3 Health Care Trends Small Practices Need to Know About

By: on August 24, 2018

Are you so busy running your small practice that you miss out on the latest health care trends? If you’re uninformed about the latest in health care tech, you can’t be sure you’re providing the absolute best experience to your patients.

Small practices that lack a strong awareness of and fail to find ways to adopt the latest innovations in medical tech: patient engagement initiatives, telemedicine for clinical care delivery and AI for improved decision-making, will find it difficult to provide efficient patient care.

To help your small practice remain competitive by boosting patient satisfaction and growing patient volume, we’re breaking down the three top technology trends in health care that you can’t afford to miss.

Find out how these trends are currently shaping the industry and when you should adopt these technologies in your practice.

Trend #1: Health Care Providers Are Investing in Patient Engagement

“Health care delivery organizations (HDOs) are actively investing in consumer engagement initiatives within a range of consumer engagement orientations—from well, to episodically ill, to chronically ill and every orientation between.”

Source: December 2017 Gartner report, “Connecting Consumer Engagement Moments Into a Longitudinal Healthcare Journey” (full content available to Gartner clients).

 Why small practices should be interested:  Patient engagement tools empower and motivate patients by providing them access to their health information online. This frees up a significant amount of time for physicians and practice staff.

The trend of better engaging patients is spreading across the country and small practices shouldn’t neglect it. A 2017 study of 200 U.S. physicians/physician assistants and 200 patients found that engagement initiatives over the past two years, such as introducing patient portals, resulted in 70 percent of patients being engaged with their health care providers.

Patient engagement software can motivate patients to be accountable for their own health and avoid unhealthy activities. It also helps small medical practices engage with patients throughout their time of care and significantly reduces the staff’s daily burden of repetitive tasks.

By using the software, patients can:

    • Communicate with health providers over a safe and encrypted channel.


    • Search and schedule appointments online.


    • Fill out new patient forms digitally and provide their medical history, medication lists etc., online.


    • View, download and share their medical reports, laboratory results and other health summaries from other health care providers.


  • Access various medical and educational resources that are delivered by their health care provider online.

Nextech mobile platform appointment reminders
Appointment reminders on Nextech’s patient engagement mobile platform (Source)

 When to opt for patient engagement tools:  Many small practices will find that as they grow in size, it becomes difficult for them to reach out to and engage with patients. Analyze the issues you’re facing (such as declining patient satisfaction, decreasing number of patients, reduced revenues etc.) to decide if it’s time to implement a patient engagement solution. This software can automate outreach to enhance patient interactions.

Let’s have a closer look at the benefits:

    • Improved care with fewer re-admissions. Patient engagement tools help patients communicate more often with their health care providers. This can help to prevent negative patient interactions, while ensuring quality care. Better engagement also leads to fewer re-admissions, since patients have better insights into their health symptoms and how to treat them.


    • Better decision-making. As patient engagement software promotes collaboration between patients and physicians, it often leads to more effective decision-making regarding patient care and health outcomes. Efficient information gathering from the patients also boosts decision-making.


  • Enhanced patient satisfaction. Medical practices usually notice an increase in patient satisfaction when using technology to engage with patients. Engagement tools improve the patient care process and motivate patients to be more aware about their health.
Not sure if you need a patient engagement solution? Call us at (844) 686-5616 for a free consultation with a medical software advisor.

Vendors that offer patient engagement tools: Many medical software vendors offer patient engagement tools. The patient engagement tools with the highest volume of reviews on Software Advice are:

Check out these options to find the one that suits your specific requirements and business processes. Below, we look at a few patient engagement capabilities that small practices need. We’ve matched them with solutions that offer those capabilities.

Business need: Enhanced clinical efficiencySoftware: AdvancedMD EHR

AdvancedMD EHR’s patient engagement platform, AdvancedPatient, streamlines the patient check-in process with the help of iPad check-in kiosks. Patients can easily complete the intake and consent forms from any location in the practice using the Wi-Fi network. They can also read, edit and sign documents securely.

Business need: Reduce missed appointmentsSoftware: Athenahealth EHR

Athenahealth’s patient engagement services allow medical practices to contact patients via text, phone or email to remind them about their scheduled appointments, billing requirements or follow-ups.

Trend #2: Practices Are Using Telemedicine for Clinical Care Delivery

“An increased focus on outcomes, coordinated care and population health is causing the health care industry to search for more effective and efficient clinical care delivery models.”

Source: January 2018 Gartner report, “Extending the Reach of Healthcare Delivery With Virtual Care” (full content available to Gartner clients).

 Why small practices should be interested:  Advances in innovative health monitoring devices and health care diagnostics is driving the growth of telemedicine. Small medical practices, like yours, shouldn’t ignore the increasing adoption of telemedicine (or virtual care).

A 2017 telemedicine survey found that 53 percent of U.S. health care organizations plan to either grow or expand their telemedicine programs. And 54 percent said that telemedicine helped them save 11 percent in operating costs.

