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6 Patient Engagement Technologies that Improve Clinic Operations

Patient portals, appointment reminders, and data analytics rank among some of the top patient engagement technologies supporting patient-centered care.

Adopting popular patient engagement technologies could be the key to ramping up clinic operations and driving an organization closer toward patient-centered care, according to a new report from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA).

The report, conducted in partnership with Cedar, looked at how patient engagement technologies can help propel organizations toward the patient-centered care models that pervade the industry today. Patients are looking for effective and efficient clinics at which they can access convenient and engaging care, MGMA pointed out, and various patient engagement technologies can help achieve this end.

“Increased patient consumerism encourages practices to enhance their technological capabilities,” MGMA wrote in an introduction to its report. “Rising costs of patient care, especially administrative costs, can be mitigated with the appropriate technology. More important, patients can build closer relationships with their provider and practice staff when interactions such as portal messaging or filling out forms are digitized, freeing up time and space for building rapport and engagement.”

Consulting a survey of more than 650 healthcare leaders across the country, MGMA outlined the key patient engagement technologies that can help enhance clinic operations, thus delivering on an improved patient experience. Those technologies include:

  • Patient portals
  • Automated appointment reminder systems
  • Digital patient check-in
  • Telehealth
  • Online bill payment
  • Data analytics

These tools help streamline the patient administration process, make it easier for patients to access care, and put the patient at the center of the care and in a position to take control of her own care, MGMA stated.

“In today’s healthcare environment where practice workflow and patient experience are paramount, the use of technology is more instrumental than ever in helping providers enhance operations and overall patient care,” said Halee Fischer-Wright, MD, MMM, FAAP, FACMPE, president and chief executive officer at MGMA. “Building a data platform utilizing technologies like patient portals, automated appointment reminder systems and digital payment options helps practices improve patient engagement and allows providers to focus on what they do best — care for people.”

Most of these systems utilize tools that providers already have, the report added. EHRs and patient portals have become nearly ubiquitous, with adoption rates reaching into the high 90s in hospitals and clinics. To further enhance the patient experience, providers should look into what kinds of add-ons these tools have that can better serve the patient.

For example, many EHRs are rolling out digital billing capabilities, while patient portals often allow patients to book their appointments online and even send appointment reminders. Becoming familiar with these tools and the areas in which they can have the biggest impact will help drive organizations in the right direction.

And while most organizations, especially smaller ones or ones that serve lower-income patient populations, may not be ready for more sophisticated technologies such as blockchain analytics or artificial intelligence, most organizations do feel ready for smaller changes.

A separate MGMA poll found that 70 percent of providers plan to implement key patient engagement technologies within the next year. Organizations are specifically looking into kiosk- or iPad-based check-in, telehealth, patient portals, and appointment reminders.

Organizations looking to integrate new technologies into workflows should first consider where they key needs are and how technology can support improvements, MGMA advised. From there, they can look at the current technologies they have and how they impact patient experiences.

After that, organizational leaders should review implementation best practices and determine the areas in which a new tool could yield the biggest payoff. Finally, leadership must create staff buy-in and consult organization stakeholders and interested providers about new technologies.

Organizations would be best suited to consider key change management processes when implementing new tools, training and engaging the providers who will use the technologies, and establishing a set of super users who can serve as mentors to other providers, the report advised.

Leadership should ensure they don’t become overwhelmed or bogged down by smaller approaches and remember that they have room to continue to grow with their technology solutions. Organizations should also ensure they are realistic about the cost of implementation to appropriately assess the full impact of the change, the team concluded.

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