Choosing the Right Patient Engagement Solution

Provider organizations need to consider several factors when selecting software that can help retain patients.

For patient engagement software to be optimally effective, it must integrate with patient access and electronic health record system environments.

Healthcare providers are overwhelmed with vendors offering patient engagement solutions. A Google search for patient engagement products returns over 62 million results.

The challenge for providers is determining which patient engagement apps will enable them to create greater brand loyalty as they compete with other provider networks.

In my own experience, almost all of my providers send out text and email reminders of upcoming visits that have been scheduled. But only one, an orthopedic surgeon, uses a patient engagement app that also sends pre-visit/preparatory information, measures patient satisfaction with the visit, and then follows up using multiple communication methods to measure progress in achieving desired results.

Providers may also want to optimize their business processes for patient services with referral management, pre-authorizations, bill payments, and analytics features in patient engagement solutions.

For patient engagement software to be optimally effective, it must integrate with patient access (e.g. check-in, scheduling, and authorization/billing) and electronic health record system environments. But how can providers effectively integrate workflows and data from patient engagement apps into enterprise IT environments?

Organizations need to create a strategy for implementing patient engagement solutions that improves their efficiency as well as the quality of care. But which approach is best for the organization: incremental, targeted app implementations or a full-scale implementation of a more comprehensive patient engagement suite?

Needs assessment

Each organization will need to carefully assess its patient engagement needs and strategies in order to acquire and implement an effective patient engagement solution. Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) and the Consumer Rating of Healthcare Providers and Systems Outpatient and Day Surgery Survey (OAS CAHPS) are good programs to use to help evaluate solutions.

Provider organizations making their services more intuitive and efficient for patients will be better prepared for the upcoming reimbursement transition.

As the market moves toward higher levels of value-based care, patient engagement solutions that generate higher HCAHPS and OAS CAHPS scores will be better investments. But one thing is clear: organizations should focus on using patient engagement solutions that provide support and guidance to patients at all phases of care and are easily accessible from any device.

This does not mean that provider organizations should ignore back-office or non-patient-facing applications that also directly impact patient services. Scheduling, check-in, pre-authorization, and referral management apps can also improve the patient experience by eliminating service delays.

A clear differentiator for the solutions is their interoperability with enterprise revenue cycle management and EHR environments. Supporting the delivery of care by improving and simplifying business workflows to reduce overhead for commercial and clinical staff should be a key focus.

Preparing for value-based care

Value-based care reimbursement uses measures of quality of care and patient satisfaction to determine provider payments.

The federal government has focused on these types of reimbursement models, and commercial payers will likely adopt similar payment models over time.

The current health care economic and political environment suggests that reimbursement will be skewed towards Medicare rate schedules in the near term as consumers revolt against the high cost of health care. Provider organizations that prepare for this by making their services more intuitive and efficient for patients will be better prepared for the upcoming reimbursement transition.

Choose the right supplier

The KLAS website offers detailed information about vendors offering patient engagement products.

Thousands of vendors promote solutions ranging from targeted applications to complete suites. Beware of large providers that don’t focus specifically on health care. In this market, big does not necessarily mean the same thing as success.

Key steps when choosing suppliers include:

  • Select those with a proven track record of effective implementations and proven interoperability.
  • Ensure that patient-facing apps are intuitively designed for ease of use and are device independent.
  • Validate that patient engagement apps complement enterprise app workflows to improve usability and operational efficiency.

Provider organizations must conduct significant due diligence to determine the best solution for their enterprise IT environment and healthcare delivery strategy as the market shifts to new reimbursement models.

For some organizations, the risk of implementing patient engagement solutions can be mitigated by implementing the solutions in smaller, controlled environments where patient satisfaction metrics need to be improved. Once proven and stable, the solutions can be extended to other patient care services.

Organizations looking to implement a full suite of patient engagement apps will have more success using solutions that have been proven in other organizations of the same size and with the same enterprise app profile. .

Mike Davis is an analyst for KLAS Research. This column originally appeared on the KLAS website here.

Ramon J. Espinoza