To avoid starting yet another blog with some variation on the “technology is radically transforming healthcare” cliche, I’ll let the numbers do the talking. Researchers from Rock Health found that digital health startups raised $29.1 billion in 2021. That record-breaking number was nearly twice the amount raised in 2020. Similarly, research by Deloitte noted that 2021 saw $23.8 billion in health-tech investments.
This trend of massive investments in healthcare technology accompanies another major trend in healthcare: the shift from fee-for-service arrangements to value-based care. In my opinion, that’s no coincidence. Effective use of technology is a sine qua non for value-based care.
With that in mind, I want to discuss a few tech tools — some obvious, some not-so-obvious — that can accelerate the volume-to-value transition and improve your performance (and, potentially, your paycheck). This post is the first installment in a two-part series. For now, I’ll focus on technology that supports patient access and the patient experience (PX). In part two, I’ll highlight technology that enhances the patient encounter.
Open Your “Digital Front Door”
To put it simply, you need a large patient base to succeed in value-based care. The key to building this patient attribution is access, access, access. If you’re not readily accessible, then your patients may turn to retail medicine or hospitals. There can be serious consequences if one of your attributed patients goes to these high-cost facilities because you were inaccessible. You could lose that attribution, lower your reimbursement, and miss out on key health information, further fragmenting the already fragmented healthcare system.
With that in mind, think about how a patient — one whom you’d love to add to your ever-growing pool of attribution — finds a new doctor. How are they going to find you? Chances are they’ll reach for their smartphone instead of a massive, obsolete phonebook that they’ve used as a doorstop since the ‘90s. Research suggests more than 60 percent of patients “start their search online” and 91 percent “conduct research online.”
Your website is how you find patients because your website is how patients find you. Therefore, it’s critical that your website leaves a great first impression. Start with the basics by asking yourself or office manager the following questions:
- Are your hours, address, and phone number a) accurate and b) easy to find?
- Is that aforementioned information visible and consistent across your website, Google, and social media pages?
- Do you have a friendly, welcoming bio for your care team that communicates the trust, engagement, and satisfaction your patients enjoy?
- Do you have tools to integrate and display positive patient reviews and testimonials?
- Conversely, do you have online reputation management (ORM) capabilities to monitor and address negative reviews?
- Do you have keywords related to your specialty or focus to enhance your search engine optimization (SEO) and ranking?
Those questions illuminate just a few of many factors that can help your practice stand out and earn you new patients to grow your base. Next, let’s evaluate your website’s patient experience (sometimes abbreviated to“PX”). This consideration can certainly help with first impressions but will really impact your existing patients, thereby helping improve retention. As the saying goes, a penny saved is a penny earned.
So what are you giving your patients to boost their experience? For example, does your website allow for appointment scheduling? And is your patient portal easily accessible from your website? Do you have instructions to lead patients seeking urgent or after-hours care to cost-efficient settings? These patient-focused enhancements can help you stand out from the pack and keep your patients coming back. By using your website to grow and preserve your patient base, you can maintain a steady volume of patients, which can in turn lead to bigger payouts in value-based arrangements.
Boost Access to Engage & Connect With Your Patients
Patient satisfaction is a key clinical quality metric for many value-based contracts. According to PatientEngagementHIT, “Healthcare organizations that fail to achieve optimal patient satisfaction scores may not qualify for the maximum reimbursement rate in a value-based care model.” For example, your Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) scores might “directly inform some value-based reimbursement models.”
Let’s go back to a few of those website enhancements we just reviewed. These PX factors can help boost patient satisfaction and, with it, your reimbursements in value-based care.
- Patient Portal. Your patients are healthcare consumers. As consumers, your patients want — and expect — the usability of Amazon and convenience of Uber in their healthcare journeys. Patient portals are must-haves for the modern medical practice. This tool creates a one-stop-shop experience for patients to pay bills, chat securely, view test and lab results, and start a telehealth visit. This self-service aspect can not only improve patient satisfaction (and, consequently, retention and reimbursements) but also save you and your staff time that you can then reallocate to clinical work (or learning more about value-based care).
- Direct Appointment Scheduling. Speaking of freeing up time, have you implemented direct appointment scheduling? This self-service capability for patients can seriously boost engagement. Research suggests “direct scheduling may contribute to continuity and access, which are associated in turn with better health outcomes and lower costs,” and can even lower costly no-show rates. Staff can repurpose this time to reach out to those patients who aren’t scheduling visits, which can prevent high-cost encounters that lower your value-based reimbursements.
- Patient Data. One surefire way to improve value-based reimbursements is closing care gaps. While this is mainly achieved during annual wellness visits, that’s a problem for those aforementioned patients who miss appointments. The good news is, technology like portal messages or text and email campaigns can connect with patients between visits to gather important information that closes quality gaps. Examples of this patient-reported quality data (PRQD) include flu and pneumonia vaccines as well as breast and colon cancer screenings. This behind-the-scenes tool can close hundreds or thousands of gaps and save days’ worth of work while helping your patients manage their care and improving your value-based performance.
Continue and Expand Telehealth
Although telehealth usage has dropped from pandemic highs, utilization has leveled off well-above pre-pandemic benchmarks. This number will likely rise as telehealth-centric “virtual-first” plans gain traction. This continued adoption and its effects on advancing value-based payments are two healthcare trends to watch in 2022, according to Privia Health CEO Shawn Morris.
Broadly speaking, telehealth furthers value-based care by expanding access and adding convenient touch points with patients. For example, a patient who otherwise may have skipped an in-person appointment due to the logistical difficulties can now use telehealth instead. During this appointment, you can potentially close care gaps, manage chronic conditions, and meet patients where they are while avoiding an expensive emergency department visit. All of these factors can help improve the healthcare delivery experience and increase patient satisfaction.
In addition to its many benefits, telehealth offers tremendous value from a value-based perspective. As mHealthIntelligence notes: “Telehealth promotes a value-based care model and provides a convenient method for patients to receive care, two things that are enough to alter the standards of the healthcare industry.” Recognizing this potential is especially important now as industry groups advocate to extend telehealth waivers and lawmakers seek to preserve coverage.
There’s much more to say about technology’s impact on value-based care. Out of respect for your busy schedule, I’ll save some of that for my follow-up post focused on technology to augment the patient encounter. But how about I give you a little sneak peek? Here’s a clue: One of the topics I’ll cover rhymes with “schmirtual shcribe.” Stay tuned and I’ll reveal the answer next week!