The rise of the internet with its open sharing of medical research and the explosion in health-related sites has created a much savvier healthcare consumer.

High-quality healthcare costs a lot of money today, and patients are asking more questions about their care than ever before. In fact, CDW’s 2017 Patient Engagement Perspectives Study found that 70 percent of patients say that they have become more engaged with their healthcare during the past two years — up from 57 percent in 2016.

Responding to this trend, 71 percent of providers say improving patient engagement has become a top priority at their organization, and 80 percent are working on a way to make personal healthcare records easier to access.

Providers know that their continued success depends on engaging patients in new and interesting ways. Here are three best practices that can get organizations to improve their customer service practices, engage patients through portals and deploy in-room technology that enhances the overall patient experience.

1. Hire a Chief Experience Officer

Cleveland Clinic hired the first CXO in 2007, and since then, hospitals ranging from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles have followed suit. Today there are more than 100 CXOs nationwide. Many of them come from the customer-focused hospitality industry from places such as Hyatt, Hilton and Marriott. They often don’t have medical backgrounds, but they have experience building customer-focused organizations, and that’s what many providers need.

Providers are in the business of giving care, but today more than ever, caregivers can not only promote a positive patient experience but actually empower their patients to take better control of their healthcare through the use of technology. A report published last year by the Experience Innovation Network found that 40 percent of CXOs report directly to the hospital’s chief executive officer and another 28 percent report to a clinical executive in quality, medicine or nursing. The report also found that the most successful CXOs have the full backing of the CEO and top management.

2. Enable a Patient Portal

The CDW survey found that 81 percent of providers that have improved their engagement with patients credit the availability of a portal that gives patients convenient 24/7 access to personal health information from anywhere with an internet connection.

Patient portals have especially become popular in the last few years as the vast majority of the population has become more comfortable with web technology and doing their personal business over the internet. Patients can access these systems on smartphones, wearables, personal computers or at kiosks in the doctor’s office if they don’t own personal computing devices. They let patients send and receive messages to and from their physicians, view medical records, schedule appointments and request prescription refills.

Ninety-eight percent of patients today say they now can access at least one portal, a number that’s up from 60 percent in 2016. And, 78 percent of patients with access to a portal say the portal has helped them take a more active role in their healthcare.

3. Deploy Patient Room Technology

Today’s patients expect the same kind of technology experience at the hospital as they have at home or in the office, and 67 percent of providers say improving a patient’s level of engagement is an important part of improving overall care. Many own a smartphone, tablet, personal computer and other devices with internet connections and IP addresses.

More hospitals are responding to those expectations, by putting tablets and other handheld devices in hospital rooms that let patients electronically call a nurse, order lunch, change the channel on the television or view test results online. Hospitals, doctor’s offices and clinics are also equipping rooms with mobile carts that let nurses and doctors readily access electronic medical records via notebooks and tablet PCs. These features improve patient care by speeding up the time services are delivered to the patient.

There’s a new recognition that patients staying in the hospital are anxious and hospitals need to improve the overall experience. Offering the ability to order basic services on familiar devices makes patients comfortable and can reduce overall stress. And while healthcare organizations have certainly come a long way, especially the nation’s leading teaching hospitals, there’s much work ahead in transforming healthcare into a customer-focused industry that leverages technology in ways that consistently enhance the patient’s experience.

To learn more about patient portals and other valuable healthcare technologies, visit HealthTechMagazine.net

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