It took a pandemic to push healthcare practices into finally adopting a whole suite of new technologies designed to make life easier of the medical consumer. From telehealth to contactless waiting rooms, the entire spectrum of the patient experience is improving. But is it all good news?
In this interview with Hari Prasad, the founder and CEO of Yosi Health, makers of an advanced patient intake and management system, we’ll get a comprehensive overview of the changes coming to a medical practice near you. What you should take advantage of – and what you should be wary of in terms of keeping your privacy protected and secure.
Gary Drenik: How has the pandemic modernized U.S. healthcare practices?
Hari Prasad: Prior to 2020, healthcare practices were slow to adopt new technologies – even when innovations were available to them that could vastly improve the patient experience. Unfortunately, it took a pandemic to be the catalyst that would accelerate the modernization of healthcare practices across the globe.
Under lockdown, it became virtually impossible to visit a physician in person, unless there was a dire need to. This forced a modernization of the way healthcare practices attended to their patients – bringing us new, innovative techniques such as telehealth and contactless check-in.
Telehealth service was actually available before the pandemic, but rarely implemented except for specific cases. But almost overnight, video conferencing became the diagnostic tool of choice. Consulting a physician through a remote interface such as Zoom was the new way to “see” the doctor.
Similarly, waiting rooms suddenly became viewed as potential “hot zones” for exposure and needed to be replaced. Again, almost overnight, patients began using virtual platforms or onsite kiosks to do all their check-in related paperwork. A technology that has made the traditional waiting room unnecessary in many instances.
Of course, the office visit isn’t going anywhere quite yet. According to a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey 28% of Gen-Z, 31% of Millennials, 45% of Gen-X and over 58% of Baby Boomers, still pick a doctor’s office visit as their first choice for non-emergency healthcare. While a one-on-one personal relationship with a physician is still valued, it’s clear that patient enjoy new amenities like virtual check-in, so healthcare practitioners are wise to implement some of these new technologies – or risk losing business to more agile competitors.
Drenik: How are new patient-practice models, based on successful e-commerce methods, giving patients more control over their health care options, and why don’t doctors need to fear that?
Prasad: Patients have become “informed consumers” and expect their healthcare experience to offer the same conveniences as other industries provide regarding access, price transparency, convenience, and quality. They also want greater control of their healthcare experience.
New improvements to the healthcare practice model have allowed patients to assume greater control over their own healthcare. That’s important because patients have been experiencing new levels of “account” management in almost all other areas of their ecommerce lives, why not in their healthcare as well? According to a survey we at Yosi Health conducted, 60% of consumers either use or wish they healthcare provider offered some form of mobile check-in.
Covid-19 put a real spotlight on the importance of self-care and making personal decisions when managing their responses to the pandemic. Lockdown put a new emphasis on identifying and dealing with mental health and addiction issues
Fortunately, new patient intake platforms and giving patients more autonomy. Not only do these platforms allow them to manage scheduling appointments online and change medical insurance information, but also the ability to report mental health issues or reveal addiction concerns as part of the patient intake process. And it’s working!
Patients want their journey, from pre-arrival to follow-up, to offer a complete set of easy-to-use, customized, resources that make managing their healthcare worry free and fast. From convenient mobile device access to post-visit satisfaction surveys, ask what features your intake solution provides that will enhance the patient’s journey.
Drenik: What are some surprisingly effective ways primary care physicians are now uncovering mental health issues?
Prasad: One of the biggest problems in the treatment of patients with mental health disorders is poor engagement. Interestingly enough, patients are more willing to disclose mental health issues when they’re using a digital screening tool during the patient intake process.
The platform collects information on past medical history to allergies, family history, current medications, review of symptoms, and asks about other issues. These are established, evidence-based depression and anxiety screening tools – what’s new is how readily patients are making use of them when they are answered, in private, during the intake process. It’s not a receptionist asking you, out loud and in-person, in the middle of a busy waiting room, if you are suffering from any mental health issues. That makes a big difference.
This allows the provider to have a deeper and more meaningful conversation during the patient’s next visit, and to make a defensible decision about whether to prescribe opioids or what other treatments to offer.
Drenik: What types of certain unscrupulous vendors have emerged, why do you need to watch out for them, and why do they need to be regulated?
Prasad: At the beginning of the pandemic, many hardware companies accelerated their development of an integrated, remote intake workflow – facilitated remotely, primarily by their customers’ cell phones.
But in the rush to market, a lot of these companies failed to account for the economics of implementing and maintaining a compliant intake solution. Faced with the cost of designing, building, implementing, and supporting an ancillary competency, some of these companies tried to recoup some of their costs by delivering targeted pharmaceutical advertisements on their kiosks and tablets.
It’s one thing to see a pharma advertisement on a kiosk or tablet in the waiting room – but getting a drug ad generated from a text message from a doctor on one’s own cell phone is an entirely different experience. Most patients don’t want Pharma ads appearing during or after their registration process – whether it be at point of care or remote – Pharma ads simply don’t deliver the best patient experience.
Another major issue patients worry about is data privacy. An unscrupulous vendor will try to make money by selling patient data to any number of vendors. It’s really why there needs to be a standard established, whether initiated by the healthcare practices themselves or the government. Nothing will turn patients off to these helpful new technologies more than a threat to their medical data and healthcare privacy.
Drenik: Where will the health industry be in 5-years, and should we worry about new AI applications being introduced to the patient care process? What are the pros and cons?
Prasad: The modernization of the doctor’s office is a positive move in which both the patient and the healthcare practice benefit. More automation and integration are around the corner, enabled and enhanced by artificial intelligence. This is good news for the consumer, who has been looking for a better, more fluid, patient journey for years. Ultimately, the time consuming, rote tasks will be handled automatically, allowing the healthcare experience to be about actual care, and not filling out forms.
That said, we do have to be careful in just how much control we give over to an algorithm, especially when personal privacy is concerned. In the same way email gave rise to spam, we must be vigilant about what is being done with our information and establish laws to protect ourselves from shady practices.
Drenik: Thank you Hari, for your insight on this very important topic.