Writen by Daniel Cidon, Chief Technology Officer at NextGate
Since the beginning of healthcare’s digital revolution, organizations have been striving to achieve the Triple Aim of healthcare: better outcomes, lower costs, and improved patient experiences.
While reimbursement reforms and regulatory actions have helped realize measurable gains in population health and overall spending, progress on the patient experience piece hasn’t always been as clear-cut.
Firstly, patient satisfaction is a hard concept to quantify. And the technology for creating efficient, data-driven, personalized processes has, historically, been difficult to implement.
Even the basic patient check-in is fraught with problems. Providers continuously wrestle with their data, unable to match patient records correctly. This often leads to duplicate or incomplete profiles. In turn, these data integrity issues escalate into billing errors, dangerous patient safety events, and lackluster loyalty from consumers.
Fortunately, the industry is starting to gain access to sophisticated digital tools that will enable a frictionless patient check-in procedure that improves satisfaction while reducing the potential for errors.
We simply have to harness a powerful, ubiquitous, tried-and-true patient favorite: their own smartphones.
Meeting heightened expectations in a hybrid health IT landscape
Patients are increasingly expecting a smooth, easy, consent-driven experience with their healthcare providers that rivals what they can do in other aspects of their lives.
One-click shopping, location-based services, and automatic account recognition are the norm in the consumer world, creating frustration among patients who wonder why healthcare seems so far away from catching up. One recent survey even found that 60 percent of younger consumers would leave their providers if offered a poor digital experience – up to 20 percent already have.
However, most healthcare organizations still have one foot in each boat. Manual processes are mixed in with the beginnings of automated workflows, often creating a worst-of-both-worlds scenario.
Despite the best efforts of dedicated health information management professionals, health systems are rife with data integrity errors, leading to poor experiences and higher costs. Experts commonly cite duplication rates of around 20 percent in health systems, leading to approximately $2000 per patient in unnecessary or repeated medical expenses during an inpatient stay.
A combination of suboptimal technologies, human error, and the fundamentally complex nature of patient information is to blame.
A recent assessment found that one in every 3000 patient registrations is an exact match to an existing patient with the same first name, last name, and date of birth. Organizations will always have a difficult time knowing that these records should be kept separate, especially without cutting-edge patient identity matching infrastructure in play.
But human error during data entry is exacerbating the problem. A 2020 survey by NextGate and eHI, two-thirds of providers and health information exchanges cited data entry errors as the greatest contributor to duplicate records.
The solution lies in mirroring the successes of other industries by creating a digital identification wallet managed by the patient and seamlessly integrated into the provider’s health IT environment.
This strategy will let patients take the lead in double-checking their own data for errors and providing informed consent for data access across providers, all from their own personal devices.
Better patient experiences with the tap of a screen
The ideal digital identification solution merges simple, seamless interfaces with advanced privacy and consent features. For example, patients could download a digital wallet app to create a personalized ID card containing information such as demographics, insurance coverage, and care team members.
After the provider verifies the patient’s identity the first time, using a photo ID or other methodology, the digital ID card would become a one-click tool for check-in.
To reduce crowding and keep staff and patients safe during COVID-19, providers could enable remote check-in from the parking lot or use location services to begin the check-in process for patients who have just arrived at the clinic.
Patients could also use their digital wallet to authenticate requests for information from new or current providers when initiating a new clinical relationship. This would allow users to automatically populate forms and share selected clinical data while remaining fully in control of who is accessing their personal information.
Leveraging the smartphone for this task ties in with other industry-wide efforts to enhance patient engagement through personalized, on-demand services. Using their own phone, patients could manage their health data transactions whenever and wherever they want to, making it easy and convenient to work with providers outside of the four walls of the clinic.
Achieving higher satisfaction on both sides of the front desk
The benefits of using digital ID tools are clear for both the consumer and the provider.
Without a clipboard stuffed with paper forms, both patients and front desk staff can reduce the time and effort it takes to begin a care encounter and eliminate a critical source of data entry mistakes.
Meanwhile, empowering patients to take control of verifying the accuracy of their own demographic data may result in fewer overall errors. With more current, complete, and accurate information, providers can avoid duplicate records and feel more confident in the integrity of their data throughout its lifecycle.
As patients travel through the care continuum, they may be subjected to fewer repetitious requests for identical information, as well as fewer medical errors and repeated services. And providers can avoid unnecessary spending and patient safety events that might impact their participation in value-based care models.
The technology to achieve this vision is already widely in use across other areas of consumer life. The key will be developing a healthcare-specific version of the digital wallet that is robust enough to meet the exacting requirements of provider organizations.
Digital identity management tools must integrate appropriately with existing infrastructure while taking advantage of the latest breakthroughs in patient identity management and data integrity technologies.
With this next generation of digital tools in hand, healthcare organizations can finally offer the frictionless patient experiences they have been chasing and take one big step closer to conquering the most difficult challenge within the Triple Aim.
Daniel Cidon is Chief Technology Officer of NextGate, the global leader in healthcare enterprise