Social media has become the pinnacle of communication in the last 5 years. Marketing of products, people, politics and services have migrated from more conventional marketing i.e. direct mailing and printed ads to Facebook and twitter campaigns. Most healthcare practices have websites and are using those websites to inform and educate as well as offering patient portals, booking appointments, emailing questions and pulling down forms to complete prior to appointment. The value of these services over time should become clear: efficiency, better patient care and follow-up and less phone time by practices.
Getting the right messages to the right patient consumers is the goal. Patients with chronic illness such as diabetes, HBP, high cholesterol can benefit from advice from their own physicians on things like medications, diet and proper exercise. Helpful links offered on websites to computer hungry patients give them opportunity to see what other healthcare organizations are reporting and promote furthering compliance.
With the advent of healthcare exchanges in January of next year, the education of the public and enrollment of millions of persons currently without healthcare is being done by government, healthcare insurers and providers. The rate of enrollment will predict the success of recent legislation: the so called Obamacare laws.
With technology comes challenges and cost. Maintenance of technology after purchase, updating websites with pertinent information, creating an expandable network that includes meaningful use EHR and a patient portal, add on appliances like faxes and printers can become a costly venture. While larger practices may more easily absorb those costs; single provider practices may be at a disadvantage. Some practices have answered the cost call with alignment with larger entities such as hospitals…….and that brings other challenges.
It has become clear that while patient expectation of technology is on the rise, patient and practice benefits may only be realized over time. So how do practices cope with these realities? There are growing numbers of companies offering IT services to providers. These companies can analyze IT needs, make practical suggestions and offer financing and long term support. It will be important for practices to seek out those companies that not only offer the services needed, but also provide the support practices need to stay atop of the IT challenges. Before engaging IT support, check references, get testimonials from existing customers, and most importantly, make sure the contract with these companies contain language concerning response time, follow-up and site visits.
Practices investing thousands of dollars in IT services for patients will need to ensure a good relationship with IT companies that understand the healthcare business, know not only current IT trends, but can also provide guidance to the future of IT in their practices.
IT will continue to dominate the future of healthcare practices for the foreseeable future. Spending time and effort finding the right IT solutions and support will characterize how well practices adjust to future demands.