Healthcare providers today are faced with an onslaught of government requirements and mandates that push them to use technology for record keeping, reporting, and insurance tracking and billing. What many of them are missing, however, is how technology enables healthcare practices to deliver patient-centered care, leading to better health outcomes for patients and help practices grow and become more profitable.
According to Ann Baker, RN and certified clinical quality specialist for Relatient, medical practices are lagging behind patient expectations when it comes to incorporating tech into practice management. Citing a recent report from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), Baker shared that more than three quarters of the healthcare providers still use paper-based patient billing methods, despite the fact that more than fifty percent of patients prefer receiving their medical bills electronically.
“Changes in patient deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses pose a real challenge for physician practices,” she explained. “They have really changed the billing aspect. In the past, practices used to collect the majority of billed services from insurance companies, but now a lot of the responsibility falls on the patient. As a result, these groups have to be adaptable to new ways of collecting.”
“Online and mobile billing are not only good ways for a medical practice to make patients happier, but it can improve a practice’s bottom line,” Baker continued. “According to MGMA, 68% of patients with medical bills of $500 or less didn’t fully pay their patient financial responsibility. Technology makes it easier and less time-intensive for practices to track down these smaller balances that collectively really add up. ”
Next generation Health IT tools offer physician groups many options for adopting patient-centered practices, including mobile surveys for collecting patient feedback, health campaigns for automating patient follow-up and driving better preventative care, appointment reminders to help patients keep their scheduled appointments, and demand messaging for informing patients of important updates/urgent information.
In an environment in which the consumer can easily choose from multiple providers, a practice has to be patient-centered not only in care but also in engagement.
“We aren’t just talking about the patient’s physical and emotional needs,” Baker explained. “It’s about what they want the patient experience to be like. You have to talk to your patients, find out what they need and want, and act on it.”
Adding convenience without creating a burden on the patient or the office staff is key, according to Relatient CTO and Co-founder Kevin Montgomery. Solutions like self-scheduling and patient check-in add convenience for patients but also dramatically reduce the workload for administrative staff who wear many hats and are often overwhelmed by manual processes.
“Healthcare has been really slow in adopting self-scheduling, but the public is used to scheduling everything from airplane flights to pizza deliveries from a mobile device,” Montgomery said. “Why can’t we schedule our doctor’s appointment with the same convenience? There is technology available that will allow that, and patients want it.”
“Electronic registration is similar in that it allows the patient to fill out forms and answer questions online, which contributes to smoother office visits. It’s also a huge benefit to the front office,” he continued. “If you ever walk into a busy practice, the front desk person usually has a phone on one ear, handing you a clipboard with one hand, trying to scan your insurance card with another hand – it’s just a nightmare for them.”
Montgomery predicts that 2019 is going to be a huge year for healthcare technology, with projections from Accenture showing that more than 64% of appointments in 2019 will be booked electronically.
“It’s pretty exciting that we may start seeing a shift in which healthcare catches up to other industries,” he said. “If you are a healthcare provider and you’re not prepared for electronic registration, ease of patient access, and patient self-scheduling, you need to start looking at it now or risk being left behind.”
Baker agrees and recommends asking the following questions when evaluating new technologies for a healthcare practice:
- Is this going to save the patient and the practice time?
- Is this going to save the patient and the practice money?
- Is this going to make the practice more efficient?
- Is this going to bring more patients into our practice?
- Is this going to make us more profit?
“The goal of any technology is to make you work smarter, not harder,” she said. “and it should have a purpose, whether it is to bring in more patients or make you more efficient, or both. When your practice is considering adopting a new technology to get a step ahead, it’s important to ask those questions and evaluate closely before moving forward.”
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