Planning and preparation are crucial for the adoption of a patient self-planning platform

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A recent survey reveals that health systems consider patient self-planning tools essential, but they are not using them because clinicians are not buying into the strategy.

The shift to consumer-centric healthcare can sometimes create conflict between patients and their physicians, especially as patients seek to have a say in matters that physicians have traditionally – and stubbornly – managed. . An ideal example is planning.

Patients want the ability to schedule their own appointments with physicians, and healthcare organizations recognize it’s an essential tool for driving patient engagement and improving management and adherence to care. But while a recent survey from the Center for Connected Medicine (CCM) found that 88% of healthcare systems consider patient self-planning to be their top investment target, only around 3% currently have this capability, and few actually act on these plans.

That’s because doctors don’t want to give up control of their schedules.

“Many physicians believe that by allowing patients to self-schedule their appointments, they are giving up control of their own schedule,” said Joon S. Lee, MD, executive vice president of UPMC, who supports the CCM, in a press release accompanying the study. “Self-planning is an important part of improving patient access to care. It is up to organizational leaders to work with physicians to find solutions that address their concerns while meeting demands and expectations. of our patients.”

According to the CCM report, 78% of health systems surveyed have self-scheduling technology, yet four out of five health systems see less than 20% of their appointments booked through these tools. Not only are these patients not using the technology, but the healthcare system is not educating them about this capability.

When asked about the reasons for the delays, only 8% said patient adoption was an issue, while 22% cited physician adherence and 16% cited staff concerns.

Lee, who is also president of medical services at UPMC and associate dean of clinical affairs at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, told HealthLeaders that it’s up to healthcare leadership to change that dynamic. by convincing physicians that patient self-planning is a good thing.

“We often think it’s a technology problem, but it’s not,” he says. “It’s a cultural issue and an organizational issue, and it needs to be changed. Organizations need to commit to making this happen.”

The Benefits of Patient Self-Programming Technology

Self-planning tools have the potential to improve not only the patient experience, but also the workload of clinicians. While giving patients the ability to schedule appointments that suit their lifestyle, the platform also ensures that the patient sees the appropriate care provider. This reduces no-shows and other delays, and ensures that the visit is valuable to both patient and care provider, enriching care management and offering a better chance of improving clinical outcomes.

Lee notes that technology makes the scheduling process much more efficient, reducing phone calls and reducing the time staff and clinicians spend fiddling with schedules and schedules. It also ensures that clinicians are seeing the right patient, someone who needs to be seen by that particular care provider, rather than someone who should have been seen by someone else or someone who could have been treated by telehealth or otherwise.

“Patients want to be seen by the doctor who can help them the most,” he says. “It should be a much better experience.”

And that’s what the consumer wants. Encouraged by the use of digital tools in everything from banking to travel to retail shopping, consumers also want this capability in their healthcare experience, and they will switch providers if these desires do not occur. are not satisfied. Add to that the influx of competition into the healthcare market from telehealth companies, retail giants like Amazon and Walmart, and nearby healthcare systems that are adopting new technologies, and the hospital or the traditional healthcare system must adopt these new services or risk losing business.

“We have to tell the doctors to adapt or lose,” Lee says. “They have to realize that.”

Lee says a health system should lay the groundwork for the adoption of patient self-planning by targeting provider concerns first. Management should sit down with clinicians and explain the benefits of technology for both parties, addressing concerns that clinicians are losing control of their schedules or workflows. As with most new technologies, the platform is designed to help healthcare providers map and improve their workflows, without replacing or interfering with providers or staff.

Get the right technology

Preparing for a patient self-planning platform also means understanding the technology, Lee says, and it’s important for a healthcare system to research the different types of platforms available on the market and choose the best option. It’s not a one-size-fits-all, plug-and-play technology or something that gets up and running the first time.

According to the CCM survey, about a quarter of respondents say they always search for the right platform, while 22% strive to standardize models and schedules. Some 17% were focused on installing the technology and 14% were looking to extend the platform to edge sites. Only 6% focused on patient education and support.

Clinicians and other staff should be part of this process, Lee says, so they know what technology can and cannot do. Additionally, management should design the platform “with a human touch”, so that a patient can opt out and speak with a live person at any time, or switch from a virtual visit to the scheduled in-person visit if that is more comfortable for him. their.

Lee says technology should be considered another tool in the care provider’s toolbox, just like the virtual visit. Many healthcare systems set aside telehealth and digital health, separating these services from other healthcare services so that they are considered add-ons or additional services rather than part of the healthcare process. Instead, health systems should integrate these services, making them part of the process.

The healthcare industry “has always been focused on care inside the hospital,” says Lee. “But that’s changing. Consumers want a connected healthcare experience.” This means connecting with consumers at home and giving them a portal to the hospital that allows them to complete any task before meeting a care provider.

Lee says UPMC has actively integrated patient self-scheduling alongside other services, such as direct-to-consumer telehealth and remote patient monitoring. And they were careful to include staff and clinicians every step of the way. A healthcare system, he says, shouldn’t give its employees a new tool or platform and tell them to go try it out. They need to include them in the planning and installation so that they are already aware of everything before everything goes live.

With patient self-planning, he says, “they have to learn to let go of some control…but if you choose the right technology, they’ll see why it has to happen.”

See also: Online patient self-scheduling drives growth for Inspira Health.

Eric Wicklund is the innovation and technology editor for HealthLeaders.

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