Shortcomings Of Patient Engagement Journeys & How Digitalization Is Changing the Game
Modern Healthcare Must Change to Meet the Demands of Digital Consumers
Healthcare providers such as Medicare Service Providers (MSPs) have many priorities, including initial enrollment or intake of new patients, the many ongoing care needs that they must meet, and following HIPAA compliance standards. Improving patient experience and engagement has become an urgent strategic need for healthcare providers because more digital health companies are moving into the industry.
Just a few years ago, most hospitals didn’t even have websites. But now, almost every hospital welcome patients with a fully optimized website or mobile app. From a recent Deloitte and the Scottsdale Institute survey, 92% of health systems put consumer satisfaction at the top of their list.
Healthcare providers must change how they think about their patients by providing personalized, high-quality care. However, this can’t be achieved without a cultural shift in the industry and the realization that patients are customers. Doctors have focused on the diagnosis and treatment of patients for too long, neglecting the patients’ needs. This has led to frustratingly inefficient customer experiences that also slow providers’ ability to deliver the quality healthcare outcomes they’re striving for – leading consumers to turn to alternative treatments.
Providers must eliminate the digital silos and outdated manual processes that prolong their intake and servicing processes. Misaligned structures incentivize providers to select inappropriate healthcare services that undermine their ability to improve patient outcomes, business operations, and compliance. This hurts both patient care and business outcomes.
Technology is changing the way healthcare providers do their job. This guide will explore some of the industry’s problems affecting both consumers and providers. We’ll also share solutions to these issues, including how to activate technology for benefit and efficiency.
The slow & complex patient enrollment processes could cost billions
Healthcare environments are transitioning and need to stay on top of onboarding challenges. Right now, particular issues have been growing common in healthcare. This includes payers struggling to onboard new employer groups, TPAs struggling to onboard payers, health IT providers struggling to import client data for inflexible templates, and providers struggling with complex credentialing requirements.
As a healthcare provider, onboarding delays make it difficult for you to keep your clients happy and, at the same time, establish new relationships. Customer satisfaction is key in an increasingly competitive healthcare environment where clients demand more from you.
To register as a patient, customers need to supply multiple forms of identification, such as:
- Completing intake forms and other medical questionnaires.
- Provide the user’s health insurance, TPA, or employer group.
- Verify ID – needing their SSN & driver’s license, and in some scenarios, even a birth certificate or green card.
- Hand over former medical records from the latest provider that you visited.
- The HIPAA privacy rule requires providers to get a form of legally-binding consent from their patients. The Notice of Privacy Practices form authorizes providers to use and share PHI.
- Giving legally binding consent to a Notice of Privacy Practices lets providers be able to use and share their Protected Health Information (PHI) under the HIPAA privacy rule.
- Helpful documents you may need to provide include your current prescribed medications and proof of income. This also has Power of Attorney (POA) rights in some cases.
- Setting up secure and ACH electronic payments for out-of-pocket medical expenses, like paying your doctor or pharmacist every time you need a prescription.
Why is this enrollment process typically feels tedious to the customers?
Current systems for collecting this information are a source of frustration and waste. One customer may not know where to begin when the process is initiated, bouncing between various touch points (face-to-face, websites or portals, contact centers, and emails).
For example, they may call their contact center and get asked to check their email. But then they end up burdened with filling out a confusing PDF-based form that is inconvenient for most devices, for example, when using a mobile phone.
Many patients try to complete these processes on their own and end up printing off all the necessary paperwork. This creates more work, as they’ll have to spend time scanning and faxing everything back. Not only does this take up a lot of time, but it’s also more expensive to do this by traditional methods.
Long wait times lead to slow turnaround times and patient frustrations
What happens when your practice fails to address patient wait-time frustrations? In a year, they could lose up to 48% of their patient base—not counting any potential patients who might become frustrated after reading online reviews and never show up at the office. Neglecting these problems can make it difficult for you to retain, attract, and please patients.
Administrative costs and rework can quickly grow over time
Paper forms and documents related to patient care are challenging for hospital staff to access and maintain. It’s not uncommon for nurses or other medical professionals to work from memory when gathering missing information from a patient, which wastes an excessive portion of time that could be better spent elsewhere.
Administrative costs in healthcare
One of the most troublesome issues faced by healthcare providers is the lack of a comprehensive digital enrollment process. When they don’t have an efficient process, it leads to high administrative burdens and costs, which can be hard on staffing resources. For example, Medicare providers only have a 3-month window to complete large numbers of new sign-ups, and, as a result, their administrative burden and staffing resources are exhausted.
