The Brave New World of Healthcare IT

Interoperability is the Key, Profitability and Patient Engagement the Result, Part I

Kathy McCoy, MBA
Follow her on Twitter @kathymccoy

While most practices are struggling just to implement EHRs effectively right now, I took a trip into the brave new world of HIT recently with Rochelle Glassman, founding partner of Phoenix Physician Services and now United Physician Services, LLC, and a nationally recognized healthcare consultant with experience in both the payer and provider arenas.

Glassman provided a look at how the medical practice will operate, from both the practice and the patient perspectives, when healthcare technology is utilized the way she believes it ultimately should be. Right now, Glassman says, she sees practices that need to better use their EHRs, practice management systems and their own websites. “They’re not fully integrated,” she says, “and they need to be to maximize the value.”

Then, she says, the practice needs to create and fully utilize a patient portal—not just for the patient’s convenience, but for its cost-cutting and revenue-generating abilities. Glassman points out that with a patient portal that is being used correctly, a practice can:

  1.  Expedite appointment setting, reduce no-shows and reduce the number of calls into the practice. When patients can view the doctor’s schedule and make and change appointments 24/7, the number of calls into the practice is reduced significantly. Doctors can block out their schedule as they prefer, so appointments being made by patients should not cause any time conflicts.
  2. Improve its patient collections. “A lot of practices are still sending patients statements by mail, which means printing, stuffing envelopes, paying for postage,” Glassman says. “Then they have to wait for the patient to send a check. With a patient portal, a patient can pay their bill online 24/7—no need to wait for the check to come in the mail.”
  3. Market effectively to patients. Using its patient portal, a practice can quickly and easily send out calls to action to its patients, says Glassman. “A practice can let its patients know that it will be open on Saturdays during flu season to give flu shots,” she says. “It can notify patients about new services, new physicians—it’s a way of staying in touch with patients and generating additional revenue.”
  4. Expedite referrals. Using the patient portal, the patient can more quickly schedule an appointment with the specialist, or the specialist can reach out directly to the patient. This improves patient satisfaction and outcomes.

Glassman cautions that practices need to offer multiple options for service to those who are not as comfortable with technology or just prefer the human touch. We’ll discuss that further in later posts.

Of course, the patient portal is just one technology that can be used to streamline the medical practice and increase patient engagement. In my next post, we’ll review how a technology-enabled practice will flow from start to finish from the medical office perspective, and in part 3, we’ll see how all of this technology feels from a patient perspective.

Kathy McCoy, MBA, has written on practice management and revenue cycle management for more than 5 years for leading medical software, medical marketing and medical billing companies. She has more than 17 years of experience in continuing medical education, developing programs with respected educational institutions including Columbia University, Johns Hopkins, and Cleveland Clinic. Contact Kathy at