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What Are Omnichannel Patient Engagement Technologies?

Omnichannel patient engagement technologies include the multimodal systems organizations use to connect with consumers.

Add yet another phrase to the list of healthcare buzzwords: omnichannel patient engagement technologies.

The rise of the health IT sector, combined with a growing appetite from patients for more healthcare consumerism, has pushed omnichannel patient engagement technologies into the limelight.

The term omnichannel engagement derives from the sales space, where companies pitch a seamless customer shopping experience, according to Using a variety of tools, each of which is connected to one another, customers are able to enter the shopping experience from multiple platforms without friction or interruption.

For example, a shopper might scroll on social media, see a targeted ad, view the item on the store’s website, and then purchase it in the brick-and-mortar location.

Omnichannel patient engagement technologies and strategies reflect that model but apply it to the patient experience. By giving patients a unified pathway across the patient experience and care continuum, healthcare organizations can meet the rising demands of healthcare consumerism.

Omnichannel patient engagement reflects consumerism trends

Considering the history omnichannel engagement has in the sales world, it is no surprise that the rise of healthcare consumerism has brought these strategies into healthcare, as well.

Healthcare consumerism refers to the evolving role the patient is playing in the medical industry.

As out-of-pocket healthcare costs and health payer deductibles have both grown, the patient is increasingly seeing herself has a payer for her care. In that new role, the patient’s relationship with her care is also changing. In other words, she wants to access her healthcare the way she accesses other service industries, like the airline or hotel industries.

This means patients want good customer service, healthcare price transparency, the ability to shop around for care, and importantly, the ability to engage with their providers in a way that is convenient for them.

And with that, more organizations are recognizing a need for omnichannel patient engagement technologies. By unifying this health IT infrastructure, organizations can support the patient across the care journey.

What tools constitute omnichannel patient engagement technologies?

Although the concept of omnichannel patient engagement technology suites is only burgeoning, there are some tools that are common across providers. These technologies go beyond the more traditional patient engagement tools, like the patient portal or open clinical notes—although those are still important.

Rather, omnichannel patient engagement tools give patients multiple modalities for connecting with providers, whether it is for accessing care, communication, or patient education.

Key technologies involved in omnichannel patient engagement include, but are not limited to:

  • Artificial intelligence chatbots
  • Chronic disease self-management tools
  • Comparison shopping
  • Digital patient intake
  • Digital wayfinding
  • Online appointment scheduling
  • Online bill pay and price transparency
  • Online patient education modules
  • Telehealth

But offering omnichannel patient engagement technology is more than just hosting those tools and apps; it is about unifying a patient experience. Offering patient engagement technology on an ad hoc basis with fragmented entry points is, in fact, a good way to deter patients from actually using them.

According to Tara J. Nooteboom, manager of digital patient engagement at Rush System for Health, omnichannel patient engagement means each of these entry points merge together. Providers and healthcare executives should think of their tech options as a family instead of a list of separate, patient-facing entities, she said at Xtelligent Healthcare Media’s Patient Experience Virtual Summit in 2021.

"The more that you can bring those digital entry points together, the more successful that you will be in navigating patients to the right places and boosting utilization of those digital tools,” Nooteboom explained.

Considerations for omnichannel patient engagement tools

Healthcare organizations cannot blithely adopt an omnichannel and tech-based approach to patient engagement. Rather, they must assess their unique patient needs and tailor their approaches accordingly.

Healthcare organizations with a substantial population who still likes making appointments with the call center should keep that call center open while opening up online appointment scheduling, for example.

Considerations for the digital divide

Similarly, organizations may consider the digital divide. Access to the technology on which omnichannel engagement tools operate, digital health literacy, and overall patient preference have carved a gulf between those who will and will not benefit from an omnichannel approach to patient engagement.

In order to promote health equity, organizations need to ensure their digital health offerings are accessible to all, or else that they have set up alternatives for those who cannot use health IT. Providers who offer low-tech telephone calls in addition to telehealth visits for those without a smartphone or those uncomfortable sharing video, for example, help prevent this divide from deepening.

Using patient education to generate IT use

But that is not to say organizations should not promote their omnichannel offerings to patients who are unaware or wary of them. In fact, it’s this promotion that has helped so many organizations move the needle shifting toward more patient engagement technologies.

At Lifestyle Medical, a primary care venture for chronic disease reversal, the group’s CEO and co-founder, Arwin Soetanto, found success with patient-provider communication about health IT.

Flyers and email announcements helped raise some awareness about the organization’s shift toward more omnichannel engagement strategies, but it was the one-on-one conversations with providers that generated buy-in.

“That's what we found enabled patients to actually take the actions to start using the connected devices. We had to involve the clinicians to have those conversations with patients,” Soetanto said during a panel at Xtelligent Healthcare Media’s Patient Experience Virtual Summit.

This can take some time, Soetanto added.

“What we find with the onboarding is it really does take time. We have to be willing to invest the time. For each patient, we had about 20 minutes allocated to help them find where the app store is and set up where they're storing their password, and all that sort of stuff,” he said.

As healthcare organizations continue to adjust to healthcare consumerism, it will be essential to consider how patient engagement tools come together in an omnichannel strategy. This will require a look at how entry points integrate, how systems support patient buy-in, and how providers can continue to engage those potentially left behind in a digital divide.

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