Choosing the Right Digital Health Solution for Your Primary Care Clinic

innovator spotlight with a headshot of bryan roy, coo at southwest orlando family medicine

The pandemic has catapulted the healthcare industry into the digital age. From telehealth to contactless check-in solutions, technology has been crucial in enabling clinics across the nation to stay accessible to patients against the backdrop of COVID-19.  Now the adoption of a digital health solution is more prevalent than ever, and there are a plethora of solutions out there. So how do you choose the right fit for your clinic?

We recently sat down with Bryan Roy, Chief Operating Officer at Southwest Orlando Family Medicine to discuss how digital health has helped improve their operations and share some of the tips he recommends for anyone who is evaluating tech solutions in the primary care space.    

Here’s some of his advice for his fellow primary care providers:

1. Consider the communication demands of a primary care clinic and the costs that can incur.

From coordinating care, to doing follow-ups, and bridging care to specialists, primary care providers have so many touchpoints of engagement with their patients across the care continuum. 

“Specialists may only need to send a message to a patient every three to 10 years. For primary care, every year, I have a minimum of a physical, a mammogram, a pap smear, a flu shot, shingles vaccine reminders, and more. It’s an exponential amount of communication demands that can or cannot be automated.”

So what does that mean if you’re a primary care clinic evaluating the ways in which a digital health solution can help? With such a high volume of messages going out to engage patients on a regular basis, it’s advisable to seek out a solution that allows for unlimited messaging without an extra charge. 

There are many solutions on the market that charge for each message sent and/or received, and while that may be a viable option for clinics that aren’t engaging patients as frequently, for a primary care clinic, this can add up and become costly very quickly. 

Selecting a patient engagement solution with a flat fee also enables primary care providers to go even further in their engagement efforts. With the ability to message patients for no extra charge, providers can take advantage of messaging capabilities to develop comprehensive drip communication campaigns that activate patients to stay on top of their health on a regular basis and empower them to make sustainable and lasting behavior changes.

“If I want to create a good experience, I should be putting little drip campaigning initiatives to activate patients to change behavior so that we don’t talk about the same thing every couple months. So we need to be able to do that where it doesn’t break our banks.”

2. Choose a text-centric, automated digital health solution to relieve staff burden and facilitate better patient engagement.

Given the high volume of communications in a primary care setting–internally, with patients, and with specialists–front desk staff are traditionally tasked with making a lot of manual phone calls. Not only is this time consuming and inefficient, but it also leaves a lot to be desired, particularly in the patient engagement department. 

In today’s mobile-first world, only 48% of all incoming calls are answered, and if the number is unidentified, the answer rate is even lower at 26%. Contrast that with the 90% of texts being read within the first three minutes of receiving it, and suddenly switching to a text-centric approach for engaging with patients seems like a no-brainer. 

By reaching patients via a channel that will actually be well-received, you open the doors for improved engagement at every point of communication along a patient’s care journey, whether you are reminding a patient of an appointment, sharing lab results, or following up on care plan adherence.

“We had so much overhead expenditure trying to call people. My population coordinators were like, ‘I’ve been calling this person 15 times, now I texted them–and they actually responded two days later.”

Additionally, implementing a digital health solution that enables you to automate these interactions will help minimize staff time spent on the phone, save money, and allow focus to be shifted to patient care instead of manual outreach. 

If you’re looking to improve your telehealth offering, this on-demand webinar shares some best practices.

3. Adopt a digital health solution that has the flexibility to enable innovative care design models to exist at your clinic.

When limited to EHR functionality alone, Roy found that it had many limitations that prevented his clinic from being able to engage with patients in a meaningful way. Messages incurred a charge every time they were sent. There was no way to drive patients to leave online reviews and help build the clinic’s web presence. Extra clerical staff had to be hired to take on manual administrative tasks. All the communication demands of his clinic could not be addressed in a streamlined manner. The lack of flexibility in the EHR’s technology created a lot of functional communication deficiencies. 

“When you ask what drives the inefficiencies in primary care, it’s coordination of care, documentation, overburden, and intercommunication, whether it be through the patient or through the specialist…so when we talk about design, it’s all about how do I go from point A to point B in the least amount of steps to create the least amount of failure modes.”

That’s why when he was seeking out a digital health platform, his main priority was filling those gaps. His advice is to look for something that is customizable enough so that many of your clinic’s workflows and engagement touchpoints with patients can be automated and streamlined. 

In adopting an automated, text-first solution like Luma Health, Roy has been able to build out custom communication flows–from digitized intake and automated appointment reminders to text-first review invites and care campaigns–that now enable his clinic to have much more fluid conversations with patients.

If you are considering a digital health solution for your primary care clinic, what are some of your must-haves as you search for support from technology to enable better patient engagement? Let us know–we’d love to discuss and exchange ideas with you!   

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