Written By: Rachel Reyes, Solutionreach Fall Scholarship First Runner-Up
Health practitioners are faced with many challenges in maintaining an actively involved patient base, and thus better health and financial outcomes. A systematic approach to patient-provider communication is necessary in order to provide the level of care needed to achieve these outcomes. Evidence suggests that higher quality communication between patients and practitioners helps patients feel more involved and play a more active role in their personal healthcare goals.
Engaged patients achieve better health outcomes and are thus more satisfied with services received. Patient Relationship Management (PRM) technology improves patient-provider communication and consequently aids in managing such situations as overdue and inactive patients, broken appointments – both of which hamper health outcomes – and lack of patient feedback and referrals. This manuscript focuses on the beneficial features of Solutionreach Patient Relationship Management cloud-based platform in improving patient-provider relationships.
Healthcare practitioners across the country are ever seeking ways to improve health outcomes in their patients while simultaneously maintaining and improving their business. Hours and hours are spent on the phone contacting patients who are long past due for re-care. Forgotten, appointments leave providers and executives frustrated and impair patients’ health outcomes. Many dollars in advertising by healthcare practices can be seen all around via flyers, mailers, billboards, etc. in a continual battle to build a bigger and better patient base.
Many such challenges and frustrations might be avoided if providers and patients had more systematic and efficient ways of communicating and coordinating. If a portion of the time and resources spent in external marketing and front-desk staff hours are directed inward toward retention of existing patients through improving practitioner-patient communication, the cost and difficulty of the battle may be curbed. Use of integrated patient relationship management (PRM) systems such as Solutionreach can improve patient engagement in their personal healthcare experience, leading to better service and thus more loyal patients.
One of the major keys to attaining and maintaining active patients is quality communication between patients and providers throughout the continuum of care. If communication fails or ceases, the patient-provider relationship does as well and both health and financial outcomes suffer. Healthcare providers generally recognize the need for quality communication with their patients, but are at a loss of how to manage such relationships without sacrificing a burdensome amount of time.
Annette Ashley Linder, RDH and business consultant, exemplifies the familiar quandary in an article posted in the online periodical Dental Economics. In her analysis of a dental practice which was struggling to maintain a full schedule, she found that “the office lacked a clear, written patient-retention system,” and that “48% of patient charts in the central file were overdue.” (2004) Linder’s example illustrates that integration of organized, efficient retention efforts, such as found in PRM systems, is essential in the healthcare industry.
Use of PRM technology aids patients in becoming more actively involved in their healthcare, which leads to better health outcomes and improved patient retention – a correlation reported by Judith H. Hibbard and Jessica Greene. They state:
There is a growing body of evidence showing that patients who are more activated have better health outcomes and care experiences… interventions aimed at strengthening patients’ role in managing their health care can contribute to improved outcomes and that patient activation can—and should—be measured as an intermediate outcome of care that is linked to improved outcomes. (2016, para. 1-4)
Hibbard’s findings are in accordance with the views of 340 providers who were surveyed on the problems and solutions associated with patient activation. When asked about the most effective methods of improving patient engagement, 59% said to have clinicians spend more time with patients, 54% said shared decision making between patients and providers and 36% said facilitating ease of patient access to relevant services. (Volpp, 2016) (See fig. 1) Each of these initiatives and more is addressed in the Solutionreach cloud-based patient relationship management platform.
Benefits of Solutionreach PRM Services
Solutionreach is a company that has specialized in PRM services since 2000. It is an integrative system for managing patient-provider communication throughout the span of patient service and is customizable to fit the needs presented by a wide-range of healthcare practices. Solutionreach aims to facilitate patient retention, reactivation, acquisition and education, resulting in more involved and committed patients and thus improved health and financial outcomes. (Solutionreach Inc.)
Solutionreach provides a variety of features essential to an effective PRM system, as listed on the Solutionreach webpage, “Patient Retention” section. Communication with both active and inactive patients is addressed by their automated recall notifications to all past-due patients, saving hours of staff time, text appointment reminders to prevent broken appointments, ASAP messaging for those who are on waiting lists in case an appointment is missed, and even customized happy birthday wishes to strengthen the patient-provider alliance.
