We have all experienced a multitude of changes to the healthcare industry in the last year, and that trend of constant change is going to continue into 2015. The medical practices that thrive in the new healthcare environment will be the ones that take a proactive approach to managing these changes.
Here are six action items I recommend for every practice in 2015:
1. Develop your patient portal. Clearly patients today desire the ability to know more about their issues as well as communicate more to their practitioner. Long waits both in the waiting room and when attempting to make appointments has damaged patient relationships while also creating numerous communication gaps. The family practice that communicates more effectively with patients will gain more referrals and be more highly respected within the community. In the coming year, focus on developing your portal and promoting its use to patients (or purchasing one if you do not have one). Many portals allow patients to order medication refills, obtain lab and test results, and even e-mail staff about appointments or schedule changes. The new technology creates not only better communication, but also less need to request an appointment because data is available online.
2. Implement an EHR, if you don't already have one. If your practice does not already have en EHR, it's time to get one. While there are many practitioners still using files and travel cards, EHRs provide better efficiencies for billing, reimbursements, audits, etc. Admittedly, there are more systems (so it seems) than doctors, but acquiring an EHR allows better practice efficiencies and perhaps more money for the practice.
3. Develop your website. Doctors in 2015 need to think in terms of the patient. On the day I wrote this article, I found that 1.67 billion searches had been made on Google. Doctors and their practices will be required to develop and implement websites so that patients can find them. True, many insurance companies refer prospective patients to physicians, but the fact remains that most patients conduct their own research. A great website will ensure that patients find you.
4. Get active on social media. As of January 2014, 74 percent of Internet users used social networking sites, according to the Pew Internet Project. Understand that not every form of social media is useful, but doctors and staff that engage in social media will create pockets of community to discuss the doctor and help with external marketing efforts. Additionally, social media forms such as Twitter or even Facebook enable staff to communicate messages to patients such as, “The doctor is running late," or, “The office is closing early due to inclement weather."
5. Prioritize cyber security. Many medical practices have very limited knowledge and resources to consider cyber security, but they must. The 2012 Data Breach Investigations Study by Verizon shows that in 855 data breaches they examined, 71 percent occurred in businesses with fewer than 100 employees.Similar to the manner in which many large corporations have prioritized cyber security, so must medical practices.
6. Pay attention to your reputation. According to one survey from practice management research group Software Advice, 62 percent of respondents said they turn to online reviews in order to find a new doctor. These review sites include Healthgrades Yelp, Vitals, ZocDoc and WebMD. Doctors that become more attentive to these sites will protect their reputations because they can monitor both positive and negative comments. Those that are more attentive to their reputation will have better searchable results on the Internet as well as have more visitors in the waiting and treatment rooms.