Five steps to creating a competitive care delivery model with healthcare automation

As healthcare enters a new era of patient expectation and care delivery—one driven by demand for digital offerings and ease of access—provider groups and health systems alike are facing a pivot point. They can no longer afford to operate under traditional models that rely on staff to serve as a scheduling hub, patient communication and engagement, office management, referral management, and care delivery. 

With labor shortages predicted to last for years and turnover creating gaps in historical knowledge and continuous patient care, many physicians are looking to bridge these gaps with technology. Creating a more competitive delivery model with healthcare automation will help provider groups keep pace with the evolving healthcare landscape, while also streamlining operations and boosting patient experience. 

Provider groups of all sizes can shift to a more competitive delivery model by following five key steps: 

Make patient access as unrestricted as possible 

An emerging trend in the adoption of healthcare automation technology is the transition from traditional scheduling methods—from a high-touch, human process to a click of a button. Before, staff would need to answer a phone call, check a calendar for open slots, consult their binder of hard-copy notes for the proper decision-making tree, and then try to find the patient a spot on the correct provider calendar. Intelligent scheduling solutions are digitizing this burdensome process, which results in expanded patient access, reduced scheduling errors, and optimized schedules. 

Through centralized scheduling and online patient self-scheduling, administrative burden reduces as patient access points expand. Data is collected and integrated by the scheduling solution, such as provider templates that are configured so that all preferences—insurance mix, chief complaint, new or existing patient visits, specific hours or locations—are met. In addition, these flexible templates can adjust appointment duration required for accurate schedules, and further balance schedules across the entire practice to maximize provider time. 

Treat patients like consumers 

Patient habits now mirror industry habits—searching, evaluating, and booking or buying services online without making a phone call—and so, healthcare technology should mirror other consumer technology. Online self-scheduling, options to schedule or reschedule an appointment through a provided link, ability to self-guide through treatment plans are all pieces of a larger puzzle that allows patients to own more of their care journey. While an intelligent scheduling solution is foundational for healthcare automation, the patient journey continues past the first click to schedule an appointment. 

Besides expanding patient access and ease of scheduling for patients and provider groups, consumers expect the same digital offerings to extend to all subsequent activities related to their appointments. Intake paperwork, for example, can be delivered to a personal device to be completed ahead of arrival, saving both the patient and front desk time. In addition, patients have time to find their needed information—such as medical cards, imaging, previous records—and fill out the paperwork securely in from their own personal device.  

Paper billing is another traditional method becoming obsolete; patients who have completed several touchpoints via their cell phones would expect to be given a link to an online pay portal. One without passwords or additional barriers that make the transaction secure and fast. Convenience across the care continuum is crucial to a positive patient experience. 

Provide quality care that extends beyond the exam room 

Providing quality care in the exam room is, without rival, the most important part of a healthcare transaction. However, physicians spend a relatively small percentage of time face-to-face with a patient during what could be a weeks-, months-, or years-long wellness journey. 

Patient engagement is critical to both patient experience and health outcomes. Well-executed patient engagement also ensures a patient has a positive relationship with their provider—and by extension, the entire provider group—by establishing frequent, valuable communication that reminds, encourages, and prompts for further feedback. Patient engagement can take the form of:  

  • Appointment-related messaging 
  • Delivery of clinical results 
  • Educational materials and condition management messaging 
  • Feedback on their experience
  • Broadcast messages for new treatments or services 
  • Opportunity to ask further questions 

Personalize each patient’s care journey 

No two patients are exactly alike, even when the clinical diagnosis is the same on paper, including where they are on their individual healthcare journey when they schedule their first appointment with the practice. For example, a recently diagnosed chronic condition—such as diabetes—might require different educational materials and appointment cadences than does a patient who is several years into their condition management plan. 

However, both patients may still need routine care—such as flu shots or annual blood panels—interspersed with their condition management pathway. An optimized care journey will have all touchpoints, from preventative screenings to educational materials to informative messages, such as seasonal vaccines becoming available. As a component of strong patient engagement, targeted communication campaigns will help each patient subset receive efficacy-building messages that lead to compliance with care.  

Balance administrative resources to remain flexible 

The opportunity to engage in two-way, HIPAA-secure communication is increasingly becoming a focal point for provider groups. It is part of a transition trajectory that moves from pure outbound communication to inbound communication with smart routing to the right resources, at the right time.  

For resources to remain flexible, it requires fast and easy bi-directional communication between provider group departments, between departments and providers, and between departments and patients. Automation technology replaces phone tag with a communication hub that determines which inbound questions can be answered by technology—such as directions or hours—and which needs to be routed somewhere specific—such as to a certain provider for a prescription refill.  

Technology removes burden from administrative staff by making what was a multi-person task into something simple: 

  • Broadcast messages can be programmed and sent quickly be a single resource, such as when weather impacts clinic hours and patients must be notified immediately 
  • New scheduling staff can be hired and trained quickly, as scheduling solutions store historical knowledge and applies it without needing hard copy notes to navigate 
  • Patients can chat, text, or email in their questions and be answered quickly by specific staff members without phone calls back and forth 

Win the patient access game through healthcare automation 

With staffing challenges predicted to last for the foreseeable future, providers must start adopting technology to automate their processes, streamline operations, and offset administrative burden. Learn more about expanding patient access in Winning the Patient Access Game: 7 Ways Provider Groups Can Deliver More for Less with Centralized Scheduling.