To cap off our 3/10 #HITsm twitter chat, we asked a question that might actually be the most important issue for Healthcare IT professionals to address. Patient Engagement and empowerment are popular themes. How would you like to be empowered by digital transformation in healthcare?

Perhaps, like some of the chat participants, you struggle with what it means to be empowered. Truly understanding your patients’ core needs requires data and reflection, so that solutions are simple, powerful, and integrated, rather than short-term and gimmicky. There were plenty of good ideas floating around during the chat, so let’s take a look at some of the high points.

Cost Transparency

As AAJ’s VP of Digital Transformation Murray pointed out, healthcare is the only industry that lacks cost transparency. This is an incredible source of stress for patients, who often have to make decisions about their health that are completely divorced from the potential financial repercussions. We’ve found that the providers we work with who create platforms offering pricing transparency, find their patients have a much-improved experience. There’s also evidence that empowering patients with information and providing multiple payment options improves revenue cycle management.

Simplification

To be a successful partner in patients’ healthcare, it’s important to make processes as easy for our already busy customers as possible. Apps and web portals should be intuitive and easy to use. Our task is to identify and remove roadblocks to care wherever possible. This includes using our data to make it easier to locate providers, simplifying approval processes and scheduling, filling prescriptions quickly, and reducing task repetition. These are all areas where digital should consistently outshine legacy workflows. For example, offices that use paper records often require patients to arrive as much as a quarter of an hour early to fill out or update paperwork. Patients with access to an online portal can enter this data ahead of time from home, and it’s then easy to confirm the information when they arrive for their appointment.

Convenience

In the past, we’ve discussed how simplification has the additional benefit of reducing your staffing costs. It’s simply not necessary to have as many people dealing directly with patients who are empowered to complete tasks themselves and at their own convenience. Since hold times and wait times are common complaints among customers, they respond very positively to being able to input their medical information and schedule appointments at their convenience. Convenience is a mutually beneficial strategy. As we’ll discuss next, engagement strategies should be a two-way street between patients and physicians, as well.

Prevention

Digital Transformation has the potential to revolutionize healthcare by providing an unprecedented amount of information to assist in one’s own care. Patients who don’t have access to preventative care often don’t come in until their health problems are critical, by which point they usually require expensive intervention or palliative care. But we can create solutions that allow patients to input and update ongoing metrics on their health. We can create a measure of back and forth with providers. And we can do our best to provide an integrated platform that allows patients to view lab work, prescriptions, metrics, and physician information all in one place. When everyone involved has all the necessary puzzle pieces, self-care is improved, appointments are more effective, and everyone benefits.

The point we hope we’re getting across is this: our organizations’ future success is fundamentally tied to patient empowerment. When we talk about putting the patient at the center, we’re really talking about empowerment, based on the patient’s core needs. If you’ve got engagement-related goals at the heart of your Digital Transformation project, you’re headed in the right direction for everyone involved. You’re also far less likely to create “solutions” that quickly drift into obsolescence.

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