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Amy Oliver, Marketing Manager

It’s 2023 and as we all know, the healthcare landscape is continually evolving. A consistent headline I’ve noticed lately is around health systems struggling to keep patients engaged and losing them to competing hospitals, and non-traditional medical organizations offering more convenient and accessible care. 

To help stem this forceful tide of patient leakage, health systems need to look for creative ways to build a larger and more welcoming digital front door. But, how do health systems empower patients to ‘walk through’ their digital front door – and equally (or more!) importantly, have a positive experience? We all know there are many considerations, and spoiler alert: they span beyond just patient portal sign-up goals. 

Health systems know engaging the unengaged and underserved populations is a huge challenge, especially with economic factors like widespread inflation taking their toll on more patients. Improved access to care is great on the surface, but the industry as a whole must do more fine tuning to significantly improve health equity…and subsequent revenue capture. 

When I started at Xealth in October 2021, SDOH was an acronym I wasn’t familiar with … I remember Googling it and having an “a-ha” moment. Now, social determinants of health (SDOH) are front and center as I think about how a digital front door strategy impacts all stages of the patient journey. 

SDOH means truly thinking outside of the box, and leveraging technologies in a different way. Facilitating ride sharing opportunities (e.g., Lyft or Uber), pantry access guidance in food deserts, and remote cardiac care are a few ways health systems can better serve those patients who must be engaged creatively, sensitively, and outside of the traditional healthcare setting. 

Managing all of these programs can create challenges… and that’s why a health data aggregation platform is an essential piece of the puzzle, allowing clinicians to extend their reach by embedding actionable data directly into their workflows while also offering a better patient experience. Talk about a win-win: clinicians don’t have to leave the EHR, and patients are engaged in programs, content, and apps that help them on their health journey. 

Enabling the patient journey 

Patient access is a multilayered challenge that requires attention to internal operations and the individual patient experience. Clinician bandwidth is a factor and it’s no secret that six-month waits to see specialists can lead to leakage and preventable costs related to untimely care. Competition among healthcare systems is fierce, and consumer-minded patients know they can find care elsewhere. 

A quieter obstacle is the difficulty of using too many scheduling options. The development of self-scheduling capabilities is a noble pursuit, but there are even more ways that providers can encourage patients to claim more ownership of their journeys. 

A health data aggregation platform can be the engine of holistic patient care. With digital health tools and related data embedded directly into the EHR, clinicians can see all their patient’s data in one place and make more informed and convenient assessments — and with less frustration.

For example, when a patient is due to schedule an annual wellness visit, they may also need flu or COVID vaccines. They could schedule their shot with an unaffiliated pharmacy whenever it occurs to them, or your health system could use Xealth to automatically nudge the patients to book it with their wellness appointment. That’s an easy one. If loyalty is your hinge pin for expecting patients to schedule these commodity-type services with your system separately, you could very well be missing out on an opportunity to provide more efficient services for the patient and front-line staff. 

As you view your organization’s digital health capabilities through an SDOH lens, the possibilities are inspiring and lean toward value-based care. Clinicians armed with a more easily accessible and complete patient profile (Do they own a vehicle? Do they receive food assistance?) can provide more value by sending an Uber invitation or a map of food pantries in a food desert. 

Remote cardiac rehab is one area in which we see exciting developments. Typically, cardiac rehab is a 12-week program that requires a patient to visit the clinic. Xealth can help you offer patients a remote alternative that is perfect for patients struggling with finances or reliable transportation. 

That said, if increased portal use is your primary endgame, a health data aggregation platform enables providers to do wonders to reintroduce patients to the portal via email reminders or SMS. However, portal adoption is definitely easier said than done. 

Realizing greater ROI 

Getting patients to actually access their patient portal is an ongoing industry challenge, and many health systems employ strategies simply to increase patient engagement in this area.  How cool would it be to leverage your patient portal to its fullest extent and realize more ROI in other vital areas?

 Let’s begin with your low-hanging fruit. Most providers already have these types of materials on hand (or stashed in a drawer somewhere): 

  • Smoking cessation brochures
  • Home healthcare educational packets
  • Mental health services pamphlets
  • Medicare and Medicare Advantage fliers 

With digitization or automated ordering, your system can resurrect long-lost or underused initiatives and investments. Even with a more generic patient portal, a health data aggregation platform can serve as a differentiator by discerning between relevant and irrelevant content among patients, creating more efficiency and savings potential. And your marketing team will be pleased with how easily they can align their email and SMS messaging with brand standards — as a former marketer in a health system, I know real-life how that’s a big bonus! 

At the general operations level, there is a ton of throughput improvement potential. Think about providing patients with clear directions to their appointment location or sending blood pressure kits and temperature monitoring tools to identify concerns before their next appointment. Now you are talking about adding value to your healthcare system — and the patient experience.

Xealth’s capabilities can be attuned to SDOH and promote more significant health equity within your system’s communities. By engaging more patients and expanding clinician reach, you can ensure a more open digital front door. Learn more about how Xealth can transform your health equity initiatives. Request your demo today!

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