It’s no secret: technology is revolutionizing the way rehab therapy providers deliver care to their patients. With things like EMR and RCM software becoming mainstays in therapy practices, providers are spending less time documenting and more time treating. It should go without saying that this development has also benefited patients. From intake to discharge, technology can help cultivate meaningful patient experiences—and there’s a whole lotta data out there to prove it. As noted in this article from the WebPT Blog, “a 2011 white paper from The Beryl Institute revealed that hospitals using interactive technology showed a 10% increase in general satisfaction.”
So, why should providers put so much focus on catering to—and satisfying—the patient-consumer? Well, happy patients mean higher retention rates, and higher retention rates mean more consistent revenue—a key ingredient to your practice’s long-term success. The good news is you can immediately start leveraging the technology tools you’re probably already using every day. Here’s how:
1. Get a head start on intake.
Send an email.
Like most rehab therapists, you probably don’t look forward to paperwork. But if you use an EMR, you’re already familiar with the benefits of technology that streamlines your documentation process. And if your documentation platform includes a patient intake tool, your patients can reap those benefits, too.
Picture this: your patient signs in at the front desk, and instead of spending the next 15 minutes filling out paperwork, he or she gets to enjoy a cup of coffee and chat with your front office staff. And because your staff already has the patient’s information on file, you have time to prepare for the appointment in advance—which means the patient can get started quicker. With a patient intake tool that’s integrated directly with your EMR software, this picture is a reality.
And let’s not forget about patient-reported outcomes. You already know that PROMs are valuable to you as a provider, but they can be just as valuable to your patients as well. After all, these tests allow patients to truly weigh and evaluate their own level of function, which helps them take control of their experience. And, as with patient intake information, your office can collect PROM scores via email before the patient ever steps foot in your clinic. This not only cuts down on the patient’s in-office paperwork, but also allows you to prepare to discuss—and incorporate—the patient’s outcomes scores in advance.
Set up a kiosk.
Email isn’t the only means of streamlining your practice’s intake process. And if you work with a largely geriatric client base that isn’t super tech-savvy, you might want an alternative—although it may surprise you to know how many senior citizens are logging on these days (88% according to the Pew Research Center). Fortunately, some EMR systems provide a kiosk option for both patient intake forms and outcomes reporting. This allows users to load up questionnaires and forms on an in-office tablet or computer that patients can use to fill their information quickly and seamlessly.
2. Send documents through a secure, HIPAA-compliant patient portal.
PROMs and patient intake forms aside, there are other ways to boost patient trust and engagement through secure data-sharing. HIPAA has given patients the right to obtain copies their own medical records, and many savvy, health-focused patient consumers will do just that. But there’s a better way to provide patients with sensitive medical documentation than simply handing over hard copies: the patient document portal. According to the HIMSS, “Facilitating ongoing communication between patients and physicians via apps and online portals can improve engagement rates by 60% or higher.” With online document portals, patients can easily receive documents from their provider and safely store them on their computers. No more filing away stacks of documents from the therapist’s office, or worse—losing track of sensitive PHI.
3. Automate patient appointment reminders.
We’ve written about the effectiveness of appointment reminders in the past, and it’s easy to understand why they work so well. Automated phone, text, and email appointment reminders provide a convenient way to keep patients on track for their upcoming visits, and they’re far more effective than handwritten reminder cards. Don’t get me wrong, reminder cards are a nice touch, but there’s always a chance they’ll get stashed away in a coat pocket or tossed into the trash.
4. Engage patients with an interactive home exercise program (HEP).
It can be tough for patients to remember exactly how to do every single home exercise, and while they can always call your office for a refresher, there’s a chance you’ll be with another patient. And if it’s after-hours, you might be on your couch with slippers and a good book. Why subject your patients to a frustrating game of phone tag when you can instead provide them with an interactive home exercise program that they can access 24 hours a day? Computer-based programs are not only convenient, but also engaging, as they typically allow patients to view videos of each exercise (because 2D images are so ten years ago). And the more convenient it is for your patients to remain compliant with their home exercise programs, the more likely they are to do so.
5. Email patient satisfaction surveys.
Much like patient-reported outcomes, patient satisfaction and NPS surveys can tell you a lot about how you and your staff measure up. And with more and more payers using pay-per-performance payment models, keeping your patients happy and healthy can have a direct impact on your bottom line. But these surveys aren’t just for your benefit. When your practice measures patient happiness and success, patient experience becomes a priority. And that leads to happier, healthier patients.
While you could provide patients with in-office surveys that include satisfaction questions, doing so may skew their responses. Alternatively, emailing surveys affords patients a degree anonymity, which often yields more honest responses. Additionally, this method of survey distribution allows the patient to complete the questionnaire on his or her own time instead of rushing through it before heading back to the office, school, or home. If you—or your front office staff—are too swamped to consistently send out electronic surveys manually, consider adopting a patient relationship management software like WebPT Reach, which allows you to automate the delivery of patient-facing communications, including surveys.
6. Keep in touch online.
A patient’s experience doesn’t stop when he or she leaves your care. And if it does, then you’re missing out on a serious opportunity to increase engagement and win patient loyalty. Whether you use a patient engagement platform, release a monthly newsletter to a patient email list, or encourage your patients to follow your clinic on social media, staying in touch with patients after discharge not only keeps you informed on their continued progress, but also reminds the patient to come back to you should he or she ever require additional therapy services.
If you’re ready to get serious about boosting your patients’ satisfaction, then it’s time to consider whether your clinic’s current technology is up to the challenge. When you prioritize the patient experience, other facets of your business evolve in step. Whether it enhances the experience at the front desk or keeps patients engaged after discharge, technology can help improve your patients’ views on not only you—but also the entire rehab therapy profession.