The New Era of Digital Health: The Top 5 Pillars of Digital Engagement and How it’s Improving Access Across the Care Continuum

The New Era of Digital Health: The Top 5 Pillars of Digital Engagement and How it’s Improving Access Across the Care Continuum

Better Access Means Being More Connected for Patients and Members

With the current landscape of healthcare, the concept of “digital health” continues to captivate. The pandemic has served as a catalyst for the rapid growth, with the demand for telehealth leading the charge. Healthcare organizations needed to remotely monitor patients, as well as tend to their needs while simultaneously controlling the spread.

A number of technology leaders from these healthcare organizations speak to the need to develop a more comprehensive digital health strategy. There are several driving factors for that need, and digital health must shift from simply introducing technology solutions to platforms that provide guidance across the care continuum.

The needs:

  • Consumer access to more digital channels
  • Social determinants of health and other health equity barriers
  • Financial costs to address consumer acquisition, engagement, and retention challenges
  • Continued success in clinical and performance outcomes in the graduation to value based care
  • Reducing technical debt amongst IT budgets
  • Operational workflows and costs

All these factors speak to the industry’s demand for improved access for healthcare users. The bottom line is: how do organizations stay better connected to their patients and members?

Digital health strategies need to focus on improving the ways patients or members connect to services, clinicians, and information. Ensuring better access means digital engagement that is longitudinal in nature, as access to healthcare can occur at any stage along the care journey.

The care journey is unique and varies based on individual patient and member needs. Whether the journey is two stages over a month or daily across a life span, there are consistent barriers that impact proper access to care.

Quality Reviews envisions longitudinal digital health engagement addressing 5 key pillars that will lead to increased and improved access to healthcare.

Education

An Informed Healthcare Consumer is An Engaged Healthcare Consumer

The consumer’s healthcare knowledge directly impacts access across the care continuum. Consent can’t be considered informed if a patient does not comprehend, and this applies at various levels of care.

Everyone deserves healthcare that meets them where they are. Many consumers need proactive and comprehensive education, a high-touch approach, to manage their chronic challenges. Conversely, some consumers manage their own healthcare by seeking out answers and educating themselves. With both sides of the spectrum needing differing educational needs, providers and payers need to leverage digital health tools to enhance current patient and member education efforts.

Digital health solutions can provide various educational methods, which will allow consumers to be informed about their care, treatment, and wellness. Better informed patients and members increase their overall engagement, leading to better outcomes and reductions in costs. After all, 80-90% of adverse events happen within 72 hours of leaving a site of care.

Here are more ways comprehensive solutions benefit patients and members:

  • Discoverability of services and providers
  • Understanding treatments and medications
  • Wellness management
  • Quicker and safer recovery
  • Reminders and notifications that help to keep appointments

There are also benefits for healthcare providers:

  • Improved digital front door
  • Reduction in no shows and cancellations of procedures
  • Optimized discharge planning and compliance
  • Improvement in care pathway and medication adherence
  • PQRS and HEDIS performance

Timeliness

Allowing Patients and Members to Get Care When and Where they Need It

To improve access means to make it easier to obtain service, treatment, and information, and in a timely fashion. This all becomes more difficult to achieve as consumers transition to different stages along the care continuum when they are outside the four walls of a care setting.

Digital health platforms that address longitudinal engagement allow healthcare organizations to stay engaged with their consumers and meet their needs and requests on-demand. More importantly, patients and members are fleeing their providers who lack convenient digital health options. 41% of patients stated they would switch providers due to a poor digital experience.

Here are appointment stages of care that can be directly impacted by timeliness:

  • Online scheduling
  • Symptom checker
  • Obtaining patient records, tests, and results
  • Patients can receive care in a way that best fits their lifestyle
  • Telehealth options

Here is how healthcare organizations can benefit:

  • Patient and member activation
  • Large-scale increase acquisition and retention
  • Patient portal adoption
  • Earlier identification of at-risk patients with device or deviceless RPM
  • Strengthening preferred provider networks for primary and specialty care
  • Increased revenue
  • Efficient use of clinical resources to reduce total cost of care

Frequency/Outreach

Increasing the Breadth of Channels and Occurrence of Engagement

There is a potential 14-20% reduction in readmissions for organizations that use digital engagement solutions. That is because communication loops between patients and clinicians tend to close, thus eliminating or decreasing challenges. With the help of digital tools, physicians may leverage a wider array of channels, which increase outreach and lower the chances of readmissions. The end result is a happier patient and a rapport between patient and clinician.

Healthcare organizations benefit too:

  • Automated and/or customized outreach for patient populations at risk
  • Overcome social determinants of health and equity barriers impeding access to care
  • Prevent readmissions and hospitalizations through high-touch digital engagement
  • Monitor clinical data and readings
  • Conversational campaigns for wellness reminders and offerings

Workforce Burnout

Digital Solutions Impact on Operational Scaling to Reduce Workforce Burnout

Though physician and nurse burnout is not new, the pandemic has increased the focus on the condition that is its own epidemic. The occurrence more than doubled from 25% to 60%, and during those two years, quality healthcare suffered. That 25% should not be overlooked.

That is because workforce burnout often starts with higher-ups and trickles down to the patients. That may cause response times to suffer, and patient communication may break down. Ensuring digital health may help to speed up patient throughput and ease the stress of an already tense work environment.

Here are use cases that are impacted by addressing employee engagement:

  • Improved response times
  • Shorter wait time periods
  • Increased high-touch customer service options

Healthcare organizations benefit even more:

  • Optimized intake processes
  • Reduce manual workflows that drive overworked staff
  • Reprioritize efforts to tasks, patients, and members that require more assistance and needs to reduce understaffed teams
  • Increase the number of high-quality interactions

This all boils down to Experience.

Experience

Digital health ultimately impacts the patient experience, since service and flow are streamlined. In turn, this reduces a patient’s anxiety and increases the likelihood that they’ll engage. From this comes increased patient satisfaction scores, a revenue boost, and an established (and respected) market presence.

author

Jill Yarberry

VP Patient Engagement

Jill has 20 years’ experience in healthcare business development and operations. Prior to joining Quality Reviews®, Jill worked in the healthcare industry where she has been responsible for developing and implementing the sales strategy, market research, and business development to meet and exceed sales growth projections.

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