During COVID-19, digital patient engagement proved to be essential due to the necessity of virtual care. Now that we’re on the other side of the pandemic, digital patient engagement tools have still proven to be vital to healthcare practices. Without them, you risk losing patients who want to continue receiving their care virtually.
Investing in digital patient engagement tools increases your revenue by improving the patient experience and patient activation while also giving you a stronger return on investment if optimized and used correctly.
If you’re a small to midsize practice owner who is trying to increase your use of digital patient engagement tools but you’re not sure what software you need to use, we’re here to help you out. Whether you’re searching for software for your brand new practice, looking to make a switch, or add on new technology to increase your patient engagement, this is the guide for you.
What is digital patient engagement?
Digital patient engagement goes beyond traditional patient engagement by incorporating technology or a digital tool to allow physicians or healthcare organizations to communicate with patients, manage the patient-provider relationship, and offer various medical and educational resources.
Why is digital patient engagement software important?
Firstly, most software solutions will give your patients mobile-first access to your services. Whether that’s communication, access to their healthcare plan, or scheduling, your patients can engage with your practice wherever and whenever works best for them using the device they prefer.
From an administrative side, digital patient engagement software solutions are important because they automate consistent and reliable data input and/or patient engagement via automated emails and reminders. Even if you’re a very small practice, it’s difficult to manually call, email, or text every patient about appointments.
Using software to automate communications helps you communicate with your patients in the manner in which they want to be messaged (phone, email, text, etc.). Additionally, it helps reduce the number of office staff you might need to hire while also allowing the staff you do have to complete more important tasks.
But digital patient engagement solutions go beyond just automating scheduling and communication. This software, when optimized and used correctly, helps you with patient education and can lead to an overall better patient experience.
By using software, you can send patient registration and check-in forms ahead of time to be filled out at the patient’s leisure. This can reduce waiting times in your office and increase the amount of time spent talking about important health information in the actual appointment since the doctor will have had access to the patient’s data more than just 15 minutes before the appointment.
Luckily, using digital patient engagement technologies helps you kill two birds with one stone: it helps improve patient satisfaction and the overall patient experience while also saving you money on administrative overhead as well as patient acquisition because you won’t be losing as many patients to other practices.
How using digital patient engagement can help increase your ROI
Practices implementing digital patient engagement software stand to benefit in a variety of ways. The key benefits include:
1. Improved quality of care with fewer readmissions
When patients can access their educational materials digitally, easily, and quickly, they’re more likely to have higher levels of engagement and greater health outcomes. This is especially true when you realize that digital patient engagement software can include educational materials in the form of videos or other interactive media which can make using healthcare technology such as remote patient monitoring devices more user friendly. More adherence to the health plan means fewer readmission trips.
2. Better decision-making
Digital patient engagement enables better teamwork and collaboration not only between physician and patient, but also between physician and office staff since things such as scheduling and patient registration are automated. Additionally, when patients are engaged with the software, there’s more fluid patient-provider collaboration which leads to better and more engaged decision-making.
3. Minimizes patient no shows
When patients are automatically reminded about their appointments from the communication channel they’re most likely to check (e.g., phone, email, text), they’re much less likely to skip their appointments.
4. Reduces gaps in care
With digital patient engagement software, you can automate outreach that is specifically meant to re-engage patients who are behind in scheduling appointments as well as educate patients about new services, texts, or vaccines that might be available to them.
5. Attracts new patients
Patients want to get the most for their money, and having an easy-to-use digital patient engagement suite of software will make them feel like they’re being taken care of since it demonstrates that your practice is up to date with the most relevant technology.
6. Improves patient access
Patients will have greater access to their own health records, as well as education and care plans, which means they’re more likely to be engaged in their own healthcare in a way they wouldn’t otherwise be. They can come to appointments prepared to have conversations about their health instead of just receiving their care plan.
7. Simplifies patient billing
Digital patient engagement software simplifies billing by offering both patients and care providers better access and transparency regarding bills. Using this technology, patients have access to their statements, payment plans, and the ability to pay bills 24/7. Additionally, patients can receive text messages with their balances, a link to a detailed statement that includes all services being charged, and the ability to make automatic payments.
For healthcare organizations, billing becomes easier because patients pay bills more quickly, it reduces the cost of printing and mailing paper bills, and it eliminates the need for hiring outside billing services if you have enough patient use and buy-in.
8. Collecting feedback becomes easier
Because digital patient engagement is tied closely to patient experience, it’s important to collect feedback regularly. Many of these software solutions allow you to send messages to patients automatically, so it’s a great idea to send a patient satisfaction survey within 24 hours of every appointment in order to collect data and patient feedback. This can help you adjust your procedures to ensure you have a high patient satisfaction rate.
9. Generate more online reviews
According to our 2020 Master Patient Experience Survey[*], almost three quarters (71%) of surveyed patients use online reviews as the very first step to finding a new doctor, so your online reputation is often the first impression you make on many potential patients.
Much like the patient satisfaction survey, it might be a good idea to send a link to your preferred review site shortly after every appointment to help generate more reviews.
Obstacles when using digital patient engagement software
Patients might need coaching: Patients might not want to use the expensive software you purchased due to a few factors:
- They have poor digital and health literacy
- A lack of awareness of the benefits
- Internet access,
- Privacy concerns
- A preference for in-person communication
To resolve these issues, make enrollment in your system one of the first things you do with new patients. Automate enrollment by syncing it to scheduling services and then offer rewards to patients and staff for improving enrollment
Interoperability between software: It’s often hard to find a one-size-fits-all digital patient engagement platform that has everything you need while also integrating with your preferred EMR solution, so you might have to juggle multiple different software accounts.
