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Tarun Kapoor, Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Transformation Officer at Virtua Health, sees patients not just as receivers of care but as active partners in their healthcare journey. To him, true patient empowerment means more than meeting requests—it’s about proactively understanding patient needs. 

Traditionally, patients were left on the sidelines, overloaded with information.“The goal is not just a transformative solution, but a mechanism where patients can be empowered,” emphasized Dr. Kapoor. His approach at Virtua Health centers on collaborating with patients as active participants in their care, because engaging patients directly leads to better outcomes for both the patient and the organization.

Empowering patients through consumer choice 

“I’ve heard some people say patients are less loyal these days. The way I look at it, you can’t assume people were previously loyal if they didn’t previously have choices,” said Kapoor.

“Today’s patients have choices and they’re exercising those choices, which now makes them consumers. Health systems need to think more like retailers in meeting patient needs with just-in-time information through convenient modalities (like SMS), and that’s where we are having great success with Luma,” said Kapoor. 

Empowering patients through personal customization

Through partnering with Luma, the Virtua Health team ensures patients receive tailored, relevant information before appointments. Automated appointment reminders engage patients in a friendly and accessible way, making healthcare feel less intimidating.This personal touch has streamlined visits and empowered patients with important knowledge about their health.

With now a 79.34% appointment confirmation rate, partnering with Luma has changed how Virtua Health optimizes appointments, making patient engagement efficient and impactful.

Empowering patients through larger system change

Dr. Kapoor advocates for patients playing an active and informed role in their care decisions, but the first move must be made by the larger healthcare industry: “Patients will not be able to empower themselves unless we create mechanisms to challenge our current system and ask ourselves, are we creating an ecosystem where patients can be empowered?” 

Fostering this kind of active patient participation is not just the future of healthcare – it’s the present, and it’s a journey that Virtua Health, with the help of partners like Luma, is eagerly embracing.

This blog was written based on Tarun Kapoor’s 2023 Lumanate keynote presentation. Watch it here.

Utilizing an enterprise EHR system is like traveling on a cruise ship. You and hundreds of fellow passengers are on the same journey, for better or worse. The ship is designed to keep everyone onboard happy. You know which destinations lie ahead, but the schedule may be impacted due to weather.

 But what if you want to stay a little longer in one port? What if you need to hurry up and meet friends at a different destination? What if you’re a little seasick and want to slow down? You’re out of luck. There’s no diverting the cruise ship from its set route, even when passengers aren’t on board.

We often observe this in healthcare. Many complex organizations benefit from the immense scope and scale of an enterprise EHR to care for a broad patient population, but one size does not fit all. Patient experience and engagement varies widely. Healthcare is a competitive market. In many regions, patients have a choice about where to seek care. Without IT tools in place to smooth the patient journey, this looks like:

Patients’ unique needs would benefit from speedboat flexibility to react to market conditions as they change. Enter patient engagement platforms: a solution that natively integrates with your EHR can implement new outreach strategies and realize results now. 

In competitive marketplaces, this is not a luxury but a necessity. If you don’t have the ability to reach patients now, you risk losing them to a facility that can. How do we know? Because 87% of surveyed healthcare decision-makers agree that ability to compete in a marketplace is a driver for implementing patient engagement solutions (source). Fortunately, you don’t have to lag behind.

Fill the Cracks, Fast

What if your organization could start seeing changes in a matter of weeks?

Most systems are designed to work when everything is going right: when patients are fully engaged with all of their tools. In an enterprise health system, the multitude of available tools can flow through a patient portal for a streamlined patient experience. But data shows that more than half of patients aren’t using patient portals, even after receiving opportunities to register.

A platform approach to patient engagement can integrate into the native EHR and bridge some of the cracks with a medium that everyone uses: SMS text messaging.

Unlike enterprise EHR modules, API-integrated platform solutions can be implemented and launched within 45 days – enabling your organization to not just keep up with the Joneses, but surpass their assets.

Break Free from Boilerplate

Why are 89% of patients between the ages of 17-74 reluctant to use online scheduling options? Reasons include lack of access to internet, lack of awareness that options exist, low computer skills, and resistance to changing habits (source). It can be challenging to change their ways when limited to boilerplate messaging options and a set number of scenarios. To activate these patients and keep them within a healthcare network, organizations must be able to think outside the box – and step outside of boxes, too.

