Friday, May 13, 2016

Why EHRs are Essential for Patients and Healthcare Providers

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Physicians and other health care providers are overworked. The number of patients seen daily has grown dramatically in recent years. In fact, according to a 2012 survey by The Physicians Foundation, 40.7% of American physicians see over 20 patients a day. Such a large caseload presents many opportunities for errors, miscommunication, and omissions. Electronic health records (EHRs) can provide a solution for these issues.

Why EHRs are Essential for Patients and Healthcare ProvidersWhat are EHRs?


Simply put, EHRs are health records in a digital format. They usually contain all the data of a traditional paper chart plus billing information, imaging and records across different institutions. EHRs allow instant centralized and secure access to patient data. Some of the benefits of EHRs are described below.

Space Saving


One of the main benefits of EHRs for healthcare providers is the physical space they save. An established doctor’s office traditionally has rows and rows of patient files. On average, those files are stored for 10 years, even for inactive patients. This takes up large amounts of space that could otherwise be utilized.

Speedy Access Anytime a doctor needs to work on a case, a nurse or secretary has to find and pull the patient’s chart. Since this usually happens dozens of times a day, the time spent can rapidly add up. EHRs eliminate this issue by using a simple interface. Patient data is pulled up almost instantaneously simply by typing a name, medical record number, or date of birth, allowing office staff to attend to other duties.

Outside reports are also available more quickly. For instance, if a patient’s primary care and hospital are on the same EHR system, then information about a hospital stay will be available to the primary care through the EHR. There’s no more waiting for a fax or mailed letter.

Data Centralization


As mentioned above, all patient imaging and reports can be stored in the EHR. So, a physician can easily bring up a MRI or lab results without having to call outside their office. Also, EHRs have all patient history consolidated in a single database, so conditions or procedures done many years ago can be easily stored and accessed.

EHRs don’t just store medical history. The patient’s social history, contact information and insurance information are all readily available. For example, a dentist with a new patient can easily check that patient’s individual dental insurance records through an EHR to see if veneers will be covered.

Error Minimization


In a recent report, researchers at Johns Hopkins announced that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. EHRs can help prevent these mistakes. Most EHRs provide a safety net in the form of drug interaction and drug allergy alerts. If a provider tries to prescribe amoxicillin to a patient with a penicillin allergy, the EHR will remind the provider of the allergy. Additionally, since EHRs track information across different providers, accurate continuity of care is ensured. For example, a surgeon would be able to see which leg has cellulitis by looking at primary care records in the EHR, even if the problem is not apparent on exam.

Security


These days there is widespread concern about data security and identity theft. In The Physicians Foundation survey cited above, over 47% of the responding physicians reported they felt EHR systems did not adequately ensure patient privacy. However, if used correctly, EHRs can be much more secure than paper charts.

All EHR systems use password protection and most encrypt any information transmitted outside a provider’s office. As long as staff remembers to always lock their terminal or device, patient information remains safely behind a password.

EHRs are certainly the future in the healthcare field and present several major improvements over traditional filing systems, both for patients and providers. When both of these groups embrace EHR, they reap the benefits of speed, accuracy, and security.


About the author:

Greg Dastrup is a world traveler and professional writer with a passion for learning new languages. He’s spent most of his career consulting for businesses in North America. You can follow Greg here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Building Practice Revenue for Medical Experts Through Digital Channels

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One of the most effective business-building tools available to corporate leaders and entrepreneurs today is digital marketing; however, many medical practitioners still lack a basic understanding of how online marketing techniques can enhance connectivity and accelerate conversion.


What Is Digital Marketing? 


Digital marketing has several definitions, but at its root, it is the process of using online strategies to increase a brand's visibility and conversion rates through online channels. Once any business owner's web media gains a competitive ranking on search engines and creates buzz on social networks like Twitter and Facebook, the brand is better able to generate new clients and retain existing customers, improving their bottom line. This does not only apply to retail outlets, however; medical practices can also leverage the same marketing methods to build their credibility, broaden their reach, and boost revenue.


How Does It Work?


Several digital strategies can be employed to optimize the practice’s online visibility and boost the company's revenue. One of the most common and important is web design and development. In today’s always-online culture, a well-designed and well-optimized website can clearly demonstrate the unique value a practice offers. According to a Pew Research study, more than three in four patients looking for health information online (77%) began with a simple search engine query. Ensuring that a medical practice’s website is optimized for such searches can lead those patients to that website. Ensuring that the site is clear, concise, and professional looking goes a long way to build the practice’s credibility and can lead new patients into the doors of the practice. Web designers use several different methods to make this happen, including building clean website templates to optimize the aesthetic appeal of the site and sharing relevant and accurate information about both the practice itself and its field of expertise.

Practices can also build relationships with their patients through social media channels. In today's world, one of the prime methods of communication is through social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. One study determined that, on average, there are more than 1.44 billion active users each month on Facebook, and those people spend an average of more than 20 minutes each day on the site. This accounts for almost 20% of all the time they spend online. In the United States, that number is even higher, with each user spending about 40 minutes per day on the site. Many medical practices are able to take advantage of this fact by using social media to build relationships with their patients and establish themselves as both medical authorities and integral parts of the community. By regularly interacting with both prospective and potential patients across social channels, medical practices can build patient loyalty as well as bring in new patients.

Yet another way for medical practices to improve patient retention and growth is through e-mail list building. The more a prospective or loyal patient hears about a practice, the more likely they are to return or recommend that practice to friends and family. Sending out newsletters via email gets this process going by regularly providing the patient base with key updates and information regarding the practice such as upcoming renovations, new members joining the medical staff, promotional events such as discounted dental cleanings and sales on eyewear, new clinic openings, and so on. To maximize the effects of this strategy, medical marketers use proven techniques to increase the number of people who subscribe to the practice’s newsletter.


Where to Start?


Medical professionals are often more focused on providing the best quality medical care they can, meaning they are often less focused on marketing. There is a broad range of methods practices can use to begin leveraging digital marketing avenues to build their credibility and expand their client bases.

Some practices will simply ask an existing employee to focus on website design and social media engagement. This is the simplest avenue of entry, though it is not always effective, considering the person in charge of digital marketing may have little to no experience in the field. Another option would be to hire an on-site expert to work from the practice and focus specifically on digital marketing.

Often, medical practices will instead engage the services of a digital marketing company such as PatientPop, which focuses specifically on digital marketing for medical practices. Marketing companies like this specialize in helping medical practices connect and convert patients over online channels. These companies create cutting edge, customized web profiles that are visible across social media and healthcare sites. In the case of PatientPop, they also offer all-in-one solutions for reputation management, patient acquisition, and retention marketing.

The digital environment is ripe for medical practices who want to further establish and grow their patient bases. Social media and other online channels make it possible for these practices to reach more potential patients than ever before, and by optimizing their websites to provide the information patients need and building their own credibility as experts in their medical field, it is possible for physicians and clinics to solidly establish themselves for years to come.



About the author:

Greg Dastrup is a world traveler and professional writer with a passion for learning new languages. He’s spent most of his career consulting for businesses in North America. You can follow Greg here.