The future of healthcare has never been quite so confusing and murky. The Affordable Care Act has been threatened with being dismantled, but no solid program has been presented to replace it. Healthcare costs continue to rise, putting many families and individuals at risk of not being able to afford care, and technology continues to create opportunities not only for treatment, but also for the operation of healthcare facilities and practices.
For a moment, let’s pull out our crystal ball, put on the wizard turban, and peer into the future of the healthcare industry to see what it may hold.
1 - Mobility
From text reminders to virtual clinics, mobile healthcare is already showing its impact and value. Engaging your patients will become a much more mobile-focused function. Text communication is already used by a number of providers, though a majority are skeptical of the technology due to the risk of HIPAA violations and the unsecure networks used by cellphones. But with value-based care become the prevailing model of service, and with more and more patients demanding access to providers through email and cell phone, the necessity of providing mobile access will be critical.
The desire for mobility is shifting to other formats as well. From instant care clinics in shopping centers, to telemedicine provided on the phone, to virtual consultations conducted online, patients want immediate access and will go to providers who can meet their needs. The healthcare community has resisted changes like these, but tech-savvy patients will continue to drive the demand for digital access to care. The future of patient engagement can be seen in the changes you’re observing today.
2 - Technology
It’s not really news to say that technology will continue to drive healthcare. Practices and providers have always wanted better tools to use in making more well-informed decisions. In addition to more effective and meaningful equipment, however, is the technology that is more mundane and yet just as impactful. Automated systems which better manage the day-to-day functions of your practice are already in use across the county. Their value is seen in the time savings afforded to practices who’ve implemented them. From automated reminder messaging to online scheduling, technology is freeing up practice staff from more mundane tasks and allowing them to improve patient engagement.
As technology continues to evolve, more effective and useful applications for providers will, no doubt, be made available. But it is up to the healthcare industry to shed its traditional fear of and resistance to technology and to begin embracing the new applications that will enhance patient relationship management and contribute to value-based care.
3 - Communication
Despite all the technological advances in medicine, basic communication will remain one of the most critical components in healthcare. Beyond simple doctor-patient discussions in the office, communication should expand to involve reminder messaging, newsletters, patient surveys, and patient education. Keeping a digital library of materials which can be used in newsletters and to inform patients about conditions, treatments, medications, or exams will help to bolster their confidence in you and your practice. As our population continues to grow more diverse, the emphasis on communication will grow even more significant. Focusing on this healthcare basic will strengthen relationships with patients, foster better patient engagement, improve retention, and ultimately will improve patient care.
Welcoming the Future
The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus put forth the idea that the only constant in life is change. With the election over and a new year on the horizon, there is no doubt that changes are coming. But healthcare is a field that is usually well adapted to change (even though it is sometimes resistant at first). Providers are always looking for better ways to engage and serve their patients, whether through cutting-edge equipment or state-of-the-art procedures. As patients demand for new modes of care and new technology advances, some providers may choose to stick to their old ways. Those who adapt to changes and respond to patient requests will be rewarded with patient loyalty and referrals.
For more information on improving communication for better patientengagement, click here!