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Your Best Digital Practice Partners Are…Your Patients

As more aspects of daily life move online, chances are good your patients are open to moving some of their healthcare experience in that direction. It’s high time to consider your options for accommodating—or better yet, encouraging—patient interactions in the digital space.

Practices that engage patients with secure and relatively simple tools can enhance provider-to-patient communication and thus improve care. When patients can quickly see notes from their visit, review their medical history, get prescription information or pay bills with fewer surprises, patient satisfaction levels rise.

Your colleagues may already be engaging patients online with positive results. A CDW survey released last spring found that accessible, comprehensive portals are driving more engagement among patients with chronic conditions. In the survey, 98% of respondents said they’re comfortable communicating with providers via online patient portals. The survey also showed that 83% are comfortable communicating via mobile apps, 77% are at ease texting, 75% are comfortable with online chat, and 69% are fine with video chat. However, only 34% of respondents said they’d be comfortable interacting with their provider on social media.

Companies such as Apple are taking notice. Recently, the tech giant has been discussing bringing health records together via iPhones with hospitals and other healthcare organizations.

Eliminating obstacles
Support is a critical component of any digital patient engagement plan. Patients can be reluctant to enroll in a patient portal because of cumbersome signup instructions or because they don’t see the value of digital communication (or don’t trust it). Browser incompatibility is another potential issue for patients seeking to access their portal from their home computer.
To address this, practices can offer:

  • Simple, secure, in-office portal enrollment
  • Easy processes for changing (or reissuing) passwords and reliable tech support
  • Tablets or desktop machines that allow patients to print out information to take with them

Patients won’t sign up for anything if stakeholders don’t support it, so your entire staff should be familiar with the online tools and apps the practice uses—especially the patient interface. It’s also a good idea to have posters, brochures and videos in the waiting room that highlight portal features and app capabilities. Your EHR vendor may offer these types of marketing materials for portals.

Patient self-service kiosks are another option that can streamline check-in, entry of patient information, and payment collections. Whether used in tandem with a patient portal or simply for accessing practice-based online forms, kiosks allow patients to share information that can be critical for healthcare decision-making but is time-consuming or difficult for providers to gather, such as family medical histories.

Digital tools won’t replace office visits, but when physicians and patients have the information they need—regardless of whether it’s shared via smartphone app, kiosk data entry, portal, or email—they can optimize their time together.

  1. gov web post, “Maintain Your Medical Record,” March 27, 2017,
  2. Healthcare IT News, March 2, 2017, “Digital tools fueling patient engagement, survey finds,” by Heather Mack,
  3. Healthcare IT News, June 25, 2017, “Apple reveals plans to put health records on the iPhone,” by Bernie Monegain,
  4. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, May 31, 2017, Patient Engagement Playbook,
  5. Physicians Practice, April 14, 2015, “Online Patient Engagement Requires Practice Buy-In,” by Bridget M. Kuehn,
  6. Digital Journal press release, July 10, 2017, “Market Research on Patient Self-Service Kiosks Market Trend & Growth Report 2016 to 2026,”
  7. New Scientist, July 19, 2017, “An app a day keeps the doctor away,” by Douglas Heaven,

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