Technologies Helping Medical Practices Boost Patient Engagement, Efficiency

While there are obviously many options available, a small handful of technologies seem to have the greatest impact on patient engagement and efficiency within medical practices, according to a new survey.

The survey, which was backed by the Medical Group Management Association and vendor Cedar, found that patient portals, automated appointment reminder systems, check-in technologies, telehealth, digital payment options and data analytics tools were especially valuable.

This conclusion seems to track with an earlier poll by the MGMA, which found that within the 70% of respondents planning to adopt technology to make their practice more efficient, top choices included telehealth, patient portals and automated reminder systems, along with new/upgraded EHRs and kiosk/iPad check-in capabilities.

If practices are still on the fence but trying to increase engagement using health IT infrastructure, the report suggested they take five steps:

* Examine their operations to find opportunities for automation
* Review existing technologies to see how (if at all) they address patient engagement goals
* Pull together best practices and other insights from peers
* Create a list of the top three “easy wins” the practice can accomplish to boost patient engagement using technology
* Get stakeholders involved in changing the practice around this technology

It’s worth pointing out, however, that many practices haven’t nailed down the nuts and bolts of patient-facing technology and may want to address this gap before they invest in more advanced strategies.

For example, a study released last year by Cedar notes that many healthcare organizations haven’t optimized their patient billing and collections process yet.

According to the Cedar survey, respondents felt that their entire billing and collections process was flawed, especially collecting patient payments. It also found that 65% of responding organizations averaged more than 60 days to collect patient payments, with 40% waiting on those payments for more than 90 days.

Particularly for practices with value-based care contracts, looking for ways to increase patient engagement is important, and it seems as though the technologies discussed above stand a chance of meeting that goal.

Still, it seems like many haven’t even gotten to the point where they’re set up to collect what they’re owed by patients efficiently. Under these circumstances, it seems to me, practices might want to focus on making their billing procedures air-tight before they rearrange their workflow to meet longer-term patient engagement goals.

After all, if a patient finds it awkward and confusing to read a billing statement, feels brushed off when they try to make payment arrangements or don’t know where a balance came from, they’re not going to be doing much engaging.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.