Massive impact on call center’s functioning
If a customer is confused about your paperwork or forms and cannot clear up the issue, they will call the contact center repeatedly for help. This prolongs the onboarding process and drains agents of their energy, who may not be knowledgeable in all areas of a company’s form or documents.
Inaccurate patient data can have severe consequences
When you have time-consuming and manual processes, errors become unavoidable. For instance, entering the wrong plan effective date or dependent’s name can cause friction with customers and lead them to escalate the issue and file a complaint to the healthcare board.
If your data is messy and confusing, it costs you. A study by Gartner found that a clunky database can cost an organization as much as $14 million. For US healthcare providers, however, the price is significantly higher. AHIMA found that duplicate medical records can cost up to $40 million for any given provider, and up to 20% of all medical records are duplicates nationwide.
Privacy and Security Rules of HIPAA
Health records and personally identifiable information are precious commodities on the dark web. As a result, hackers will use them against patients and providers, including contacting individuals with ransomware and extortion attempts. When storing data securely, it’s crucial to employ robust protections.
If a healthcare provider suffers a data breach, they may be found liable for violating HIPAA rules and face penalties of more than $1.7 million. They’ll also have to take corrective actions to minimize the consequences of the breach.
Frustration, pain, and friction in Patient Care
Health practitioners often must make difficult decisions, such as diagnoses and clinical care for individuals with complex needs, which may strain their resources and skills. They also need to engage with complex situations, including making demanding diagnoses and engaging with an individual whose life circumstances are complicated.
With the wide variety of ongoing patient needs healthcare providers must manage, including the intake of existing members, the complexity of healthcare providers only peaks. The vast majority of legacy systems currently used by providers are not built to support the variety of medical, financial, and legal data required for many customer-facing processes and are limited to basic appointment scheduling and payment billing.
Providers sew a patchwork of siloed digital systems as patients’ needs increase to collect IDs, signatures, forms, and consents. This lack of seamless integration leads to long, multi-step processes for seemingly simple processes.
These technologies still rely on legacy processes like PDF documents and email. Hence, customers cannot fulfill all their digital requirements – creating unnecessary paper and administrative work for staff, compromising data accuracy, and posing non-compliance risks.
As a result of COVID-19, these gaps have widened, complicating and sometimes severely limiting in-person appointments. Patients’ health and experience can suffer due to a lack of a unified digital intake process for existing patients.
Almost every time a patient needs to update medical information or grant consent, or submit documents to support a request, digital silos and legacy processes add this burden and complexity such as:
- The change of address or medical insurance payer, the updating of insurance dependents, and the updating of medical records.
- Releasing medical records, consent for medical procedures, and updated HIPAA requirements.
- Receipts for a Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Transportation Reimbursement Account (TRA), Health Savings Account (HSA), or Health Risk Assessment (HRA).
- Taking over the power of attorney rights for another patient and a letter of medical necessity (LMN) is usually required if a patient submits a request or claim previously denied.
Point Solutions Harm Healthcare Systems & How They Drive Up Costs
Patients often go through trying times and are already overwhelmed with their pain and anxiety when no unified digital process can quickly turn around this patient’s needs. In turn, this can adversely affect patient health and experience.
For instance, a patient who has been injured in an accident may expect their healthcare provider to complete the intake process as quickly as possible so they can move forward with treatment.
Most providers still email multiple forms to patients, many of which are complex and challenging for patients to complete independently. As a result, it is more likely that the forms will be sent incomplete or with errors. Patients and healthcare staff must then resubmit forms or incomplete documents, resulting in long, tedious, and stressful experiences.
Consequences of outdated and broken patient care and servicing:
- Increased friction between customers and care staff by adding multiple touchpoints.
- Delays in the delivery of patient care by causing more wait times.
- Overburdening of back-office and customer-facing staff.
- Inflated costs associated with data and operations.
- Errors on both sides can lead to misdiagnosis or compliance violations.
Incomplete engagement Tools Fail to Improve Health & Business Outcomes
To improve healthcare outcomes and significantly reduce strain and costs on the healthcare system, providers need to engage and motivate patients to adopt treatments, preventions, and services that can improve their health and well-being. Compared with unengaged patients, engaged patients are three times less likely to develop medical issues and twice as likely to seek treatment promptly.
To improve both health and business outcomes, healthcare providers can engage their patients in a variety of ways, including:
- Scheduling appointments digitally
- Preparation instructions for appointments and procedures
- Check-in automation systems for patients
- Remote monitoring and education for specific conditions
- Giving follow-up info such as digital summaries after appointments
- Surveys of customer satisfaction
Why would patients not engage with siloed engagement tools?
