The Role of Technology in Patient Engagement

Patient engagement has become very important for practices, as patients have more choices and greater access to information about healthcare. Practices have to keep patients engaged to improve patient satisfaction and retain current patients.

Because patient engagement has become such a popular topic in practice management, there are no shortage of ideas and tips for practices to improve patient engagement. If you’ve read any of the coverage on patient engagement on practice management blogs, you may have noticed that technology is often incorporated into patient engagement suggestions in some way.

In our world, technology is everywhere. Most of us are using technology and the internet to access information several times a day, if not all day long. As new technology becomes ingrained in our everyday lives, it’s easy to understand why patients expect new technology from their physicians.

How can practices use technology to improve patient engagement? Here are some suggestions.

What Types of Technology Do Patients Want to See?

Patients are open to using technology in healthcare in a variety of ways. In particular, they are open to any type of technology that makes it easier for them to manage their healthcare needs.

At this point, it’s almost expected that practices have a website and offer an option to schedule an appointment online. In our mobile-savvy society, most people would prefer to avoid phone calls when at all possible. Patients don’t want to wait on hold to schedule an appointment if they can take a minute or two to accomplish the same task online.

Beyond those basic expectations, patients are coming to expect some sort of patient portal or online access to their records. Patient Engagement HIT reported that a recent survey revealed that 77% of patients would prefer to receive lab results online, as it saves them the time of having to make a phone call or office visit.

While it’s clear that patients want this type of technology, it’s also clear that many practices haven’t met those expectations. The same CDW Healthcare survey found that only 29% of patients would give their provider an “A” grade for use of technology in patient engagement. Practices who want to meet patients’ expectations for technology will need to offer patient portals, but there are certainly challenges in choosing a portal that works well for your practice, meets patients’ expectations, and also makes it easy to share information with referring practices.

Choosing the Right Patient Portal for Your Practice

It can be difficult for practices to find a patient portal that fits all of their needs and keeps patients happy. However, there are a few things to consider. A software advisory service called Software Advice put together a guide for practices on choosing a patient portal.

First, you want to choose something that has the features your patients are looking for. According to Software Advice, the top 6 features patients look for are:

  1. Ability to schedule appointments
  2. Ability to view health information
  3. Ability to view and pay bills
  4. Ability to submit prescription refill requests
  5. Ability to fill out forms prior to an office visit
  6. Ability to update their medical history

In addition to key features, your practice should also look for something that is easy to use. Once you’ve narrowed down your options to a few different vendors, you should reach out to request demos. Also look for user reviews to get a sense of what to expect.

You’ll really want to do your research before selecting your vendor, as it will be more difficult to transfer your information from one system to another down the road. Choosing the wrong system could be a frustrating and costly mistake. If you’re interested in learning more about which EMRs and patient portals are the best fit for your practice, follow Linda Stotsky (@EMRAnswers) on Twitter. She has helpful insights on evaluating these systems for your practice.

Patients are coming to expect certain conveniences from medical practices. Practices that want to keep patients engaged and attract new patients have to keep up with the latest technology and offer solutions that meet patient expectations.