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Going beyond the portal

Portals must meet today’s healthcare consumers where most live: on their phones. Only 5-10% of patients interact with web portals, while up to 90% engage via messaging from texts or other mobile methods. More than 80% of patients prefer to interact via mobile devices today.

Why is this important? Patients who are more actively involved in their healthcare tend to have better outcomes and lower costs. Value-based payment models have increased the emphasis on these measures ― meaning that getting patients engaged has become mission-critical.

As a result, today’s healthcare providers need solutions that do not require patients to log in to a patient portal. They need solutions that deliver SMS messages “just in time,” with weblinks making it easy to execute specific care tasks for pre-care, point-of-care and post-care.

Here are ways health systems can change their decades-old default approaches to boost patient engagement:

1. Simplify platforms

Many use ― in addition to portals ― multiple, stand-alone solutions to handle segments of patient outreach, such as those for reminders or scheduling. However, this can lead to disjointed, uneven care. A unified platform integrating all outreach technologies is more efficient, effective — and engaging.

2. Recognize consumer needs

The whole purpose of patient-centered care design is to recognize consumer needs and helps create visually friendly interfaces, easy-to-use tools and information served in small chunks (such as discharge instructions, given in a series of linked texts, in addition to the usual packet of densely printed pages).

In the KLAS Patient Engagement 2017 report, one health system reported shifting to texting patients, which drove patient engagement. “We ended up with a real mobile connection with our patients,” the health system’s executive said, citing a 50% response rate to texts. “We don’t send emails because people don’t read emails anymore. The texts are pushed in real time for very specific reasons, such as preparing for a visit, providing post-case information, setting up appointments or speaking with a physician. At the end of the day, it is what consumers want that will drive how successful we can be.”

3. Customize services per patient

Health systems have the opportunity to customize services offerings based on patient needs. For example:

  • Reach new and prospective patients through social media ads and posts. These patients can view online information and reviews about the physician, set up an appointment and fill out new patient questionnaires.
  • Contact episodic or well patients with “just-in-time” appointment reminders, check-ins, surveys and post-care summaries via text, email or automated voice response.
  • Send additional outreach to chronic patients. For example, remind a patient living with diabetes to come in for three-month bloodwork.
  • Address special circumstances. For example, a parent working on an oil rig had a child who was many miles away and in need of surgery. The parent signed a consent form via text. The hospital also was able to help the parent stay virtually connected to the action with a series of texts documenting the child’s progress through pre-op to recovery ― much like a Twitter feed.

By adopting a robust, consistent and patient-centered care engagement platform, health systems can increase patient satisfaction and motivate patients to become more active partners in their care ― resulting in better health and improved outcomes.

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