This is the second post in a series of four that discuss why hospitals and health systems must look beyond the Electronic Health Record (EHR) in order to cultivate richer patient engagement and boost patient loyalty, and how a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, when integrated with your EHR system, can help you interact and engage with your patients in more meaningful ways.
Read our first post that defines patient engagement and explains why it’s so important in fostering trust between a patient and his or her healthcare system. The third post discusses how a CRM system can bridge the patient engagement gap, and the fourth post shares how a CRM, when integrated with your EHR system, can help you interact and engage with your patients in more meaningful ways.
Why Is Patient Engagement Important?
Engagement of customers is not a new concept. Other industries have been focused on “consumer engagement” for years as a way to achieve long-term financial success. Banks, retailers, and other consumer-oriented organizations have long realized that customer loyalty is due, in large part, to frequent meaningful engagement.
To that end, these organizations engage their customers with relevant content, such as education, infotainment, and other forms of communication, that keeps those customers actively involved with their organization; the goal is to understand what information specific customers would want to know more about, or what advice they might need at certain stages of their buying journey, all in the hopes that these customers keep coming back.
Knowing that it costs 5x as much to acquire a new customer than to keep one, these organizations make keeping customers interested, informed, and engaged a high priority.
It’s no different in the healthcare sector. Patients are now starting to weigh their healthcare options in much the same way as they do when buying a car or investing for retirement. By actively engaging patients, your hospital or health system can build trusted relationships so patients stay invested in their care, have positive experiences, and remain loyal to your organization. This loyalty can help improve brand recognition, which allows you to increase your market share and drive revenue. Indeed, U.S. hospitals that provide superior patient experience generate 50% higher financial performance than average providers.
As patients continue to take a more consumer-oriented approach to their healthcare, delivering superior outcomes at the point of care is often not enough for hospitals and health systems to drive patient loyalty. Your organization needs to provide sustained engagement, and be equally active nurturing your existing patients, as well as working to engage new patients via on-going communications, education programs, and similar opportunities, to remain competitive in your market.
The EHR: Not the End Game for Patient Engagement
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT recently reported that the adoption rates for basic EHRs increased to nearly 84 percent in hospitals, a nine-fold increase since 2008, while nearly all hospitals (96 percent) possessed a certified EHR technology. While this is good news, the bad news is that adoption has come at great expense. The federal government spent more than $30 billion on incentives, and some estimates put hospital and physician practice spending on developing and implementing EHRs, combined with federal money, at $3 trillion over a decade for hardware, maintenance, and software updates.
These estimates do not take into account the manpower required to install the systems, train others to use them, and the challenges any new technology imposes on the organizational processes. Naturally, after such massive investments on these implementations, hospitals and health systems have looked hopefully to their EHR systems and corresponding patient portal technology as the driver of effective patient engagement strategies, to no avail.
Built to serve as systems of record, EHRs support two very important functions. First, EHRs are transaction-based systems that make Patient Health Information (PHI) immediately available to clinicians to support patient encounters. Second, EHR systems support billing. They produce more accurate documentation, which helps optimize coding and more accurately bill for claims reimbursement. To summarize, EHRs are sophisticated, but static, systems designed to consume and archive data in a pre-configured way.
EHR systems and patient portals are NOT:
- Front-office communication engines.
- Consumer-friendly or dependent on patient participation.
- Designed to engage the patient in a pre- and/or post-care conversation.
- Interactive (but rather transactional).
- Relationship-based (but rather encounter-based).
- Good analytical systems, as they only provide a two-dimensional view. They can compare two data sets, but cannot analyze multiple data sets with one integrated view.
- Systems for outreach and/or marketing, as they are designed specifically for physician and nurse interaction. While the system can output simple reminders to patients, it cannot manage channels of communication nor can messages be personalized.
- Available or accessible to non-patients (consumers). They do not provide a mechanism to reach out across your market and acquire new patients.
A recent Medecision report summarizes the state-of-the state position regarding EHR systems.
“In order to effectively manage populations and patients between visits, organizations realize their EHR investments won’t take them all the way there. They are great transactional and documentation systems, but they were just not meant to work outside the institutional walls in the way new value-based models are demanding.”
EHR systems are critical technologies that improve patient care and lower costs. Your money was well spent on your EHR, and it is a pre-requisite to support your patient engagement strategies. This is because a successful patient engagement strategy is predicated on a commitment to quality and cost-effective care. In addition, the clinical information your EHR provides is an important tactical component to target and personalize your messages when engaging with patients.