Key digital trends for healthcare clinics

Adam Schrag -  

PatientPoint Chief Provider Officer Chris Martini discussed effectively using digital platforms in healthcare centers.

Note: Responses have been edited slightly for length and accuracy.


Q: Which digital platforms are most important for orthopedic and spine surgeons? What are the benefits?


Chris Martini: With each procedure, orthopedic surgeons are faced with the difficult challenge of explaining the multi-faceted benefits, risks and postoperative treatment options unique to each patient. Knowing that patients prefer to consume information in different ways, it's critical for orthopedic and spine surgeons to leverage digital technology that improves dialogue and education where these difficult conversations take place — at the point of care.


A great example of this technology is the growing adoption of 3D anatomical tools in the exam room. These digital platforms improve the way providers relay information to patients by supporting conversations with interactive, animated visual aids. Unlike the jargon-filled materials patients are given to meet regulatory standards, these digital tools simplify explanations of specific conditions with 3D visuals patients can easily understand. For example, our digital exam room program, PatientPoint Interact, allows physicians to take notes and mark up 3D anatomical illustrations in real-time, then email the information directly to patients.


Today’s physicians are just as digitally savvy as patients, so this technology is also available in a mobile app, allowing them to download and share the 3D images directly from their smart-phones. Offering patients the ability to see inside their own body, to identify the location of the precise nerve bundles causing them pain or share procedure details with family members following their appointment is invaluable to a personalized healthcare experience. 


Q: How can online portals help the practice's bottom line?


CM: In the evolving value-based healthcare landscape, any digital platform that improves patient satisfaction also improves a practice's bottom line. Since 80 percent of internet users already go online to search for health information, digital portals are valuable tools for providers to engage with patients on a platform they already prefer to use. Depending on the needs of the practice, patients can use online portals to schedule appointments, view medical records, request prescription refills, receive test results and directly message their physician with questions or concerns.

While these features make portals seem like a no-brainer to implement, physicians need to ensure their practice's platform is streamlined and intuitive before rolling it out to patients. In today’s digital era, a disjointed online experience can overshadow an exceptional quality of treatment when it comes time for patients to assess their overall satisfaction with their care provider.


Q: What action steps can spine and orthopedic practices take to solidify their position in the current healthcare landscape while ensuring future success?


CM: In the current healthcare landscape, being a reputable provider is no longer a differentiator for patients. To ensure future success, practices must create emotional connections and engaging experiences for patients, starting with three key steps:


1. Strengthen patient engagement initiatives: Practices should make patients informed members of their care team by providing custom, specialty-specific, educational information — whether delivered in print, digital or interactive formats — to enhance patient-physician discussions and improve patient experiences.


2. Expand digital connections: With nearly half (43 percent) of all hospital or clinic visits originating from a search engine, providers must think beyond the exam room and go digital, providing value to the consumer across their entire healthcare journey. Ensuring all practice information is up-to-date and accessible is critical to the quality of patients' experiences before they even reach your doors. To simplify this overwhelming process, PatientPoint recently launched a free tool for providers to assess and address issues with their practices’ digital presence.


3. Offer lower-cost care options: With the state of U.S. health insurance in flux, online portals, mobile apps and other remote communication tools offer alternatives to patients concerned with crippling out-of-pocket costs.


Q: How are providers using digital applications and online portals to help patients throughout their healthcare journeys?


CM: It’s no secret that digital technology has transformed the way we work, learn, travel, shop and socialize. Just like every other aspect of their lives, patients’ expectations for healthcare have changed dramatically. Recognizing the link between patient satisfaction and digital engagement, providers are using a variety of tools to reach patients at every point in their healthcare journey, including:


1. Interactive Exam Room Screens: With features like 3D anatomical models, custom messages and supplemental videos, these interactive platforms enhance physician discussions and improve patient satisfaction


2. Online Portals: Practices improve accessibility by offering patients the ability to schedule appointments, view medical records, request prescription refills, receive test results and directly message their physician with questions or concerns. As portals evolve, providers will need to go above and beyond compliance-driven digital offerings and include patient education, wayfinding apps and other experience-driven tools to improve overall satisfaction.


3. Digital Waiting Room Programs: Sixty-three percent of patients find waiting for their appointment the most stressful part of going to the doctor. Using digital waiting room programs, providers can share quick-hitting health information, best practice reminders, practice updates and healthy lifestyle tips that calm patients’ concerns and set the stage for positive exam room discussions.


4. Telehealth Consultations: Although provider adoption has been limited to date, the convenience of addressing health concerns via the internet or smartphones has the potential to improve patients’ access to care in the coming years.


Q: What holds some practices back from trusting and/or adopting digital applications and online portals? How do you respond to these hesitations?


CM: Practices face multiple challenges when adopting new technology. One major issue is the cost of investing in the software, hardware, installation and maintenance of the tools. Oftentimes, the cost is too high for practices to bear. Even if price isn’t an issue, we find many providers are hesitant to adopt digital tools because they anticipate having to invest a significant amount of time in creating and managing the content shared on the platforms, as well as a separate hassle involved in ensuring the technology meets all regulatory standards.

We help providers overcome their hesitations by showing how digital technology is a benefit, not a burden. Many providers don't know that they can implement these tools in their office for free, since the technology is underwritten through sponsorships.


Q: What key trends do you see emerging 10 years from now for physicians?


CM: Based on the constantly evolving healthcare landscape and the explosive growth of digital technology, it's hard to predict what physician tools will be trending in 10 years. With that being said, two insights are certain:


1. Digital tools will only become more important to both patients and providers. As new technology is created specifically to improve healthcare, including telemedicine platforms and remote health monitoring systems, patients will place increasing importance on the speed and efficiency providers take in adapting to change.


2. Patients will continue to demand more and more information. Empowered consumers will continue to call for increasing access to information about their care. As we look to the future, transparency will be essential to practice success.


More articles on practice management:

GOP healthcare bill to move to Senate with House passage; AMA reacts — 4 takeaways 

7 insights into physician prescribing patterns under pharmaceutical detailing policies

Which state tops the list for nurses? 5 best & 5 worst 

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