Healthcare IT’s Key Role in Patient Experience

By Bill Grana, CEO, HCTec
Twitter: @HCTecTN

Patient experience is increasingly top of mind for healthcare provider executives. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality defines patient experience as the full range of interactions patients have with the healthcare system, including interactions with health plans and care from doctors, nurses, and supporting staff. Patients’ experiences with technology are a vital part of the comprehensive set of interactions that either increase or decrease their satisfaction, the quality of care they receive, and their ability to build trust with providers.

Pre-pandemic, a variety of aspects related to patient connection and care needed improvement — from communication to access and equity — and the pandemic caused hospital systems across the U.S. to focus on improving patient and provider relationships. As the pandemic progressed, defining, and measuring the patient experience gained new importance. Positive patient experience is made up of overall patient satisfaction, quality of care, trust, and meaningful relationships with healthcare providers. Engaged patients are more likely to keep their appointments and adhere to care plans, resulting in better health outcomes.

The entire healthcare ecosystem benefits from a strong positive patient experience. Patient-centered ecosystems have the potential to boost provider productivity and provide better patient outcomes through tailored and integrated technology tools, but only when backed by a patient-centered IT team. Health IT professionals’ role in driving these positive patient experiences is critically important, beginning with patient-centered design in the configuration and implementation of technology and continuing with strong maintenance and end user support. It is important to keep in mind the following key technology tools that drive patient experience – EHR platforms, telehealth, and patient data.

Making the most of your EHR platform

One of the most significant opportunities for providers to bolster patient experience is to take full advantage of all the features and benefits of an EHR system. These systems incorporate patient portals, designed to extend and support patient care beyond in-person visits. Portals empower patients through ease of use and are key tools in establishing a provider’s “digital front door.” In many cases, providers are not taking full advantage of built-in software and solutions, failing to integrate digital components such as automated patient communication features into their patients’ everyday care. Health systems can improve EHR utility and interoperability by leveraging solutions already built into these systems and, in the process, improve the patient experience.

Deepening relationships through telehealth

Telehealth continues to evolve and improve as a core technology for the future of healthcare delivery. Reliable, meaningful, high-quality telehealth appointments enhance the patient experience. Telehealth reduces barriers to access and increases convenience for patients. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth utilization skyrocketed. Utilization has since stabilized at levels 38 times higher than the pre-pandemic baseline. Due to this massive shift in patient priorities, virtual and digital health investments have soared as systems reprioritize telehealth. This shift continues to change the face of healthcare and how patients interact with their care. Subsequent research from the American Medical Association shows physicians have positively responded to telehealth implementation. The study shows that 85% of physicians polled indicated that telehealth helps patients get care in a more timely manner, and 75% of physicians surveyed said that telehealth made it easier to deliver high-quality care.

Leveraging data and keeping a pulse on evolving patient expectations

Data and insights from patient records improve coordination and quality of care. Pairing this data with current evidence-based trends is essential to healthcare providers seeking to provide effective care to patients. The usefulness of this data increases even more so when it’s made available to patients. In a study published by the Journal of General Internal Medicine, following the open access of patient data and provider notes, clinicians thought patients took better care of themselves (30 percent pre-implementation and 50 percent post) and were better prepared for visits. This ease of sharing medical history in whole or in part enables the patient to play a role in care coordination and increases the portability of care, paving the way for stronger relationships and better health outcomes.

As technology solutions and consumer behavior continue to evolve, collaborations between healthcare leaders and healthcare IT professionals are essential to fostering a better patient experience. Making the most of EHR systems, optimized telehealth, and patient data are key opportunities to bolster communication and build health system and provider trust. Healthcare IT professionals, more so than ever, are in a unique position to contribute to these efforts and positively impact patient care and overall patient experience.