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Online with The Modern Patient

June 2007

Consumer-driven health care (CDHC) has evolved to encompass more than just a patient’s health care finances. Patients are demanding more involvement with and power over every level of their care, from scheduling appointments to handling insurance. In many ways, CDHC has given birth to The Modern Patient.

The Modern Patient demands more transparency in almost every step of the health care process, and looks to technology as a way to gain such access. The Modern Patient is Web-savvy, and is not content to be a passive player in his or her own care. And as he or she demands more interactivity and power in their Web experience, some health care organizations are using the Web 2.0 as a vehicle for involving The Modern Patient in their own health care.

Consider the following statistics from a September 2006 study conducted by Harris Interactive for the Wall Street Journal Online [2]:

  • A large majority of adults (77%) would like reminders via email from their doctors when they are due for a visit or some type of medical care (4% currently use this technology, and another 3% have it available to them, but do not use).
  • Three-quarters of adults (75%) say they would like to have the ability to schedule a doctor’s visit via the Internet (3% currently use and 4% have it available to them, but do not use).
  • Many adults (74%) would like to use email to communicate directly with their doctor (4% currently use and 4% have it available to them, but do not use).
  • Approximately two-thirds of adults (67%) would like to receive the results of diagnostic tests via email (2% currently use and 3% have it available to them, but do not use).
  • Sixty-four percent of adults would like to have access to an electronic medical record to capture medical information (2% currently use, and 3% have it available to them, but do not use).

Given these new trends and the technology available, health care providers now have a tremendous opportunity to reach and help patients – especially The Modern Patient – in ways they never could have before. Thanks to various breakthroughs and developments in web functions and technology, practices can now offer websites and portals with easy applications that patients can use.

Here are a few such simple functions to consider adding to your website. Many of them can be achieved through working with a capable web developer, particularly one with experience in health care web development.

Online appointment scheduling. One of the more popular additions to providers’ websites in recent years, online appointment scheduling, when done right, allows patients to log on and immediately schedule an appointment in an automated system, often drastically cutting the number of incoming phone calls to the practice.

Secure messaging/e-mailing. An enormously efficient and simple resource for providers and patients alike, a HIPAA compliant email exchange system with patients and other health care organizations is easily developed through working with a health care web development specialist. Secure emailing is a particularly convenient way of sending appointment reminders and sending patients their lab test results.

Electronic bill pay. This handy function cuts out the hassle and delay of mailing out bills and having patients send in checks. Electronic bills can be instantly delivered, and instantly paid. In some cases, it also allows patients to respond to discrepancies or make inquiries over the same portal as the bill/payment transfer – an infinitely better system than mailing a patient a bill, and, if the patient has a dispute, receiving an irate phone call. With electronic bill pay, there’s no need to mix mediums as such – just a clear, inbound/outbound flow of information.

Online Patient Registration. Online registration is another popular application with patients, many of whom tend to resent having to fill out seemingly endless amounts of forms on their first visit. When synchronized with a practice’s PM/EHR system, online registration is enormously efficient way of ensuring that the practice’s staff spend considerably less time manually entering patients’ medical histories and other information.

Installing one or more of these applications in a practice’s website can make a tremendous improvement, both in office efficiency and in patient satisfaction. For the office, the simplified, automated functions decrease time spent per patient, resulting in greater office productivity. And the ease of performing these simple functions online will help quench some of The Modern Patient’s desires for simpler, more transparent, and more involved care.

Andrew Stewart, Staff Consultant with the Coker Group. For more information on The Coker Group call 678.832.2000 or visit www.cokergroup.com.

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