Using Technology – the Future of Practicing Medicine
Technology: an ever-present and ever-changing part of the medical world. Every practice is ultimately a business, so it is important to use technology to your advantage as a way to improve efficiency and provide modern, quality patient care. Subsequently, properly adopted technology will benefit your practice’s bottom line revenue.
In our first blog on technology and the future of practicing medicine, we covered why it is important to pay attention to the advances being made, as well as covered some options for how to use technology to begin positive interactions with your patients before they ever even call the office to make an appointment. That was just a taste of the options available to medical practices; there are many more in-office solutions to cover.
An inherent source of frustration for any medical practice is dealing with no-shows, or not getting patients to make their follow-up appointments. Many EHR and scheduling software have options for automated appointment reminders, as well as appointment confirmation messaging. By utilizing smartphones and the internet, practices can more communicate with patients easily, and solidify the practice schedule.
Scheduling with some patients can be done electronically using an online form or a patient portal, as well as over the phone. Other patients may require or prefer the human interaction to communicate effectively, and some tasks are simply too difficult to automate 100% at this time, so it is important to have a practice phone number that patients can call for appointments and questions.
The responsibility of answering phones usually falls on front desk personnel. Add to this all the other administrative tasks involved in patient intake, and the practice ends up with frazzled office staff and frustrated patients. To help with that issue, there are an increasing number of practices using a virtual front desk. This service connects a doctor’s office with trained front desk assistants who can answer phones, collect patient information, and schedule during busy times in the office.
Freeing Up the Front Desk
This frees up the front desk so that they can interact with the people directly in the office and waiting room, and positively impacts wait times both on the phone and in the office. In short, improvements to the waiting room experience will lead to happier patients, and increased throughput so that you can schedule more appointments.
One popular solution to lines at the front desk are automated kiosks, or even portable tablets, for faster check-in. Rather than wait in line to talk to someone at the front desk (just to be given a form to fill out), patients can check themselves in and go through some basic patient information collection. These options often exist to sync directly to the office’s EHR system to pre-fill necessary information without taking up staff resources.
If additional information is required, the system can alert the front desk and/or the patient so that they can interact directly as necessary. This often will happen when more information is needed on insurance information, eligibility, or detailed symptoms.
To accelerate data entry at the front desk, a dual-sided card scanner at the front desk can simply scan an insurance card, and required information will be uploaded immediately into the EHR to check eligibility. This saves time for staff members and gets the patient into their appointment much faster.
A constant struggle at the doctor’s office is the amount of paperwork that needs to be filled out and manually processed. While much of it can be done through the patient portal or a check-in kiosk, there is still a need for paper forms in many cases. When there is a patient form involved, the digital pen is the best option.
The digital pen uses a small camera to scan information written on a specially designed form and uploads it directly to the EHR. Again, this saves time by removing data entry tasks from the front desk staff and ultimately moving the patient into the exam room more efficiently.
Once the patient is in the exam room, the EHR allows a clear and understandable presentation of patient data. Most physicians do not realize that even systems that are 3 years old can be outdated. Improved EHR systems are user-friendly, certified for MIPS/MACRA, and allow for cross-platform capabilities with other technology (such as the check-in kiosk and digital pen).
The way in which doctors actually treat patients is changing as well. We are seeing the start of using information collected on wearable devices to inform patient care. High-tech, testing tools and visualization can give practitioners a more complete understanding of patient health. More surgical procedures can be done in-office with little down time and discomfort. It is plain to see that staying up-to-date on the advances in your specialty is essential for improving your patient care abilities.
Some doctors are not physically seeing patients anymore. When a patient does not have the time or resources to see a doctor or specialist, virtual appointments through telemedicine software allow practices to treat a wide and diverse patient base. It will be important for practices to consider incorporating telemedicine as they strategically think about the future of their practice so that they can stay relevant and agile, and it can decrease the physical footprint and resource needs of running a practice.
The appointment is not over when the patient leaves the exam room, though. Check-out is when follow-up appointments are scheduled, automated prescription requests are sent, patient payment is handled and even more.
Many times, a treatment plan includes medication prescriptions. E-prescriptions allow the practice to send an automated request to a pharmacy of the patient’s choice to get filled immediately. This helps the patient get their medication faster, and eliminates the need for paper forms in the practice. The system will also check insurance eligibility options and allow the doctor to tailor the treatment plan to the patient’s needs.
The desk also helps facilitate the patient payment process. When properly integrated with an office’s EHR, a billing service can instantly submit customer claims to the payer upon completion of a service. Smart software can make charge capture easy and accurate, with low claim denial rates. This benefits the patient’s peace of mind and the practice’s bottom line.
Lastly, it is important to think about the services that your practice provides. Are your patients happy with your service? Collecting patient feedback not only allows the patient to feel heard, but helps the practice improve their service as a whole. Automated review can send patients a survey upon checkout, and the practice can continually improve based upon issues identified.
The incredible part of this is that all of these options are just a small subsection of the advancements and technologies available to medical practices. Make sure to capitalize on these opportunities so that your business can be successful and prosper now and in the future. Approach any technology adoptions with a strategy and plan in mind, and if you need assistance, give the specialists at WRS Health a call. We are happy to answer questions and provide you with more information to help you better your practice.
You can learn more about WRS Health and the healthcare solutions available at https://www.wrshealth.com/or download our comprehensive guide on the office of the future.