Providers already had to deal with issues such as the complexity of the healthcare system, cultural issues, health literacy issues, and haphazard tools that did not engage customers in the channels most convenient to them before COVID-19. In light of the rapid spread of transmissions and the massive burdens and costs the pandemic is putting on providers and staff, these topics have taken on an unprecedented importance.
Today, many providers are focused on their patients. Hospitals and wellness centers have invested in multiple engagement methods, including portals, tablets, mobile apps, and chat software, to help patients schedule appointments or request information. However, these disparate tools are siloed across various channels, resulting in a less-than-optimal customer experience.
Consumers today are used to visual, intuitive, instant, and seamless mobile experiences, so these fragmented engagement methods fail to meet their needs. Over 57% of Americans spend 5 hours or more on their mobile phones daily, while 19% of millennials only use smartphones to connect online.
Despite providers’ hopes, mobile apps have not led to the engagement they hoped for since many patients are put off by the necessity of downloading a healthcare provider’s app from the store and logging in every time, they receive a notification.
In a national survey by the Center for Advancing Health, almost 30% of patients lacked the basic facts and understanding of treatment requirements due to subpar patient engagement tools.
For a patient engagement solution to be effective in improving both health and business outcomes, it must:
- Provide consistent customer experience by integrating all capabilities for patient engagement, bidirectional communication, and compliant information exchange.
- Provide patients with a visual and mobile-friendly interface without downloading an application.
- Equip healthcare providers with real-time visibility into patient engagement activities. Integrate seamlessly with your EHR and all relevant backend and customer-facing systems to instantly capture customer data.
- Protect patient data and comply with HIPAA by ensuring end-to-end encryption.
Integrating digital experience & engagement throughout the patient lifecycle
In the long run, customers who have already experienced a painfully bureaucratic and inconvenient healthcare experience are far less likely to engage with their healthcare provider.
Patient engagement must encompass the entire patient lifecycle for healthcare systems, Medicare Providers, and DSOs, starting with enrolling patients and supporting quick, efficient, and compliant access to care. And proactively engage them with the knowledge they need to be more active in their care through the most convenient channels.
It requires reimagining patient interactions and eliminating the digital silos and legacy processes that frustrate customers with long and complicated onboarding, care delivery, and coverage processes, overwhelm healthcare employees, and compromise patient safety.
It’s time for the patient engagement process to be smarter and more digitally integrated.
Siloed digital systems and paperwork need to be replaced with one unified compliant platform that digitizes all patient interactions from beginning to end. Digitizing patient onboarding, servicing, and engagement end-to-end with digital completion technology enables providers to capture all patient requirements in one secure and compliant digital session.
Today’s healthcare patients can open an SMS or email link anywhere on their smartphone rather than downloading multiple legacy PDF forms and bouncing them across online and offline channels. In one intuitive, real-time interactive digital session, healthcare patients can swipe and tap through each step, including eSignatures, ID verification, document collection, and digital consent of terms and conditions.
By using conditional logic, providers can create workflows that ensure patients only see and perform the necessary actions – no more, no less. Consequently, employees can complete the process faster, with fewer errors and greater clarity about the next steps.
Streamlining processes in one digital platform allows healthcare providers to cut staffing and overhead costs due to paper-intensive admin tasks, freeing employees to focus on patient care.
Ensuring complete digital patient engagement is a huge opportunity
Healthcare providers can benefit from digital patient engagement in the following ways:
1. Improve Patient Experience & Satisfaction
Healthcare systems, Medicare providers, and DSOs can quickly and efficiently enroll new patients using smartphones. With one digital platform, patients and staff can quickly verify ID and collect all required signatures, documents, consents, and payments securely and compliantly, eliminating misunderstandings and errors.
With a mobile phone, patients can easily complete requests and update their personal information, medications, dependents, and payer information.
2. Reduce overhead and operational costs
Streamline manual processes and reduce paper-heavy administrative work for clinical and non-clinical staff. Reducing call center workload and staffing overhead caused by inefficient time-consuming processes will minimize staffing costs. Improving productivity by eliminating unnecessary administrative tasks allows the team to spend more time on one-on-one patient care, reducing burnout and turnover costs.
3. Eliminate the revenue leaks
Increasing preventive care for patients and improved treatment results in increased revenue and profitability for healthcare providers. This, in turn, increases referral closure rates and reduces no-shows and misunderstandings that lead to poor or incorrect procedure preparation (e.g., colonoscopies).
4. Improve patient engagement digitally
Engage patients by providing regular, personalized, conversational messages that motivate patients to take action to increase satisfaction. Communicate with patients at the right time, and on the channel they prefer.
Through digital innovation, healthcare providers can improve patient care and engagement throughout their lifecycles by accelerating business and operational efficiencies.