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 John Guiliana, DPM, MS, medical director of podiatry, ModMed.
The flaws in our healthcare system that have bloated the cost of care to nearly one-fifth of the United States gross domestic product are too numerous to list. However, as a physician, I would like to highlight some issues from a clinical perspective, especially the value of preventive care.
Physicians and care providers wield tremendous power to drive down the cost of healthcare. They can champion a higher standard of care while limiting avoidable medical expenses. One overall strategy is stressing wellness and prevention to keep people out of doctors’ offices and hospitals. But we can’t do it alone.
Both providers and payers need to act. When it comes to completely rethinking traditional reimbursement models, payers need to be on board.
Among the best practices is a more “hands-on approach” to preventive care, taking full advantage of technologies that already exist. Incorporating these technologies effectively can include creating more digital “touchpoints” with patients to keep them engaged in their own care. Greater patient involvement can also help them make more informed decisions and decrease time wasted through staff-assisted scheduling and data entry.
Furthermore, patient engagement tools can cut unnecessary spending by increasing efficiency. The potential also exists for greater patient engagement to translate to marked improvements in patient outcomes.
At the same time, practices that leverage these technologies successfully could also see lower costs.
A call to recognize telehealth’s role
When medical technologies become routine in a practice setting, they can also help with routine care – such as a patient’s annual or bi-annual in-person visit. These regular wellness visits, for example, can be elevated through more frequent interactions between physicians and their patients, including telehealth services. In fact, efforts to expand telehealth services out of necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic are translating to enhanced accessibility to physicians for patients.
On top of the increased convenience provided by telehealth platforms, patients trusted and appreciated the ability to interact with physicians via digital technologies during the pandemic, a March 2021 study revealed. Out of 368 patients surveyed, 47% said they were “very satisfied’ with the virtual health visit and another 35% were ‘satisfied.”
At the same time, payer models need to reflect the increasing popularity of telehealth services. In other words, payers need to catch up and increase reimbursement for appointments that include telehealth consultations.
In that sense, payers will be critical to improving preventive care as well. It is pretty simple. Without fair reimbursement, telehealth has no chance of remaining viable for providers.
On a positive note, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) expanded coverage for telehealth services during COVID-19. What will happen after the pandemic subsides remains unknown, so more permanent legislation is needed to continue virtual health care coverage.