Guest Column | June 7, 2019

Patient Experience Or Patient Outcomes? Why Not Both?

By Jim Higgins, Solutionreach

Patient At Doctor

Ask nearly any physician why they got into healthcare and you’re likely to get some variation of the same answer—to help and heal people. Research backs this up. According to a survey by the American Medical Association,  three out of four medical students, residents, and physicians said that helping people was the number one reason they chose to pursue a career in medicine. Interestingly, 80 percent of those surveyed said that it was a personal experience with healthcare that helped them recognize their desire to work in the field. Doctors care about patient outcomes because doctors (and their families) are patients too.

This means that, whether healthcare organizations receive payment through the fee-for-service or value-based models, giving patients the best possible outcomes to their medical challenges remains a top priority for every healthcare professional.

But under value-based models, outcomes don’t just matter to the patients and providers, they also matter to payers. With a value-based payment model, healthcare organizations are rewarded when they help patients improve their health, reduce the impacts of chronic disease, and live healthier lives. Outcomes, outcomes, outcomes! The number of payments now being tied to value-based care has nearly doubled since 2014. These numbers are continuing to rise—big payers like Aetna have set goals to have between 75-80 percent of its spend to be tied to value-based contracts by 2020.

As a result, there has been a strong focus on not just improving outcomes but also on doing it in a more cost-effective way. The time required to track and monitor patient outcomes has increased the data collection burden on providers. A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that for every hour physicians were seeing patients, they were spending nearly two additional hours on paperwork. It’s no wonder administrative burden has been listed as the top challenge for healthcare providers.

At the same time, there has been a growing focus on patient experience and engagement in healthcare. Patient engagement also plays a role in value-based care but, more importantly, it’s changing the way patients choose providers.

Patients are switching providers to get a better experience—more like the experiences they have come to expect from every other service industry. According to the Patient-Provider Relationship Study, one in three patients expect to leave their current provider in the next couple of years. Many say it is due to poor experience. The patient experience is critical for both retaining current patients AND attracting those patients who are shopping around.

But providers worry that they can’t support initiatives to improve experience because they are already overwhelmed with the amount of work they face on a day-to-day basis. According to a HIMSS study, providers agree that patient engagement is important but they say there is a lack of time and resources to successfully do so.

PRM Technology Is The Key To Improving Patient Experience And Outcomes

Fortunately, with a little help from the right technology, you can support better outcomes and improve the patient experience. A recently released study, “The State of PRM,” looked into ways healthcare organizations are impacted by patient relationship management software when it comes to patient experiences and outcomes. Here is what it found:

PRM improves patient communication and engagement:

  • 83 percent said they are better able to communicate with patients
  • 62 percent said patients are more engaged

PRM offered multiple tools that improved the patient experience:

  • 79 percent said the automated recall function improved the patient experience
  • 85 percent said using automated reminders improved the patient experience
  • 86 percent said that text messaging improved the patient experience

Patient outcomes were impacted as well:

  • 78 percent said the recall messaging boosted patient outcomes
  • 79 percent noted that patient outcomes were improved after the use of automated reminders
  • 81 percent said that text messaging led to better patient outcomes

Due to the automated nature of PRM software, these improvements were made without any additional work made for staff. In fact, most organizations saw a big drop in workload. Nearly 60 percent of the respondents said they spend less than two hours a day on the phone since implementing PRM technology. This left staff with more time to focus on patients in the office—leading to an even better patient experience and more improved patient outcomes. No longer do healthcare professionals need to choose, they can focus equally on patient experience and outcomes.

About The Author

Jim Higgins is the CEO and founder of Solutionreach. Since 2000, Higgins has innovated and guided the direction of the Solutionreach technology to meet all patient relation management needs of dental, vision, plastic surgery and medical practice specialties. You can follow him on Twitter at @higgs77.