Why patient engagement is key to success in today’s value-based market

 

Value-based healthcare is a new name for an old concept. It has always been the goal of healthcare providers to improve the health outcomes of their patients. That is as old as the Hippocratic oath to “do no harm.”

But how the healthcare industry goes about it, is changing.  Driven by a totally new reimbursement model under the Affordable Care Act, healthcare providers can benefit from finding new ways to improve outcomes, while lowering costs. The key to the success of this formula is efficiently coordinating a patient’s care and helping patients improve how they take care of themselves. Patient involvement is critical to good outcomes. And so, that is why CMS–and commercial payers who are following in the wake of the new CMS payment models–are rewarding physicians and hospitals that find better ways to keep different populations healthier. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

These new payment models are pushing providers to improve disease/population management, medication adherence, and care coordination, to reduce readmissions, increase payments and boost CAHPS survey scores. Contact centers and other patient engagement solutions are critical to achieving clinical and financial success under these new care models.

Traditionally, healthcare providers have relied on patient contact centers as an engine to support volume growth goals and meet patients’ logistical demands. As in most businesses, contact centers are a face of the hospital and the level of service provided can many times determine a customers’ loyalty to that provider. Under value-based care, this first encounter with an organization is more important than ever, as more than the patient’s loyalty is at stake.

The first step is making sure the first contact with the contact centers is effortless for the patient and provides a caring, positive voice. This is important because in the end, it is the human-to-human encounter that can never be replaced for motivating action. The caring voice of a call center staff member can go a long way toward engaging a patient. Contact centers should also provide appointment reminders, email forms ahead of time, and automate follow up information transfers to the patient and other care facilities in use by the patient. This expands on the original relationship a patient encounters when first making the call to the contact center.

“What is interesting is that amid all the industry buzz, patient engagement is not a revolutionary new concept, says Christine Queally Foisey, president and CEO of MedSafe in a blog titled “Challenges and upsides of patient engagement.”

In the business world, it is called “consumer engagement,” Foisey says, and for decades, marketers have been seeking new strategies to engage the customer, create better experiences, and strengthen brand relationships all aimed at improving outcomes. “Those who don’t deliver are likely to be put out of business by those that meet this demand,” she says.

“Perhaps the healthcare industry is finally catching up with the rest of the business world and recognizing that in order to grow and be successful in a competitive marketplace, patients need more in the way of information, quality, access, and accountability,” Foisey says.

Lessons on measuring patient experience can be taken from other industries, says Brandon Carrus, partner at McKinsey&Company. “Many health systems make large investments to improve the patient experience but fail to achieve their desired objectives because they did not understand what really matters most to their patients.”

Other industries don’t make this mistake, Carrus says. He gives the example of a major rental car company that conducted interviews and surveys to learn how to improve the experience of business travelers—their most profitable customer segment.

The research showed that the most important source of satisfaction for these travelers was not the variety of vehicles, which is what the company originally thought. Instead, it was the speed at which they could rent a car and the level of communication about the status of the reservation. Both of these the company remedied to boost the customer loyalty of their business travelers.

How often does healthcare show this same type of concern for its customer base? The truth is, value-based care is requiring that type of attention to detail.

This shift in reimbursement is coming at a time when patients are becoming more and more consumers. They are shoppers of healthcare. They shop online for physicians and hospitals, using web-based grading systems to make choices, based on the reviews given by other healthcare consumers. They don’t merely take what they can get.

Because of this, healthcare providers cannot leave patient satisfaction to chance. This satisfaction leads to engagement, and engagement leads to better outcomes. All of this leads to a better bottom line.

Scott Logan is vice president of marketing for Enghouse Interactive.

 

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