered by their vendor partners, do not replace what they have, we should augment the strategy.  

How Millennia Supports Patient Engagement

Millennia has an ecosystem that allows the patient to choose how they want to engage with the provider, whether it is through technology or human touch. This ecosystem creates a world where the patient experience before care is less stressful and is done in advance so that their time is valued when they arrive for their treatment. This ecosystem also gives the patient multiple ways to pay their balance that is due after the insurance has adjudicated the claim. We have found that by having this ecosystem, patients will pay their bills faster and they will be happy with the process thus becoming repeat patients. It is time to truly provide the patient with a consumer experience.  

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