Patients are increasingly using the Internet to investigate, locate, receive, validate and complain about physician services. Although most health care providers (79%) had warned patients about the unreliability of health information on the Internet, 80% of adult Internet users have searched for health or medical information online. According to a recent study by Medical Broadcasting Company and Nielsen / NetRatings, two out of three Americans turn to the Internet before their doctor visits to investigate their condition and prepare questions. After their visit, these patients typically do more internet research to validate what their doctor told them and find answers to questions they did not intend to ask.
Several studies show that the practice of personal IT services has a significant competitive advantage in terms of patient perception. Eg. 75% of U.S. Adults would like to schedule their doctor visits via the Internet and receive email reminders. But so few practices offer such services that only 4% of patients use the Internet to schedule appointments. Although 67% of patients would like to receive their lab results via email, only 2% currently do. So large differences between expected and delivered levels of information access must translate into significant differences in service value perception. It needs doctors to use Internet technology to help patients search for health information online and use it to manage patient relationships and practice development.
The first step in achieving this goal is to establish the site presence. A typical doctor’s site may have the following content components:
- Mission statement – patient-care philosophy
- A Brief History of Practice
- Office Hours
- Contact Information
- email adresses
- Location and driving directions
- Credentials and specialist information about each doctor
- Hospital affiliation
- Links to patient education material
- patient Forms
- appointment Scheduling
- email correspondence with doctors
- Lab results
- Electronic prescription filling
- Home Monitoring Device Configuration
- Automatic health alarms
- Personal health records
- A list of accepted insurance plans
- Frequently asked questions about billing, such as statement explanation
- account Balance
- payment History
A savings-based ROI rationale for office automation using a cost-driven metric compares the operating costs before and after implementing a technical solution. For example, the national average of staff in a primary care practice is about five employees per person. Doctor. Anecdotal documentation of practice with patient-focused website with integrated EMR shows less than 2.5 employees per site. Doctor. Yet, technological benefits of this practice have evolved from simple automation, to paperless office infrastructure, to patient attraction, to patient retention, and loyalty management. As patients learn to expect a patient-focused site with integrated EMR, along with interactive patient corners, they begin to correlate physician expertise with the degree of office automation and Internet access. It’s time to replace the cost-driven metrics with a revenue-based metric that measures billing revenue per month. Physician and focus management from savings to profits. Perhaps the greatest influence of technology still lies ahead of us in managing patient relationships and profitable practice development.
American Heart Association, “Survey results: Online education program is effective source of information for heart patients,” MediLexicon, May 12, 2007
Joseph A Diaz, et al., “SHORT REPORT: What Types of Internet Guidance Do Patients Want from Their Doctors?”, J Gen Intern Med. 2005 August; 20 (8): 683-685.
David Kesmodel, “As angry patients wait online, doctors sue them for asking them,” Wall Street Journal Online, September 14, 2005
Elaine Zablocki, “Communication: If You Build It … How a Top-Notch Website Can Help Expand and Improve Your Services,” Physicians Practice, May 2007