Over the years, it’s become clear when the patient is put at the center of the healthcare system, everyone benefits. Patient-focused outcomes lead to better scheduling, enhanced coordination of care (with the aim of shorter hospital stays), and stronger patient engagement post-discharge.
What’s enabled this transformation? Cloud communications solutions help providers and patients connect effectively. Read on to learn how a healthcare communications platform elevates patient engagement and provides the ideal patient experience.
What is patient engagement?
To understand what the term “patient engagement” means, we first have to look at another term—“patient activation.” Patient activation refers to that individual’s knowledge, skills, ability, and willingness to manage his or her healthcare. It’s the first step in patient engagement.
Patient engagement is a combination of patient activation and interventions that promote positive patient behavior, such as exercise and preventive care. This concept is important because when patients are deeply involved in their own care, they experience more positive outcomes, such as less time in the hospital.
What’s the ideal patient experience, and why does it matter?
The ideal patient experience is one that is smooth and seamless for patients, although it has benefits for providers, too. Patients can easily schedule appointments and receive confirmations, receive coordinated care that reduces the risk of medical errors, and have higher levels of patient engagement post-discharge.
Why does the ideal patient experience matter so much? When patients have a good experience, they feel more engaged. When they feel more engaged, they’re more willing to play an active role in their own care and healing. That can play a role in lowering the hospital readmission crisis because one factor in readmissions is a lack of patient compliance.
Reduction of readmissions is important for providers as well as patients. A recently released HCUP Statistical Brief reveals that the average overall cost of readmission is approximately $14,400 per incident. It is clear to see that reducing readmissions makes good business sense for healthcare organizations. Adequate communication between healthcare providers and patients, therefore, actually improves business outcomes as well as patient outcomes, creating a win-win situation.
What is a healthcare communications platform?
A healthcare communications platform is an integrated suite of collaboration tools, including voice, video meetings, secure messaging, and contact center technologies. Combined, providers use it to increase patient touch points and deliver virtual patient access centers to share important information with patients and with other healthcare providers.
This technology lets patients connect with their providers on any device they want, anywhere they want, at any time. They no longer need to wait for an appointment, or, worse, an emergency, to communicate with their providers.
Healthcare communications platforms: Improving patient engagement and satisfaction
Healthcare communications platforms can improve patient engagement and satisfaction in three ways:
- Through scheduling
- Increased provider collaboration
- Improved post-discharge outcomes
This technology makes it easier for patients to communicate with their providers and to update them on their conditions. With a healthcare communications platform, patients can take a larger and more active role in their care, which ultimately leads to greater patient satisfaction and improved outcomes.
How a healthcare communications platform enhances scheduling
The scheduling process can be one of the most frustrating aspects of obtaining healthcare. When patients call a doctor’s office, it can take several tries until they reach a real, live human. Even at larger practices with call center technology in place, calls might often go unanswered, and moreover, there’s no cross-device support, SMS/text messaging, or call forwarding; at smaller practices, there’s only a receptionist, who can’t always pick up the phone. And after they schedule an appointment, patients often don’t receive the follow-up care they need, which causes bigger problems later.
A healthcare communications solution transforms the scheduling process. For a start, some healthcare communications platforms are omnichannel, meaning that patients can reach providers in a variety of ways, including phone, texts, and online meetings, and the experience is consistent in every channel. When a clinic employee is speaking with a patient at a larger practice, that individual’s information appears onscreen during the conversation (at a smaller practice, the receptionist can answer a mobile phone in the back, then walk up front to schedule the appointment). After the appointment is booked, the patient receives an automated SMS before the event, which increases the likelihood the patient will show up to receive the needed care.
How a healthcare communications platform increases provider collaboration
In the healthcare setting, communication between providers can actually be a matter of life and death. If a clinician misreads his colleague’s handwriting and prescribes a patient the wrong medication, that person could die.
Moreover, effective communication can save money; a study carried out at Johns Hopkins Community Healthcare Partnership showed that patients receiving coordinated care after discharge saved the healthcare system $4,295 per beneficiary.
By putting a healthcare communications platform in place, providers and patients alike can reap the benefits of greater coordination. For example, a nurse preparing to discharge a patient could perform a screen-share with other clinicians during the course of a video conference, so that all providers could be on the same page with the patient’s condition and treatment, and no errors would be made.
How a healthcare communications platform improves post-discharge engagement
The right kind of post-discharge care optimizes patient outcomes. Researchers estimate that one-quarter of all 30-day hospital readmissions are preventable, and many readmissions stem from inadequate post-discharge follow-up. Patient engagement—that is, ensuring that patients play an active role in their own care—is a crucial component of post-discharge follow-up.
Healthcare communications platforms make it easier for patients to stay engaged post-discharge. If there’s an adverse reaction to a medication, for example, he or she could call a phone number that would connect the patient with an outpatient care call center. The call center agent, in turn, would contact the doctor through a messaging app, and the doctor would respond with a suggestion based on the severity of the complaint.
The situation doesn’t have to be as dire as an adverse reaction to a medication, though. A patient might have questions about post-discharge treatment, such as physical therapy. In that case, the patient could hold a video chat with a physiotherapist to review how to perform a specific exercise. After each interaction, the patient would receive an SMS prompt to log into the patient portal and complete a survey.
There’s no better time to increase patient engagement and satisfaction than now. When patients are actively involved in their own healthcare, they’re more likely to adhere to treatment plans and take steps to live healthier lifestyles. Providers can help patients reach that goal by implementing a healthcare communications platform that enables convenient and effective information-sharing between patients and providers. Request a demo of RingCentral’s cloud phone systems for healthcare providers to see a cutting-edge healthcare communications platform in action.
Originally published Sep 20, 2019, updated Aug 24, 2021