By Dereck Tatman, President and COO, AristaMD
Each year, our patient population is increasingly influenced by their personal experiences in domains aside from healthcare, including personal finance, shopping, etc. The “experience” standard is continually being raised and these other areas have made great advances while healthcare has not moved as swiftly. Our patients, as consumers, have access to a wealth of information and experiences at their fingertips. When leveraged effectively, these technologies can play a vital role to enhance patient experience.
Because of their expertise in software development and building direct-to-consumer relationships, large technology companies are now seizing the opportunity to consumerize healthcare. Companies like Google, Apple, GE, and others are increasingly investing in healthcare startups as well as focusing on internal initiatives aimed at healthcare innovation.
A lot of these tech giants and startups who focus on the customer experience see primary care as the best place to enter the healthcare market as it is the best entry point into the health system. When it comes to healthcare, patients are physically, emotionally, and financially invested—that makes healthcare choices some of the most important within one’s life.
The healthcare industry is facing a wealth of innovation opportunities that improve the quality and delivery of care while increasing patient satisfaction.
Here are 7 ways in which healthcare innovations are positively impacting patient satisfaction:
In the digital era, patients expect to have readily available and easily accessible personal health records and online appointment scheduling. As a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, all public and private healthcare providers and other eligible professionals (EP) were required to adopt and demonstrate “meaningful use” of electronic medical records (EMR) by January 1, 2014. As of 2017, nearly 9 in 10 (86%) of office-based physicians had transitioned to electronic record technology, and nearly 4 in 5 (80%) had adopted a certified electronic health record (EHR). Most EHR systems provide patients with an easily accessible portal to view medical history, prescriptions, test results, appointments, and visit reminders.
To further increase patients’ interaction with their health data, Apple integrated patients’ medical records into its Health App as part of its late 2018 iOS 11.3 beta release. In addition to allowing patients to track their wearable data, stored health data is now encrypted and protected with the user’s iPhone passcode. By partnering with hospital providers and clinics, Apple allows patients to view their medical records from multiple providers within one platform. A growing list of healthcare institutions support record availability on the iPhone, including immunizations, lab results, medications, and vitals.
We tried it out and were able to connect to our health system’s portal within about 30 seconds!
Direct Provider Contracting
A survey published last January by insurance broker Willis Towers Watson found that 22% of employers are considering a direct-to-employer plan through a local health system in 2019. We expect to see more companies and healthcare organizations challenging traditional models of healthcare service to secure value-based care. By partnering with healthcare systems in their area, employers can create high performing networks designed to improve quality of care as well as help save on medical costs. By tailoring the provider network offered to employees, employer groups can have more control over ensuring top quality and cost-effective care.
These arrangements typically place an emphasis on proactive health management, leading to decreased hospitalizations, and steer care toward non-acute care settings. In addition, these contracts provide organizations access to data that enables them to continually optimize their offering along with value-based care objectives. Within these arrangements, patients can have higher visibility and in turn comfort in understanding their benefits, and what their spend is going toward. These types of plans can also facilitate specific services designed to enhance employee satisfaction, such as primary care services at an on- or near-site health center, urgent care services in close proximity to the employer’s work site(s), or “concierge” style member services specifically designed to assist employees and their dependents with questions regarding benefits and to help them find the right provider for a given medical condition.
Retail Setting Care
We’ve seen a rise in the number of “quick-clinic” retail care centers, which we expect to continue. In these retail clinics, consumers are able to obtain quick care for routine health services including STI testing, vaccinations, microbial culture tests, and other preventive health tests. Quick Clinics, such as CVS MinuteClinic, Walgreens, Kroger, and Walmart, offer a much faster solution than a primary care visit, as most patients know the specific reason for their visit or the test they need. Retail clinics purposefully offer only tests that are fast to conduct, which enables a rapid exam turn-around time.
The $69B CVS-Aetna acquisition signifies an effort to test how retail clinics can be used to improve the overall health of the population by providing rapid access to preventative health services that fit into the consumer’s schedule.
Telemedicine can play a key role in improving patient engagement by allowing patients to participate in their own care—as well as supporting higher patient satisfaction—which results in recommendations for an organization’s services.
At Nemours, one pediatric orthopedic surgeon—Dr. Alfred Atdanta—typically conducts two or three virtual visits per day. He says these appointments revolve around information transfer, such as reviewing a recent MRI, conducting pre-operation counseling or following up after a surgery. Patients are typically able to join the virtual visit at their convenience: before or after patients go to school or their parents go to work, etc.
In post-visit satisfaction surveys, 98% of patients say they would be interested in future telemedicine visits, and 99% would recommend telemedicine, as reported in a recent paper for The BMJ. “I keep people out of office who don’t need to be there,” says Dr. Atdanta.
At Cleveland Clinic, leadership says that a desire to keep patients out of the hospital drives many of their telemedicine initiatives. The hospital has a large international presence, and in the absence of telemedicine resources, patients would otherwise have to travel for hours for appointments that may take less than 15 minutes. Their obstetrics program enables patients with low-risk pregnancies to monitor vitals at home using hospital supplied equipment and then facilitates video visits with physicians with access to the data. “If you’re a busy mom, you don’t want to be wasting your time going to the doctor for all this” says Peter Rasmussen, Medical Director of Distance Health at Cleveland Clinic. The typical expecting mother has approximately nine obstetrics appointments before giving birth, of which many, but not all can be replaced with nine 1- to 2-minute video visits, making it significantly more convenient for women and anyone assisting with their care.
