Using health IT, health systems can ensure better continuity of convenient care and drive patient loyalty across care sites.
Patient loyalty and outreach have long been key priorities for healthcare organizations, leaving clinics and hospitals to lean on shrewd marketing tactics to get more patients in the door and boost market dominance.
But as the healthcare industry shifts from fee-for-service to value-based payment models, those goals – and therefore the path toward achieving them – has changed, according to John Ward, the senior vice president and chief information officer (CIO) at Ohio-based TriHealth.
It’s not as though the number of patients getting into a health system is no longer important at all – there will always be a business case for this. But for a health system that is doing well in its market and is facing the changing healthcare landscape, the idea of patient loyalty has begun to shift.
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“When we were looking at our key performance indicators, we did not really see that we were losing patients,” Ward explained in an interview with PatientEngagementHIT.com. “From a market leadership perspective, we were pretty well-suited in this market. But with the changes that are hitting healthcare from a reimbursement perspective, and a movement with fee-for-service to population health, we knew we needed to continue to grow.”
This hasn’t necessarily meant increasing their volume, Ward said. Instead, it has required a focus on care coordination and the patient experience with the whole health system.
“Where patient loyalty is important is making sure that those patients are utilizing our services from a physician perspective, from an ancillary perspective, from a hospital perspective when necessary so that we have a really strong continuity of care across the different levels of care that we provide,” Ward explained.
“And when we started looking at how digital will impact healthcare, we knew we needed a way to make it easy for those patients that are seeking to utilize TriHealth to find us, to find the appropriate physician, to be connected into our health system, and to be able to schedule visits.”
At the crux of this has been the idea of convenient care. As noted above, TriHealth has been responding to the changing healthcare landscape, recognizing that patients are more like consumers and want to see the services they receive outside of medicine reflected in their healthcare experiences.
“We’ve got to make all our technologies work in a way that it’s very convenient for the patient to do business with us. Because if it’s not, they’re going to choose someone else,” Ward pointed out. “Everybody is getting into the healthcare business. Walgreens, Walmart, Kroger’s, CVS, and others are all trying to provide the same low-acuity care that we provide and some of the advanced services we provide.”
Ward and his team realized they needed to create a modern, consumer-centered healthcare experience that, sure, could attract new patients. But more importantly, TriHealth wanted to make sure it reflected the new market values that new players represented.
“We have taken the approach of working to be like Amazon,” Ward explained. “We’ve got to make it really easy to get a visit and to be seen. We need to make it real easy to get the answers a patient needs. We want to guide patients through their care from both a health and a wellness perspective.”
TriHealth started this transformation by tapping Kyruus, a health IT platform that Ward said has turned into the health system’s “digital front door.” Through the technology, patients and providers can look through available clinicians at the health system’s numerous care sites.
“We can identify when physicians are one, taking new patients, and two, where they’re located through geo mapping and zip code locations,” Ward stated. “Patients can find exactly who’s taking new patients, where they’re located, how to get there, what kinds of services clinicians provide, and then get one-click access to schedule appointments and so on to get in to see that physician.”
These new tools have revamped the way patients now access the health system. Since February, TriHealth has seen nearly 124,000 internet provider searches, proving that putting appointment availability online has enhanced patient access.
TriHealth has also implemented direct-to-consumer telehealth options and secure direct messaging to serve as e-consult options, making it easier for patients to access a provider when it would otherwise be hard to get to a physical clinic.
“Convenience is everything,” Ward asserted. “We’re living in the world today of having anything that you want at your fingertips digitally. And we as consumers today are going to choose those opportunities that are the easiest to interact with.”
But driving convenient care, and subsequently transforming to a consumer-based healthcare option, has meant more than just implementing new technologies. TriHealth has realized that patient loyalty also means keeping hours and appointment availability that are amenable to patients.
“These aren’t the days of only being open during business hours,” Ward pointed out. “We need to be able to see patients during off-hours, and we’ve changed our entire approach in that, especially from a primary care perspective. And we are seeing patients in the evening, early morning, and on weekends, and that wasn’t the norm in healthcare.”
“We’ve also changed the way we approach new patients, and the goal is that we’re going to get those patients in the next day if at all possible,” he added. “And if not with this specific physician that they want to see, we’re going to tee them up for other providers who can get the patient in that next day if necessary for the care that they’re trying to receive.”
Because TriHealth has designed its patient loyalty programs within the context of the shifting healthcare industry – or within the context of value-based care and population health – these programs have conversely supported the system’s key metrics. For example, ensuring the patient gets care from the right provider at the right time has ensured efficient healthcare utilization.
“In our population health journey, our goal is to decrease utilization of the emergency room and readmissions,” Ward noted. “We need to make sure that when patients have an issue, that they can find what they need quickly and access that care, whether it’s a virtual visit or having the appropriate information steer them in the right direction.”
Date: August 01, 2019
Source: Patient Engagement Hit