Partnership with a flexible patient success platform keeps patients on that journey.  Over 1,000 messaging scenarios, and the ability to develop more, will accommodate your unique organization – and your patients – right from implementation.

Don’t Despair: Automate

When complexity abounds, organizations hesitate to adopt patient engagement technologies because their processes can vary wildly across the system. Specialities following different workflows keeps organizational knowledge siloed and ensures that valuable staff time is required to keep patients in-network. Many are surprised to learn that complexity doesn’t have to be a barrier to modernization. In fact, implementation of a platform is often an opportunity to simplify workflows and identify streamlined ways to automate tired processes. Administrators and staff alike are often pleasantly surprised to learn that people don’t have to manually undertake every step of the scheduling and intake processes.

The perfect mix

Automation is a hot topic right now, but it’s important to deploy a strategy that keeps humans involved when necessary. Sometimes it’s best to simplify the easy stuff and leave the personal touch for when it’s needed most. Main Line Health saved 15,000 minutes of human time per month when they implemented Digital Call Deflection. Inbound calls could be diverted to conversational SMS text messaging, enabling the call center to focus on patient interactions that benefited from a human touch.

What next?

Learn how an out-of-box solution can reach and activate the 40% of patients who aren’t using your organization’s patient portal. Request a demo here.

Patient care extends well beyond the minutes that a clinician and patient pass in an exam room together. The ensuing visit notes are just one piece of the continuum. Healthcare systems have long integrated selections from a smorgasbord of technology tools to document care, optimize practice operations, and integrate patients’ financial journeys…with varying degrees of interoperability and success. 

Moving into 2024, healthcare providers report momentum towards consolidating tech stacks, looking to existing solutions for add-on capabilities before evaluating new vendors. Many EHR vendors are expanding beyond their core functionality of care documentation with solutions across the patient care journey. But organizations should tread with care.

Enterprise EHR is not one-size-fits-all

Every organization has unique aspects that influence operation. The gap between patient expectations and system capabilities can be massive, presenting many opportunities for patients to fall into the chasm between.

What’s holding patients back? Research indicates that barriers to self-service include access to the internet, lack of awareness of services, low computer skills, and change in the habit of making appointments over the phone or face-to-face. But even for patients who engage with technology, a challenging process is likely to disenchant and deter. Patients expect a frictionless experience. Anything less will stand between them and a completed appointment. No pressure, right?

The good news is, in a competitive marketplace, healthcare systems have a huge opportunity to deliver a seamless experience to keep patients coming back.

Most systems are designed to work when everything is going right: when patients are fully engaged with all of their tools. But data shows that only about 20-30% of patients make it through a manual scheduling process to a completed appointment. In their wake, they leave the debris of administrative burden, network leakage, missed appointments, and ultimately: lost revenue.

To capture maximum value from an enterprise EHR, you will need supplemental capabilities and patient engagement guardrails designed to keep the other 70 – 80% of patients in network.

10 Ways that Patient Engagement Platforms Support Patient Retention

  1. End-to-end SMS capabilities: Patient portals can be limiting – many features hide behind walls of clicks and require a patient’s full, unsustained attention. Text message outreach can go beyond directing patients to their portal. Reach more patients by enabling them to make an appointment or complete pre-visit paperwork by way of text messages, start-to-finish.
  2. Smart Waitlist Management: Automate the patient-cancel-staff-scramble with a graceful pivot to an integrated process, filling newly-emptied appointment slots as they arise via automated text outreach.
  3. Streamlined Appointment Management: Enable patients to schedule, reschedule, or cancel appointments through the platform, reducing no-shows and optimizing scheduling efficiency.
  4. Automated Appointment Reminders from a Recognized Phone Number: Text blasts are often ignored or filtered as spam. When patients receive reminders via a trusted organization’s phone number, practices realize improved appointment attendance rates and reduce administrative burdens.
  5. Secure Communication Channels: Stay HIPAA-compliant. Secure communication between patients and healthcare providers can be integrated within the platform.
  6. Health Risk Assessments: Administer and analyze health risk assessments through the platform, aiding in early identification of potential health risks and preventive interventions.
  7. Feedback and Satisfaction Surveys: Collect patient feedback and satisfaction surveys through the platform to gauge the quality of care and identify areas for improvement. Automate post-visit follow-ups and surveys to gather insights into patient experiences and monitor recovery progress.
  8. Pre-Visit Questionnaires: Collect relevant patient information before visits through digital questionnaires, optimizing visit efficiency and information accuracy.
  9. Remote Check-Ins: The digital front door is in patients’ fingertips. Conduct virtual check-ins through the platform, allowing healthcare providers to focus on what’s important and keep schedules on pace  patient well-being between scheduled appointments.
  10. Billing and Payment Integration: Streamline billing processes by integrating payment functionalities within the platform, enhancing the financial aspects of healthcare service delivery.