With the rise of chronic “non-communicative” or lifestyle diseases linked to lifestyle choices, such as diabetes, more consumers are turning to health wearables. These small but mighty pieces of tech can monitor glucose, heart rate, physical activity, and sleep to gain a greater understanding of an individual’s health conditions. [See reference to Apple Health Kit in section above: EHR Adoption].
As Bluetooth technology has experienced rapid expansion, increasing amounts of data collected can be analyzed by sophisticated algorithms to drive long-term diagnosis and support. Partnering with Google, health wearables company Fitbit acquired HIPAA-compliant health coaching platform, Twine Health, to create FitBit Care health coaching. The FitBit Care program empowers consumers to take a more proactive approach to managing health. FitBit Care provides general health and wellness coaching for those in need of complex care and disease management, while offering program support for coaches targeting individuals with diabetes, hypertension, tobacco cessation, and weight loss. The offering tracks 100+ health and lifestyle-related metrics.
Mobile App Health Technology
The use of mobile and tablet health apps has tripled from 13% in 2014 to 48% today, as consumers are leveraging mobile technologies to access their data through the use of various applications. Through technology advancements within the wearable sector [see section above], an increasing amount of health data is able to be stored and leveraged within mobile health technology.
Mobile technology is being used across several aspects of care and engagement, a large sector being for the management of chronic diseases. mHealth has proven statistically significant improvement in outcomes through continual symptom assessment and tracking, programmed reminders and feedback tailored to patient needs, and enhanced patient to physician communication that resulted in improved self-management of chronic conditions.
One great example of the use of mobile technology to deliver patient care came in the way of two partnerships formed last year between British based startup Babylon Health, the National Health Service (NHS), and private sector insurance provider Bupa Global. The union allows both the NHS and Bupa Global to provide Babylon’s online General Practitioner (GP) consultations and clinical triage services as part of their members’ coverage. The service is called GP at hand for the NHS and Instant GP for Bupa beneficiaries. It has also cemented its presence across the flourishing Chinese market, with a membership base exceeding 1.4M citizens across Europe, Asia, and Africa. This artificial intelligence system has enabled both parties to interact directly with users, identify specific illnesses, deliver health status assessments, and triage necessary actions.
“We often hear that time is a barrier to looking after our health, which is why we’re investing in digital solutions that are convenient and quick to access through an app.” Says Mark Allan, commercial director at Bupa.
As well as having access to unlimited 24/7 online GP consultations and Babylon’s clinical triage service, Bupa customers will also have access to their health care provider’s “digital twin” service. This leading-edge mobile technology allows patients to tap parts of their body with their smartphone and get medical assessments. The extensive offer from Babylon includes:
- Call or video call with a GP, typically within 2 hours
- Unlimited GP consultations available 24/7, 365 days a year
- Coverage extends to all insured members including employees and their families
- Access to (artificial intelligence-powered) clinical triage services
- After triage, patients can text questions directly to a clinician
- Health information available for all ages
- Prescription writing with a delivery or collection service
- Sync with wearable technology
Bupa member services can now offer open referrals through Babylon Health’s technology. If a consumer would like, they can use the platform to gain a GP referral, meaning they would not have to contact their NHS GP and potentially wait for an appointment.
“We share Babylon’s mission to make healthcare more accessible, which is why it’s important we utilise the latest in digital health to help our customers lead healthy lives and offer assurance when they need it.”
Rideshare Healthcare Transportation
Medical transportation is an important social determinant of health, and non-emergency transportation remains a key challenge. When patients are unable to obtain transportation to their medical appointments, they often forego care, which can lead to other adverse health impacts. In fact, 25% of lower-income patients have missed or rescheduled appointments due to lack of transportation, costing US health systems up to $150B each year. Ride-share transportation companies Lyft and Uber, as well as other private transportation companies, have entered this market by partnering with state governments to reduce transportation burdens and provide personalized patient care.
Through UberHealth, healthcare providers partner with Uber to manage the process of booking transportation for patients. Even patients without smartphones can utilize the services. Learn more about UberHealth.
Lyft’s Lyft Concierge is currently partnered with Allscripts and Formativ, by providing transportation services. In order to do so, Lyft Concierge is fully integrated into the two EHR systems. Lyft is providing non-emergency medical transportation in 3 ways:
- A patient can request their own ride via the Lyft app.
- Lyft partners with health systems and hospitals from which these organizations can broker transportation services on behalf of patients.
- Lyft partners with non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) companies which serve as rideshare brokers between patients and providers. If a clinic identifies a patient as potentially in need of a ride, that NEMT group will arrange the ride on the patient’s and hospital’s behalf, via Lyft Concierge.
Lyft’s annual economic report found the following: Thirty-six percent of respondents said that after beginning to use Lyft to attend their medical appointments, they went to urgent care less frequently. Twenty-eight percent of healthcare riders said that without Lyft, they would not be able to make it to their medical appointments at all.
A study has shown that nearly four in ten consumers say they are willing to use Uber for medical appointment transportation, demonstrating a large potential market for this type of service
As healthcare innovates, patient experience will always be a priority.
At AristaMD, we’re looking forward to continuing to drive healthcare innovation that results in improved outcomes and improved patient satisfaction. We are constantly reaching to deploy engaging solutions to improve overall patient experience.
Interested in learning more about how eConsults are impacting the experience of providers and their patients?