Information is empowering, and empowered patients are loyal patients. Research shows that patients are more loyal to a practice that is using EHR. However, more studies show that hospitals and physicians are struggling to keep up with EHR technology. Consider this from Healthleaders Media:
"According to a survey of 107 hospital and health system revenue cycle executives and chief financial officers, 56% of respondents said their organizations couldn't keep up with EHR upgrades or underuse available EHR functions, up from 51% last year."
If your hospital, clinic or practice has an EHR program but is still struggling with patient loyalty, here are some ways to up your game.
Personalize and Engage
A 2015 study showed that nearly early 70 percent of providers now allow patients to view, download and transmit their health information online. However, simply being able to see one’s EHR only marginally improves loyalty, but when paired with a patient engagement platform, EHR data becomes organic, relevant and real.
For instance, the study showed that when a patient was provided a personalized list of prevention recommendations, at 16 months, 1 in 4 users was up-to-date on all preventive services—nearly double that of non-users.
Engagement can take many forms, but most health experts view the most effective engagement as ongoing from the moment the patient lands on your hospital or clinic’s website, to when they first enter the doors, to when they head back home. Salesforce offers up some advice on what is the most effective engagement:
"Create the experiences patients want. Connect touch points from the moment patients start browsing a website looking for a provider, to scheduling an appointment, to receiving an appointment reminder and tailored wellness tips via an app."
Patient engagement platforms like PatientBond can make that journey with a patient in a way that makes the healthcare system a wellness beacon rather than just a sick bay.
PatientBond engages patients based on scientifically tested psychographic segmentation techniques, which takes into account consumers’ values, attitudes, personalities and lifestyles and understanding their unique motivations. For example, when it comes to post-visit follow-up after seeing a primary care physician, not all segments want the same message from the same communication platforms. Willful Endurers, which live in the here and now, prefer a live phone call, email or no communication whatsoever. On the other hand, Priority Jugglers, which are constantly managing multiple priorities, prefer a live phone call, email or text message. These audiences are similar, but not the same, so it doesn’t make sense to target a large swath of people the exact same way when everyone communicates or responds to communication differently.
These individually targeted health reminders, wellness tips and appointment alerts all serve to improve the patient’s health and increase engagement. Patients that increase their engagement with their providers, in sickness and in health, pivot from viewing their physicians and hospitals as places to go just when they are sick to a true lifelong wellness partner.
Improve Health Literacy
In addition to treating, providers need to be educating. By making patients true partners and stakeholders in their health, they’ll develop increased health literacy. But to do that, a patient needs to understand truly what is going on with their health or their loved one's health.
"Because of low health literacy (one assessment in 2003 put this figure at 12% of adults), some patients were likely to misunderstand doctor’s orders, leading to higher levels of illness, errors and duration of hospital stays."
The article goes on to say:
"...health education materials available through EHRs are generally beyond the comprehension of numerous patients, contending that an estimated 77 million Americans possess basic or below basic health literacy."
So EHRs’ usefulness is only as good as the comprehension of the patient, and physicians and hospitals can help with that by providing basic advocacy and education.
Integrate for Convenience
Integrating EHRs into the administrative end of healthcare can help ease staff burdens. Directing patients towards an EHR system-integrated online portal allows staff to “triage” communications, prioritizing the most important ones and allowing the practice to allocate resources better. This also is a benefit to patients. Consider this from RevenueXL:
"Convenience and additional communication options are resonating with patients — according to the survey, 82 percent of patients using EHR solutions were more satisfied with the quality of care they received."
Patient satisfaction with the convenience and comfort of being able to reach out to a physician online can definitely help practices reduce the weight of non-emergency inquiries on their staff.
EHR integration can and should include other personnel-heavy tasks like prescription management, scheduling and follow-ups. HealthIT.gov says that EHRs can help with office efficiency by creating integrated scheduling systems that link appointments directly to progress notes, automated coding and easier-to-manage claims. Thus, your staff can more efficiently run your organization and improve medical practice management. Other benefits include faster and better information availability, less chasing down paperwork and programming for easy transmission of information from laboratories or other providers, saving staff time that would otherwise be spent manually entering information into patient records.
Use EHR in Front of Patients to Increase Confidence
Few things boost a patient’s confidence in the accuracy of their data than seeing their healthcare provider entering information directly into a laptop. It's an engaging activity and is less prone to error than, say, scribbling something onto a notepad where someone later trying to transcribe might make an error.
Patients in a study said they felt more comfortable with physicians that used an EHR system, and more importantly, patients felt that the information contained in the medical record was more accurate. Doctors can use the EHR to discuss and record lab work, compare health markers from past visits and, in general, present the patient’s health history in virtual reality.
When EHR is combined with a robust patient engagement program and integrated into patient education and practice management, it becomes not just a way to reduce paperwork, but also a new avenue for improving patient outcomes and cementing patient loyalty.
Learn more about how one organization boosted patient loyalty by working with PatientBond. Download our case study today.