Simple, right?

Having all of these in place is great, but if they don’t integrate deeply with your EHR, your organization won’t reap maximum returns. Overworked staff can’t spend time tracking these things down manually. For true Patient Success, these workflows must be deeply embedded in a native EHR, automating processes with closed-loop referrals and EHR writebacks.

Navigating the happy path in the complex landscape of enterprise EHRs requires a thoughtful approach to patient engagement. By addressing gaps with personalized strategies, proactive waitlist management, and consideration of generational nuances, healthcare providers can guide patients seamlessly through their journey, leading to improved outcomes and increased value from their EHR investments.

RESOURCE: Learn more about how Luma integrates with EHRs like Epic to support patient retention.

It’s the dream come true: your specialty practice is highly regarded in your region, and you’ve built a reputation and the relationships that result in an opportunity to help a patient in your distinct area of expertise. 

Of course, you don’t know this yet. This patient, all the way across town, leaves their primary care provider’s office clutching a piece of paper. That single sheet is everything: the referral. But there’s only a 35% chance that you’ll ever realize this moment of opportunity took place, when the referral results in a completed appointment. It’s far too likely that the patient will end up following another path instead.

How much is this costing your practice?

Why does patient drift? It could be based in process: patients want easy scheduling. If they can make an appointment online, great. But oftentimes, new patient workflows are complex and require call-ins. It’s too easy to get lost before the process begins, be it to long hold times at an overworked call center, or phone tag with an office staff. In fact, 45% of referrals resulted in no communication back to the patient.

Once the appointment is scheduled, the wait begins… and the longer the wait, the greater the odds of patient cancellation or no-showing. Maybe they feel better and no longer feel the need for care. But it’s also possible that they are seeking faster service elsewhere… or that, by the time their appointment rolls around, they’ve forgotten completely.

It’s challenging to broadly quantify the cost of these missed opportunities. But it’s safe to say that accounting for wasted/redundant staff labor, no-shows, patient appointment leakage, and lost opportunities for procedures has occurred will add up to big losses.

We suggest three technology-based pillars for successfully changing outcomes:

  1. Provide patients with a direct link to scheduling and provider

Research shows that most patients want convenient ways to contact their doctor’s office, but barriers such as lack of computer availability and reluctance to change habits can be barriers to portal adoption. Yet even older generations are texting. Rather than guiding patients towards friction and roadblocks, send scheduling opportunities directly into their hands. Increase the likelihood of making appointments by sending patients an SMS referral notification when their referral is created. When the message comes from a trusted phone number, the patient is more likely to engage – not just by clicking through to make an appointment by text alone (no need for a patient portal), but by sustained interaction and conversational messaging with their healthcare provider.

  1. Keep patients engaged throughout the lead-in time to appointment, resulting in increased retention and fewer no-shows with minimal staff workflow

Enterprise EHRs often offer a singular appointment reminder with boilerplate language. While useful, this single touchpoint doesn’t offer the same reassurance as customized guardrails. A patient engagement platform enables tailored workflows with cadenced reminders sent to patients. Leveraging insights, such as those provided by Bedrock, helps practices determine evidence-based communication practices to drive results. The goal? The patient feels included and is less likely to migrate their care.

  1. Fill appointment gaps when patient plans change

When life happens to patients, it’s often accompanied by no-shows… and empty appointment windows. With a technology solution that automates the processes of: adding scheduled patients to a wait list, sharing cancellation opportunities, immediately offering newly available appointment times to canceling patients, and rescheduling the slot.

This cuts down on appointment lag for patients on the waitlist and quickly fills available slots – a win-win.

Bonus points if the referral loop can be written back within the native EHR, ensuring that all parties are aware that care has been received.

Managing patients’ health can be challenging, but the referral process doesn’t have to be.

Click here to dig deeper. Have specific business use cases and want to know how Luma can help? Schedule a demo.