U.S. Health Care Providers’ Telemedicine Plans
U.S. Health Care Providers' Telemedicine Plans bar graph

Telemedicine allows medical practices and physicians to reach a much wider and underserved patient base that’s living in remote areas. This technology helps practices:

    • Increase their revenue significantly, as all the hours spent on video calls or telecalls are billable.


  • Reduce the likelihood of no-shows during scheduled patient appointments as physicians can virtually reach out to patients.

 When to opt for telemedicine:  If you’re noticing a lot of patient no-shows despite scheduled or confirmed appointments, try out telemedicine. It’s especially beneficial if patients can’t visit your practice due to the long commute or their ill-health.

When you opt for telemedicine, your patients will have various benefits, such as:

    • They no longer need to physically travel to the practice for an appointment.


    • They won’t have to pay as much as they’d have paid at a walk-in clinic or the emergency room.


  • They’ll receive the care from the comfort of their homes, which drastically reduces the waiting time.
Not sure if you need telemedicine? Call us at (844) 686-5616 for a free consultation with a medical software advisor.

Vendors that offer telemedicine tools: There are various medical software vendors that offer telemedicine-enabled EHRs. The telemedicine tools with the highest volume of reviews on Software Advice are:

Check out the features and prices of each solution thoroughly before you decide on a solution. We’ll look at a few telemedicine capabilities that small practices usually need and then match those with the software that offers these capabilities.

Business need: Extend practice connectivity and functions to remote patientsSoftware: PrognoCIS

PrognoCIS Telemedicine EHR solution offers integrated mobile applications for medical practices to extend their connectivity and functions. Physicians are able to use modes such as video, email and text to engage with patients.

Business need: Offer in-house specialist consultation to patientsSoftware: AdvancedMD EHR

AdvancedMD’s AdvancedTelemedicine solution helps practices offer in-house specialist consultation to patients via virtual two-way conferencing technology, so you needn’t refer patients to other medical practices.

Trend #3: More Physicians Are Adopting AI to Enhance Decision-Making

“AI is being used to enable real-time clinical and operational command and control centers that are helping to improve efficiencies and decision-making.”

Source: March 2018 Gartner report, “Understand the Value of AI for Healthcare Delivery Organizations” (full content available to Gartner clients).

 Why small practices should be interested:  Small medical practices and solo physicians may be wondering if adopting AI is worth it, especially on their tight budgets. If you do a cost-benefit analysis of an AI-based application such as Intelligent Decision Support Systems (IDSS), you’ll find that the benefits quickly outweigh the costs.

You can’t ignore the fact that AI-based tools improve decision-making and are a valuable way for practices to save time and money. And, AI is quickly spreading in health care. It’s helping practices address many complex problems with advanced techniques such as clinical decision support, precision medicine and patient diagnosis. AI also leads to quicker patient recovery, often at reduced costs.

 When to opt for AI:  If you think your small practice lacks the necessary physician expertise or technical resources to deal with a patients’ specific complex health issue, then it’s time to try AI.

When you opt for AI, you’ll gain some of the following benefits:

    • Better analysis of medical data to offer more targeted treatment plans.


    • Assistance during decision-making to deal with complex treatments.


    • Reduced cost and time of treatment through faster development of life-saving drugs; accurately performing uncomplicated and repetitive tasks, such as analysis of CT scans; or quickly identifying optimal patient treatment plans based on patients’ profiles.


  • Assurance that the correct medication is ordered for patients with the help of virtual health assistants.
Not sure if you need AI? Call us at (844) 686-5616 for a free consultation with a medical software advisor.

Vendors that offer AI tools: Several electronic medical records (EMR) vendors revealed at the 2018 HIMSS event that they planned to add AI in their system workflow. (Note: These may not be the only EHR vendors with plans to introduce AI, but they are all the vendors that announced their plans at HIMSS18.)

If you’re already using any of the above systems, talk to your vendor about their plans to add AI and how you can leverage it. And if you’re using a different system, you can reach out to your vendor to inquire about their future plans for AI, or, if you’re planning to switch in the near future, consider the vendors mentioned here for your shortlist.

Conclusion and Next Steps

Patient engagement, telemedicine and artificial intelligence are changing the health care industry. The examples of cutting-edge tech we’ve examined here not only enhance the overall operations of medical practices but also create a better experience for physicians and patients.

To summarize, the next steps you should take are:

    • Go for a patient engagement solution if you’re facing difficulties reaching out to patients and keeping them engaged.


    • Consider the telemedicine option if you’re noticing significant patient no-shows despite scheduled or confirmed appointments.


  • It’s time to try artificial intelligence (AI) applications, if you lack physician expertise in specialized areas or technical resources required to deal with patients’ specific complex health issues.

However, the specific requirements and budget of your small medical practice will heavily influence how and when you adopt these technologies. To have a better understanding where you should start looking for the right solution, you can call us at (844) 686-5616 for a free consultation with a software advisor.

Note: The information contained in this article has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. The applications selected are examples to show a feature in context, and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations.

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