healthcaretechoutlook

A Holistic Approach is the Key to Enterprise Patient Engagement Success

By Geeta Nayyar, MD, MBA, Chief Health and Innovation Officer, Femwell Group Health

Geeta Nayyar, MD, MBA, Chief Health and Innovation Officer, Femwell Group Health

Many providers are rushing to adopt mobile patient outreach tools, and who can blame them: These solutions promise to streamline processes, reduce administrative staff workloads, and minimize appointment no-shows.

"We adopted a holistic approach that would deliver a consistent and quality patient experience by phasing out all our point solutions in favor a single integrated enterprise and mobile engagement platforms."

However, there is one big catch: When implemented as one-offs, these point solutions have a glaring downside: Many of these point solutions lack integration with back-end systems, creating a whole new problem for providers.

For example, a patient named Carol receives two reminders over the course of a month: “It is time to schedule an appointment for your physical with Dr. Brown. Please call the office.” 

So far, so good. However, there is just one problem: Carol scheduled her annual physical six months ago. However, the text reminder system was not fully integrated with the scheduling system, so it does not “know” the appointment was already on the books. Rather than seeing the reminder as helpful, Carol greets it as either an annoyance to be disregarded – or one that prompts her to phone the doctor’s office to confirm her original appointment and make sure there are no scheduling snafus.

This fragmented approach does not just create new inefficiencies – it defeats the whole purpose of patient engagement in the first place: to create a more positive and consistent patient experience. If mistakes and annoyances like these add up over time, it could erode satisfaction levels enough for the patient to change providers – or, at least, negatively affect the patient’s reported satisfaction levels on surveys.

Like many providers, our managed service organization had implemented various point solutions to address our needs over the years. We had not set out originally to adopt a fragmented approach to patient engagement; in each case, we were just trying to solve a problem. However, over time, we ended up with separate vendors for appointment reminders, patient engagement, collections, and portal solutions, and so on. Not only was it more work and expense to maintain all of these siloed solutions, it ended up creating a disjointed and sometimes confusing experience for our patients.

Lack of integration was one problem. However, we also recognized that we still had significant holes in our enterprise patient engagement strategy that we needed to fill. For example, none of our point solutions addressed population health management, gaps-in-care outreach, or quality measures.

By phasing out all our point solutions in favor a single integrated enterprise and mobile engagement platform, we adopted a holistic approach that would deliver a consistent and quality patient experience across the care continuum – including both ambulatory and acute-care environments.

So rather than the disjointed message that Carol received, she would receive a reminder about her upcoming appointment. A follow-up text would ask her to bring a current list of medications to her appointment.

Then, 24 hours before the visit, Carol gets a final text prior to the appointment, inviting her to check-in and complete online forms and self-assessments ahead of time, replacing the dreaded clipboard with a streamlined process that reduces her wait time and improves her satisfaction.

Following the appointment, Carol gets a care summary that she can review on her cell phone, along with a text reminding her to schedule a follow-up appointment with the cardiologist. A week later, she receives an alert with lab results and a survey to rate her satisfaction with the practice.

This is exactly the kind of enterprise mobile patient engagement that improves satisfaction. Already, we have seen positive trend lines in our patient satisfaction surveys. We are reducing no-shows by double-digit levels. As a result, we are seeing increases in appointments per physician, and that is having a correspondingly positive impact on our bottom line.

By proactively engaging with patients before illness strikes, we are better positioned to improve health outcomes. Our patient engagement platform provides analytics capabilities to help us prioritize chronic patients, for example, to focus on increasing gaps-in-care closures and improving quality measures such as CG-CAHPS scores. By helping us focusing on our high-risk patients, we have a better chance of preventing people from falling through the cracks.

As a physician myself and the Chief of Healthcare and Innovation Officer for an organization serving 150 physician practices and over 300 physicians, I believe that patient engagement, at its heart, is about improving health outcomes by following the patient at every touch point across their care journey. In a fee-for-service world, the transactional and episodic approach to patient care may have made sense. However, with all of these changes we see, and the movement toward value-based care, providers have to do more to engage with patients and meet them exactly where they are. With our holistic strategy in place, we are confident we are now poised to deliver better health outcomes for more than half a million patients across southern and south-central Florida.