By Jordan Miller, MD, senior medical director of dermatology, ModMed.
When consumer technology companies release smartphones and TVs with new and exciting capabilities, I tend to ask myself, “How valuable is this new feature?” or “Should I make an upgrade?” As a dermatologist in a privately-owned clinic in Arizona, I have to play dual roles of physician and business owner, which requires similar evaluations about technology trends for my clinic in addition to following the most recent developments in clinical care, such as new studies and patient surveys.
Taking on a multi-faceted role puts a premium on my time and means I have to work efficiently to identify and implement new technologies and IT solutions to run the practice. Healthcare IT is evolving at an unprecedented pace, and it’s crucial to react to the newest technologies when they present an opportunity to improve the practice’s workflow in a meaningful and lasting way. However, not all new tech is “good” tech and practices have to parse out which capabilities will deliver true value versus the tech trends that are simply a fad.
Here is how I identify and implement meaningful new IT trends into my practice:
Consider the patient experience
Healthcare provider organizations have to pay attention to patient feedback to identify IT trends. A recent survey from ModMed found that some patients will choose one doctor over another based on tech capability – including website functionality and the options to schedule and pay for appointments online or via a digital application. The survey also revealed patients often keep a “mental scorecard” of what they like and dislike about a doctor’s office and use that grade to determine if they’ll stay with that doctor.
When IT implementations (or lack thereof) start to influence where patients receive their care, provider organizations need to take notice. Patients are less loyal to their care providers than in previous generations, because they have elevated expectations of what a patient experience should look like — and rightfully so. As a physician, I cannot only consider the time that patients spend in my office. I also have to consider their time in the waiting room, their conversations with the front desk staff, and any communications they receive from my office when they are home.
By engaging with patients and building an IT strategy around their expectations, private practices may attract and retain patients more effectively.
Commit to new technology with timeliness
Healthcare providers should feel more urgency to adopt new technology trends. The modern consumer interacts daily with technology platforms that deliver highly engaging and personalized experiences. The patients I see are the same people who order groceries on Amazon and watch any movie they want on Netflix. Healthcare needs to move more quickly to keep up with rising consumer expectations.
Consider how it took years for provider facilities to graduate from paper charts and fax machines to digital records and tablets. With every passing year, the widening gap between the consumer experiences in e-commerce, banking, media, etc. made the healthcare consumer experience seem increasingly insufficient. If we had acted quicker and responded to the changing digital world in a more timely fashion, we could have mitigated the frustrations that patients still feel today about their experience in the doctor’s office.
Decision-makers at provider organizations need to keep a finger to the pulse of everyday consumer tech trends and take quick, decisive action when they identify a trend in consumer technology.
Prioritize quality clinical care in tech
Every IT implementation in our office must support delivering quality clinical care. In my office for instance, I log information on a tablet while talking to my patients. This is critical because it allows me to maintain eye contact and engage more with patients than if I were typing at a desktop. A survey in the Annals of Internal Medicine found physicians can spend up to nearly 40% of their time looking at a computer screen while patients are in the exam room with them, and that distraction can diminish the patient experience.
Patients increasingly correlate up-to-date technology, such as tablets, with quality healthcare, and providers have to validate their tech implementations with clinical benefits. At least once per clinic day, a patient will comment positively about my iPad usage.
Doctors’ offices have historically missed opportunities to impact workflow and patient experience with the most up-to-date IT solutions, but recent trends in consumer behavior show the digital patient experience is more important than ever. By identifying transformative technologies that can affect clinical care and implementing them quickly, we can finally meet patient expectations and deliver a 21st Century experience. Physicians and their staff have numerous challenges and responsibilities, but keeping pace with the changing tides in consumer tech preferences will only work to improve clinical care.