It's personal — How technology can positively affect patient engagement at ASCs

Patient engagement is much more than just texting a patient a reminder; it requires a well thought-out communication strategy that seamlessly integrates every communication with a patient throughout the entire continuum of care into one comprehensive system.

Anesthesiologist Stephen Punzak, MD, founder and CEO of One Medical Passport, believes patient engagement to be a vital component of the healthcare environment today, holding the promise of better and more individualized patient care.

"I think that most people are still trying to figure out what patient engagement really is," says Dr. Punzak. "To me, it's offering this tremendous individualized care that allows a patient to become engaged in his or her own treatment in a way that is very easy and intuitive for the patient, and that makes them an active participant in their care."

Seventy-four percent of 502 patients believe easy electronic access to their healthcare data would enhance their understanding of their care as well as improve communication with their physicians, according to an October/November 2015 HealthMine survey.

As for patient engagement techniques, consistent communication between patients and physicians through apps or online portals has the potential to enhance engagement rates by 60 percent or more, according to Orca Health.

With a 98 percent open rate, text messages prove a powerful communication platform, according to Mobile Marketing Watch. Connect Mogul found people read 90 percent of text messages in less than three minutes and CTIA discovered the average text message response time is 90 seconds. Additionally, texting patients may boost chronic disease medication compliance by 17.8 percent, according to a JAMA Internal Medicine study.

Supporting Dr. Punzak's emphasis on patient engagement, The California HealthCare Foundation found increased online patient involvement may result in a 90 percent satisfaction rate for patients and physicians.

Outpatient is changing the game
As the healthcare industry began shifting toward the outpatient landscape, a sizable gap in care formed. In the inpatient environment, providers personally connect with patients pre-operation and post-operation. But in the outpatient environment, that face-to-face connection through the continuum of care is lost due to the patient simply arriving for the actual procedure.

"Patient engagement is the ability to replicate, using technology, that same care received when inpatient," explains Dr. Punzak.

To fill this void in care, One Medical Passport provides an online system that streamlines medical information collecting, striving to enhance the flow of data between physicians, facilities and patients. The company's goal involves boosting patient satisfaction, reducing costs and improving quality of care.

The information flow can begin upon appointment scheduling with an automated text requesting the patient reply and opt in to communications. If a patient is scheduled without a mobile number, the system can send reminders by email and/or voice messages to encourage a patient to register, opt in to communications and create a medical history online. The patient has complete access to all communications within the portal and may adjust how they will receive reminders. This format ensures all patients may be contacted, and several opportunities exist for a patient to opt in to the format of messaging they desire.

One Medical Passport also developed Passport Engage as the company's answer to timed and automated messaging to support engagement. The technology can send customized messages based on the specific surgery and performing surgeon. "We recognize there is a wide range of surgeon preferences so we built clinical pathways on not just the surgery, but also to take into account the preferences of individual surgeons," explains Dr. Punzak.

Passport Engage follows the patient throughout the continuum of care: from the time a procedure is scheduled, until the patient is fully recovered. Patients receive messages and reminders by text or email about everything from financial responsibilities to educational videos, based on their specific procedures.

Healthcare has been trying to use a "one-size fits all" methodology, but this often turns into "one-size fits none," adds Dr. Punzak.

"This is at the core of what we're trying to do," says Dr. Punzak. "Individualizing care to lead to better patient outcomes. Ultimately, automated messaging can reach a diverse population quickly and cost effectively. A robust system can deliver education and reminders precisely when most relevant, with links to mobile web resources." One Medical Passport focuses on developing strong patient relationships by leveraging technology that can be set up to run automatically, giving clinicians feedback on which patients need additional support.

Researchers found day-surgery patient satisfaction could be improved by providing patients better information, according to the National Association for Healthcare Quality. Additionally, offering patients higher quality of information could enhance postoperative recovery.

The communications might include:

• Appointment reminders
• Reminders not to eat before surgery
• Driving directions to the surgery center
• Post-op patient satisfaction surveys
• Wound care instructions and what normal wound healing should look like
• Instructions on walking with crutches for orthopedic procedures

The proper way to communicate
Not every patient will respond similarly to the same technology, which is why it is crucial for healthcare organizations to refrain from pre-determining a patient's communication medium. Further, the same patient may utilize various communication mediums.

"Depending on what information you're trying to convey to a patient, there may be a better modality to convey that information," Dr. Punzak says.

"Patients are going to have different learning styles," says Dr. Punzak. "Give patients the full range of options and let each patient choose the communication and learning method she prefers."

In essence, every communication platform is but one component of the larger patient engagement strategy, as various types of information may best be conveyed in different formats. Although a text message is immediate delivery, it may also include a link to a video that patients watch at their leisure. Additionally, the use of mobile devices to access information continues to grow. For example, Facebook recently reported that 90 percent of its users access Facebook via a mobile device. Therefore, it is important that for any patient engagement strategy to be successful, it must be mobile-friendly.

Adopting the right technology
On the facility side, Dr. Punzak recommends organizations stay away from adopting technology with a steep learning curve for staff. "Good technology should be able to take something that is really complex and make it really simple," he added. "Technology should be intuitive and usable without any training."

Impactful technology should not disrupt workflow, it should seamlessly enhance it.

"Technology for the sake of technology is not always a good thing," says Dr. Punzak. "Technology shouldn't be the focus. People should just be using the technology because it enables them to do the things they want to do better."

A glaring obstacle in the industry today is that many healthcare providers lack motivation to implement the technology. "The biggest barrier is not so much that the correct technology doesn't exist, as much as it is that facilities are still comfortable doing things the same old way," Dr. Punzak says. "They don't see a major problem with the way they're currently doing things."

Physicians born between 1943 and 1960 are almost twice as likely as physicians born prior to 1943 to recommend their patients use apps, according to Medscape Education.

The most successful ASCs will continue to engage patients the way they prefer and will embrace new strategies to improve patient compliance and communications.

Establishing a solid patient engagement strategy will drive the future of healthcare, improving patient outcomes and reducing costs. "It has the potential to completely transform how care is delivered," says Dr. Punzak.


This article is sponsored by One Medical Passport.


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