One of the major features of Solutionreach which contributes to patient involvement is the SR portal. Patients can log-in from home and have 24 hour access to “pay their bills, exchange secure messages, customize their personal preferences, schedule appointments, safely view x-rays and images, access secure documents, read your archived newsletters/blogs/article, or even use the portal for personal reminders and memos.” (Solutionreach Inc.)
Having such access to their personal information is empowering to patients and gives a greater sense of participation in the planning and carrying out of health-related goals. More engaged patients lead to improved outcomes. Hibbard states, “Several studies have documented that more highly activated patients consistently report more positive care experiences.” (Hibbard, 2016, p. 209)
With more positive experiences, the patient not only becomes more satisfied, but also is more likely to share those positive experiences with others in their social circles, something called “internal marketing” which is crucial to the healthy growth of a practice. Allen Schiff, CPA states, “The American Dental Association reports that 70 percent to 80 percent of new patients in a typical dental practice are referred by current patients.” (2009, para. 12)
To add to the evidence, an interview of a Texas family dental practice reports that about 50% of patients are referred to the practice by friends who are existing patients. (J. Wiley, personal communication, July 24, 2016) It is important that opportunities for patients to share their experiences are not missed. Solutionreach provides ways for patients to easily share and provide feedback by giving them the chance to take a customized survey after an appointment and/or share comments and videos on social networks, which simultaneously increases the practice’s online presence. (Solutionreach Inc.)
The features of PRM technology, in particular of Solutionreach, provide for more organized and systematic approaches to practitioner-patient communication and overall retention for more involved and loyal patients. With a more stable patient base, naturally, schedules are filled more easily and time and resources are saved, enabling practitioners to spend more time actually providing health services, leading to better health for the patients and increased financial security for the practice.
Hibbard, J. H., Greene, J. (2013). What the evidence shows about patient activation: Better health outcomes and care experiences; fewer data on costs. Health Affairs, 35(7), 1-2. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2012.1061
Linder, A. A. (2004). The economics of hygiene. Dental Economics, 94(10. Retrieved from http://www.dentaleconomics.com/articles/print/volume-94/issue-10/features/the- economics-of-hygiene.html
Schiff, A. (2009). Dental office marketing budget review. Dental Economics, 99(4). Retrieved from http://www.dentaleconomics.com/articles/print/volume-99/issue-4/features/dental-office-marketing-budget-review.html
Solutionreach Inc. Patient retention. Solutionreach Inc. Webpage. Retrieved from https://www.solutionreach.com/SERVICES/Patient-Retention
Volpp, K., Mohta, N. S. (2016). Patient engagement report: improved engagement leads to better outcomes, but better tools are needed. NEJM Catalyst. Retrieved from http://catalyst.nejm.org/patient-engagement-report-improved-engagement-leads-better- outcomes-better-tools-needed/
After having worked in the healthcare world, specifically dentistry, for about two years, I found I wanted to become a dental hygienist. I am currently attending the Utah College of Dental Hygiene in Orem, UT and absolutely love it. I am so excited to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to educate and treat patients both locally and perhaps even abroad. Becoming a provider of such a valuable service – improving oral health – to others is an exciting and fulfilling prospect, but not without its challenges.
Though there are various academic obstacles to jump through on the way to becoming a hygienist, financial obstacles are perhaps the most intimidating. I came across the Solutionreach Scholarship while searching through a list one day, and became excited to apply. Having worked in the healthcare industry, I recognize the extreme importance of quality communication and coordination between patients and providers in order to reach the goal of full health. The features included in the Solutionreach Patient Relationship Management system were so impressive, particularly the SR Portal, I recommended the practice I used to work for apply for a demo. Even if I do not receive the scholarship, it was an enlightening experience becoming familiar with Solutionreach and the benefits of using PRM systems.