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How to improve patient experience the right way

There is a strong movement back toward spending face-to-face time with patients. We’ve seen evidence of this in a recent webinar presented by Steve LaLonde, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Ambulatory Physicians & RCM Services, and Gerard Nussbaum, JD, MS, CPA, Principal at Zarach Associates, LLC, on delivering better patient care through practice management and financial tools. A poll of the webinar attendees revealed that 31% agree freeing up time for more face-to-face interactions with patients would best help practices deliver care.

According to Nussbaum, the key to spending more time with patients and making better use of tools is using current information to fix the workflow. “Physicians are engaging in different strategies to leverage the staff they have and extend the systems they can use,” Nussbaum said. “They are focusing on the care of patients and using tools to better engage patients by giving them vital information on technology they use every day.” Patients are expecting the same interaction with practices that they experience online from websites like Amazon and eBay.

Here are Nussbaum’s highlights on improving patient experience:

1. Implement self-service for technology-savvy patients. Look at the demographics of patients before deciding whether to invest in self-service tools, such as self-service scheduling, appointment reminders and bill pay. For example, senior populations can benefit from self-service to help them manage their own health, especially those with a variety of illnesses.

Nussbaum credits self-service with “enhancing the ability of patients to get what needs to be done on their time frame.”

2. Offer convenient communication options. Telehealth enhances convenience and chronic care management, especially in enabling choice for patients. Automated appointment reminders may assist in assuring that patients remember their appointments and support the patients in keeping their appointments. Patients can easily reschedule appointments, opt for televisits or access transportation and ride sharing. Portal and non-portal users have the advantage of being able to access their EHR-agnostic care record anytime, anywhere through the use of smartphone apps.

3. Create a transparent financial relationship. Transparency and accurate billing processes are vital to helping patients understand the value of the care they are receiving. Eligibility checking help in a time of higher patient payment burden.

“Patients would like to know what it costs for them, the total cost, who’s paying, and what it’s for,” Nussbaum said.

4. Streamline workflows to improve patient-physician communication. Nussbaum suggests this approach can help physicians better manage time during the day. “For appointments that run longer than expected, send out text messages to communicate you are running behind,” Nussbaum said.

Advanced portals enable text messaging options to follow-up, offer payment capabilities and visibility to the care record post-visit for both portal and non-portal users. Analytics tools, such as Allscripts® Practice Discover, can also provide relevant info at point of care to the physician and nurse staff, improving communication.

5. Paint a clear patient picture for better coordination. All patient information isn’t in one electronic health record (EHR) because patients receive care from multiple providers. Creating a clear patient picture enables analytics, so practices can proactively intervene with at-risk patients before they’re at a costlier stage.

“You don’t have to always adopt the big picture in information sharing to help guide the patient. Successful independent practices are starting small,” said Nussbaum. “It’s not just about the technology, but the workflow.”

6. Prioritize and intervene for at-risk, high-cost patients to proactively engage at a less costly stage. Nussbaum advises assessing gaps can also create revenue opportunities, such as scheduling wellness exams and following up with patients. Demonstrating a solid track record with population health management, by marrying clinical and outcome information, can also help practices improve results with managed care contracts.

7. Manage chronic populations with machine learning. Advanced technologies enable practices to set criteria within the EHR that tells a physician whether to order genomic testing on a patient and get back specific regimen for treating that patient. Automated messaging can fulfill the requirements of chronic care management programs and data from wearables.

“The greatest benefit of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is that can help us focus on the relevant data out of a vast amount,” Nussbaum said.

8. Understand populations to deliver proactive care. Practices should be able to make safer care decisions and coordinate more easily with other organizations, such as Management Services Organizations (MSOs) and Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). They can gain better understanding by aggregating harmonized, normalized information across EHR platforms on a clinical basis for database built around a population. This capability enables practices to segment around high-cost and high-risk patients.

The full webinar discusses in greater detail how to improve patient experience and deliver better patient care. To learn more about Allscripts tools that help achieve this, listen here.

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