Make sure that, when searching, your digital patient engagement software can integrate with your current systems, otherwise you might struggle with juggling multiple different software solutions.
The different types of digital patient engagement software
A digital patient engagement tool enables a secure, digital patient-provider communication channel that provides access to clinical, financial, and administrative functionality. They can also share important educational information about care plans or instructions about how to use remote patient monitoring devices for patients.
These tools can all be considered types of digital patient engagement software:
- Patient portal software
- Patient engagement software
- All-in-one electronic medical records solutions (also known as electronic health records)
- Patient scheduling software
- Remote patient monitoring software
When researching software, it’s important to know what features your practice needs in order to succeed. Some larger all-in-one EMR solutions might come with digital patient engagement tools, such as patient portals or remote patient monitoring functionalities, but they might not be as robust as what you’re looking for. Additionally, you might be paying for features that your practice doesn’t need.
What to look for when searching for digital patient engagement software
Choosing the right software can be a time-consuming and difficult process with a variety of considerations. Here are a few important characteristics to consider before implementing digital patient engagement software.
We mentioned it briefly above, but it’s crucial to understand how your new digital patient engagement technologies integrate with your existing tools. Ideally, you want your technologies to work well together because it makes sharing patient health data between them much easier.
Additionally, if you’re a brand new practice looking for entirely new software, you might want to search for all-in-one software solutions. They can be more pricey, but it’s usually worth the cost to avoid future headaches.
When talking to vendors, make sure to ask about system integration between their tool and your existing software.
Cloud or on-premise deployment:
Before you get very far in your software selection process, it’s important to determine whether you want to use cloud or on-premise deployment.
On-premise software is hosted and maintained locally, usually by a businesses’ IT department. This deployment option lends itself to a greater degree of ownership—and therefore customization—making it an attractive method for established businesses with the resources to handle such an undertaking. On the flip side, this can delay implementation time, complicate critical software updates and other maintenance, and handcuff businesses craving future agility.
Cloud-based deployment is hosted and maintained by the vendor or outsourced to a third party, and the system is typically accessible through any device with a web browser. Though less customizable, cloud-based software typically offers greater stability and security—especially for small businesses that lack the staff to manage data internally. And because it’s more agile than on-premise options, it usually takes less time to implement.
It’s usually as easy as looking at a vendor’s website to determine which they offer, and, typically, smaller and even mid-sized practices will want cloud-based software because of the ease of use and implementation.
Ease of use:
One of the most crucial considerations when choosing digital patient engagement software is the ease of use. After all, if it’s not easy to use, your patients (or even your staff) won’t want to use it, negating any benefits it might offer and wasting your money.
Search for software that has high ease of use reviews on Software Advice, ask vendors for free trials as well as to demonstrate their most typical workflow before you make any purchases.
We mentioned it earlier, but it bears repeating here. When searching for software, you need to find a solution that is mobile friendly and optimized for the mobile experience both through an application and a website, since some patients will be hesitant to download dedicated applications.
You can find out a lot about whether a software application has good mobile support by simply browsing the vendor website. Once you narrow down your choices and begin talking to vendors, you will want to get specific demonstrations and hands-on experience to see just how mobile-friendly the application is.
For a more general guide about what to look for during the vendor selection process, check out The Ultimate Software Vendor Evaluation Guide. In it, you’ll find guidance on the importance of software evaluation, the essential software characteristics to evaluate, and pricing models to look out for.
What types of healthcare organizations need digital patient engagement?
Small practices (one to five physicians) are likely looking to deploy digital patient engagement software in an effort to grow their patient base. Most cloud-based digital patient engagement platforms would be suitable for you, since they often offer subscriptions on a per-user basis. Look for platforms that offer features such as online form filling for new patients, which will be a big time saver for your growing practice.
Midsize practices (six to 25 physicians) should be interested in providing added value to your existing patients as well as adding new patients. You likely have straightforward requirements that are met by most cloud-based systems. Look for features such as online appointment scheduling, appointment reminders, and patient education to improve the patient experience.
Here’s a quick checklist of other important aspects you will need to evaluate when searching for digital patient engagement software:
Improving your digital patient engagement is crucial for the future of medicine
Digital patient engagement software is essential to the modern-day healthcare organization, particularly those who wish to provide an excellent patient experience. Understanding how digital patient engagement benefits your practice and how to evaluate which features you need when selecting software are the first steps toward having a more profitable and successful practice.
Now that you know what to look for when it comes to digital patient engagement software, it’s time to begin your software search. Luckily for you, Software Advice is here to help you out.
At Software Advice, our advisors have helped hundreds of professionals in the medical field find the right software for their practice. We’re here to help you find solutions that meet your needs and budget.
* 2020 Master Patient Experience Survey: We surveyed over 1,000 patients in the United States. We used screening questions to narrow the number of respondents down to 990 with relevant histories and experiences. We worded the questions to ensure that each respondent fully understood their meaning and the topic at hand.
- Individuals’ Access and Use of Patient Portals and Smartphone Health Apps, 2020, HealthIT.gov
- Desktop vs Mobile vs Tablet Market Share United States Of America, StatCounter GlobalStats