2020: The Time for Innovation is Now Part 2: The Tangible Impact of Digital Transformation
In Part 1 of this blog, we examined the operational challenges facing healthcare practices in the wake of COVID-19. As we now know, no practice was spared – from temporary hiatuses to permanent closures, from furloughed staff to patients fearful of returning for visits, from changing business models to reconfigured office environments.
While most of the discussion has focused on the negative repercussions of the pandemic, there is also great opportunity moving forward for practices that take the time to assess their current state and invest in the necessary technology to safeguard their businesses in the event of future disruption. In doing so, they will bolster their practices in new and unexpected ways. Below, we break down the three areas that provide the greatest potential for impact – specifically, patient experience, efficiency and flexibility, and communication – and explore what it will take for practices to reap the benefit.
- Patient experience: Through Clearwave’s electronic self check-in platform and Mobile Pre-Check™ solution, practices can begin engaging with patients well before they ever step foot in the office. Confirming and reminding appointments via text or email. Real-time automatic insurance eligibility checks and self-service payments by credit card. Device-agnostic information collection and verification. These are just a few of the ways the system can create a tighter, more simplified and better-orchestrated patient experience at every touch point. More importantly, it can significantly boost a practice’s bottom line: missed appointments cost a single-physician medical practice $150,000 on average annually.
But technology’s impact on the patient experience extends far beyond the moments leading up to the appointment. It also helps physicians bolster the overall quality of care they deliver. Electronic self check-in systems should integrate directly with most Practice Management Systems (PMS), creating a seamless flow of demographic and medical history data that gives physicians real-time access to the most up-to-date patient information. Without the proper automation and integration, the critical information a patient provides to the front desk may not make its way to the physician in time to impact diagnosis or treatment recommendations. But with electronic self check-in, practices can add preliminary diagnostic questionnaires as part of the check-in process, with the answers automatically populating the patient’s medical record.
- Efficiency and flexibility: Of course, technology is often synonymous with speed and adaptability, and electronic self check-in is no exception. For example, self check-in solutions can create efficiencies within your front-office, allowing practices to process more patients faster and with the utmost accuracy. They also help practices that find themselves resource-constrained due to COVID-19 – 97% of healthcare practices have been impacted financially, with 48% having to temporarily furlough staff and 22% having to conduct permanent layoffs. For these practices, electronic self check-in can make all the difference in restoring operations sooner rather than later.
Most importantly, technologies like electronic self check-in give practices unprecedented flexibility to adopt new workflows and implement changes that are best suited for their patients and businesses – and in just a matter of hours. For example, if minimizing person-to-person contact or reducing the number of people in the office at any one time is the issue, practices can create virtual waiting rooms where patients wait in their cars pre-appointment and get a text from the front desk when the physician is ready. If finding alternative streams of revenue during off-hours is the issue, practices can add emergency drive-through services. And if they leverage telehealth capabilities either in the short-term or on an ongoing basis, they can integrate electronic self check-in to create a more personalized and proactive virtual experience for the patient.
- Communication: The disruption and anxiety stemming from COVID-19 has made communication between physician and patient more important than ever. Practices need to reassure patients that it’s safe to reschedule appointments and keep those in-person visits. This means keeping patients up to date on adjustments to practice operations. Implementing virtual waiting rooms? Let them know prior to the appointment so they feel comfortable the practice is taking every possible precaution to keep them safe. This also avoids any awkwardness or mis-steps when they arrive on-site. Better yet, proactively communicate new services or safety protocols to all patients, even before appointments are rescheduled, so they’re more likely to consider that procedure or wellness check they might otherwise put off. For example, add a splash page to your website and send an email or text to everyone outlining what they can expect when they arrive for their next appointment (e.g., taking temperatures upon arrival, new screening modules, etc.).
More frequent and effective communications also help with financial transparency. The unemployment rate has skyrocketed thanks to the pandemic, and many patients who were employed with health insurance just a few months ago may be facing a very different situation now. Practices need to understand the current state for each patient and communicate their financial responsibility discreetly and with sensitivity before the appointment takes place. Electronic self check-in helps them do that via Mobile Pre-Check™, where information can be collected remotely and follow-up emails or texts can be pushed out accordingly.
There are countless more opportunities for innovation and change, and there are other types of technology – in addition to electronic self check-in – that can have a tremendous impact on a practice’s ability to navigate uncertainty going forward. But one thing is for certain – COVID-19 will be one of the most powerful drivers of digital transformation in the healthcare industry, and the practices that take the necessary steps now, will win big on the other side. Those that choose to wait, will likely not be so fortunate.
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