Consumers’ digital transformation has accelerated rapidly in the past several years. The average share of digital customer interactions has almost tripled, from just 20% to almost 60%. Whether ordering groceries online, using Zoom to connect with coworkers or paying for goods through an app or other digital payment method, U.S. consumers have grown comfortable using any number of digital pathways to shop and work.
This transformation has also been ongoing in the healthcare space—by now, it’s probably safe to say that a majority of the U.S. adult population has had at least some interaction with a patient portal or telehealth platform.
So where’s the healthcare engagement progress?
Here’s the thing no one is talking about: The important digital health tools mentioned above don’t appear to be resolving common healthcare engagement challenges like access to care, chronic disease management, or adherence to annual well visits and routine preventative screenings.
In fact, routine care, which dropped significantly during the pandemic, is still not at pre-pandemic levels. And while telehealth utilization has skyrocketed, barriers to access and other pain points are negatively impacting the patient experience.
Why aren’t healthcare organizations gaining the same ramped-up efficiency and utilization with digital engagement tools that other industries are experiencing?
A key reason is that as providers and health plans brought telehealth offerings and digital patient engagement tools online before and during the pandemic, there wasn’t a cohesive approach to integrating these digital technologies. As a result, the websites, apps and patient portals are siloed and often difficult for patients to navigate. It can be even more challenging for organizations to integrate the tools with existing infrastructure on the backend.
While this bolted-on approach may have felt necessary before, it’s having a significant impact on health plan member and patient engagement now.
That’s why providers and payers need to take concrete steps to achieve a more holistic approach for easy healthcare consumer-payer-provider connections.
The healthcare ecosystem needs a different way forward
Healthcare consumers have come to expect convenient, make-my-life-easy experiences—and their expectations are no different when it comes to healthcare. Telehealth and patient portals may be more convenient, but to deliver a high-quality experience, digital health tools need to not only support communications, but also prompt action, especially on the part of patients and providers.
For example, let’s talk about health plan members’ adherence to prescribed care—HEDIS® measures. Studies show that the biggest causes of lack of adherence are that patients lack an understanding of what they need to do to follow through … or they simply forget to follow through. (You can learn more about all the reasons health plan members don’t schedule appointments here. Those reasons and their recommended scripted rebuttals are based on Carenet Health research.)
Many healthcare organizations have embarked on expensive data integration projects and developed sophisticated EHR tools to address HEDIS engagement. But based on our experience with 100+ health plans as clients, most still find it tough to motivate members and patients to schedule appointments. And most also find it difficult to communicate seamlessly across a patient’s full care continuum while strengthening the central patient-provider relationship.
In a recent article in HIT Consultant, Aaron Kaufman, an Executive Vice President at Carenet Health, discussed his own experience when he worked for a large national health plan. Even though the plan had all the data, knew which members were at the highest risk for non-compliance to recommended measures, deployed live phone outreach and other reminders, they weren’t able to make a notable dent in outcomes and costs related to HEDIS member engagement.
A better approach … with technology that already exists
To bring down costs and increase rates of treatment and preventive care adherence—and overall engagement—providers and health plans will need to reconsider their approach to connecting and coordinating care.
The good news is that a better, simplified approach already exists via patented technology from Carenet Health’s OpenMed platform. Think of the platform (in some ways) like OpenTable for healthcare. Through web-based recipient authentication methods, anyone can request appointments with any U.S. provider—including primary care, dental, vision, behavioral health, labs and more. It’s a universal approach that can support appointment scheduling, order requests and other requests across the entire healthcare ecosystem.
In addition to not requiring any integration, the platform can deploy personalized, AI- and data-driven messaging to encourage HEDIS-related adherence.
Digital health doesn’t have to be disjointed when the OpenMed platform is put into play. Collaboration and connectivity are easier, and consumers have access to care that’s as simple as ordering paper towels from Amazon.
HEDIS® is a registered trademark of the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA).