Using technology to improve communications workflows
Inefficient doctor patient communication can negatively affect the provider-patient relationship and, subsequently, patient outcomes and practice success. The independent practice team must be able to communicate appropriately internally as well as to patients and other providers caring for those patients. There are many ways to use technology to improve a practice’s communications workflows in ways that will help both the patient and the independent physician.
Improving the communications workflow with a goal of improving doctor patient communication and adding to the quality of care provided to that patient requires recognizing and eliminating duplication and waste as well as digitizing certain processes.
Time spent deciphering handwritten notes or processing redundant paperwork can severely hamper the practice’s ability to communicate effectively. If the provider’s staff is taking messages, for example, making the patient wait for a return call to get answers, the communications workflow typically will be very frustrating for staff and patient alike.
The 2022 State of Healthcare Report found that most patients throughout the world “do not feel adequately supported by their provider.” The lack of effective doctor patient communication can result in the patient not being engaged in their own care. It also reflects on the patient’s opinion of the practice itself. As the report found, approximately “25% of patients or less completely agree that their provider personalizes care based on their current health, lifestyle and unique health goals, or offers a choice in digital tools to patients to support their health.”
For independent providers practicing in the US, these issues can be traced back to “tools that do not fit into clinical workflows, lack of proper training and lack of clear communication within the health organization.”
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When technology is developed specifically to improve communications workflows, it can vastly improve the doctor patient communication as well as the provider-patient relationship that is so critical to the ability to provide the highest quality care. Some strategies for applying technology appropriately include:
- Streamline the schedule management process. Schedules kept on paper can be error-prone, time-consuming, and in need of constant updating. Online scheduling can be easily managed for improved workflows within the independent practice and for patient convenience, which ultimately leads to more satisfied patients. Using technology for scheduling appointments also helps with staff scheduling issues, so that the clinical team can be better prepared each day.
- Incorporate smart routing into the communications workflow. Ensuring that all communications are automatically routed to the right team member can reduce delays and inaccuracies in care. A streamlined practice inbox can help the provider and clinical staff be more responsive in a timelier manner, with less duplication or oversight.
Enable multiple channels for communications. A patient portal is essential for effective communications, but additional options are important to incorporate as well, such as direct messaging, which is particularly useful in transferring patient health information while maintaining a high level of privacy and security. Sending automated reminders regarding scheduling and follow-up care can also help improve the quality of care through improved communications workflows.