Patient retention is critical to operating a thriving medical practice. Research shows practices need to grow their patient population by 10 percent every year to account for attrition. That, and healthcare consumerism has led many providers to consider incorporating digital options into their practice as their patient pools skew toward younger patients. In fact, a recent study by Cedar shows that adults between the ages of 18 and 24 were three-times more likely than patients aged 65 and older to consider switching to doctors who provided greater digital experiences.
This data tells a compelling story: new and younger patients want to see providers who have accessible digital tools, and this trend is expected to continue. So, what tools can providers use to retain their patient pool?
Advanced Patient Portals
When looking for the right technology to implement in your practice, never underestimate the power of patient portals. While a standard patient portal enables patients to schedule appointments, pay bills, and view test results, an advanced portal may contain programs to improve patients’ health. For instance, an evidence-based learning course for diabetic patients that coaches them on ways to manage their condition. This particular protocol quizzes patients to check for understanding and, if the patient answers incorrectly, gives them the option to speak with their provider to understand the topic at hand. Additionally, Penn Medicine studies show that patients who use a patient portal are 50 percent more likely to understand the importance of and engage in preventive health behaviors. That’s just further proof that this tool streamlines communication between the patient, the provider, and their health information to ensure there are no gaps in care. In turn, this communication helps providers demonstrate quality measures, a key component of value-based contracts.
Small Investments, Major Results
According to the Cedar study, 49 percent “of healthcare consumers expressed frustration about their provider’s lack of adoption of digital administrative processes.” However, new health tech does not necessarily require a huge investment. One of the best low-cost, high-value options is telehealth. Telehealth has a great return on investment when viewed through the lens of patient retention. In some cases, patient portals may include access to telehealth as part of its integrated platform. Patients with children, patients without reliable transportation, and elderly patients benefit the most from telehealth services. However, 74 percent of patients aged 18 to 34 years have also expressed interest in using them.
In addition to convenience, telehealth is an excellent option for treating a variety of different conditions. It has been proven to help those suffering from mental health conditions by reducing stigma and allowing the patient more flexibility when meeting with their provider, which increases the likelihood they will seek help. Telehealth is also a great choice for refilling certain prescriptions or treating minor conditions, like dizziness and rashes.
Digitized Administrative Processes
Perhaps one of the most important trends to gain traction recently is an interoperable electronic health record (EHR). Interoperability can lead to greater care coordination, especially when specialists and follow-up care are involved. Interoperable EHRs place the patient’s treatment history, previous visits, lab results, and other important health information all in one place. In addition to improving communication between providers, patients, and payers, EHRs also help improve patient compliance, reduce readmission rates, and are far more secure than faxing documents. Considering healthcare is the primary target of hackers, these extra safety precautions are useful.
Patients are also better able to keep track of their healthcare bills with these EHR systems. According to Cedar, 45 percent of patients rate “post-visit” activities like billing and insurance follow-ups as one of the worst phases of the patient journey, partially because 75 percent of patients still receive their bills through traditional mail. Reliable EHRs can significantly improve communication between providers, patients, and payers to reduce patient dissatisfaction, poor online reviews, and insurance disputes.
Knowing this technology exists, what can providers do right now to help increase patient retention?
After reading about these healthcare tech trends, let’s get to the nuts and bolts: first and foremost, the patient experience is an integral aspect to patient addition and retention. Specifically, studies suggest that it is important to implement congruent end-to-end administrative experiences that follow the patient journey holistically. Pre-visit activities such as insurance capture and co-pay collection are ultimately connected to the post-visit payment experience. While you’re at it, you can take the frustration out of the referral process by choosing an EHR that has one built right in.