Recently, OneReach Health was lucky enough to talk with Paul Spiegleman, author of Patients Come Second. We discussed how practices can become far more efficient, increase their online ratings and improve employee culture.
Q – Healthcare is relatively a high-tech space as it relates to technology the doctors and hospitals use for surgery, but it seems like technology is not always a focus as it relates to the administration or back office of a practice or hospital. Can you give us your thoughts on this paradigm?
A – Yes, I think the way you described it is true. Two days ago I got my physical and my doctor was complaining on how he had to enter the information into his electronic medical record, which he is being forced to use. It’s clear that there is a lot of technology available, and with the changes in healthcare, this is going to be a very innovative period. Getting to utilization and compliance with an old school method of doing business is going to take quite a while in order to get acceptance.
Q – Is that going to require a culture change to be able to get to a new and innovative space for practices, and if so, how do you see that happening, especially with an aging population?
A – I think this does mean a culture and attitude change from the practitioners. They all realize the world of medicine and healthcare delivery is changing and that it is driven by economics so whether they like it or not, they will have to get used to a new way of doing things, not only to thrive within their practice but to survive. Those changes will ultimately be positive and will result in a better experience for patients and more cost efficient healthcare delivery system.
Q – Are you talking about innovation from how the office is being run or the medical practice in general?
A – I think it’s everything. It’s a new world all around. People are fast moving and highly connected; information flows where it has never flown before. Patients can go online and conduct transactions or tell us how they feel; they can rate us, or tell other people [about their experiences] via social media. Physicians need to get on board with social media as it’s not going away; and if anything they need to embrace it. The easiest way to create a positive message is by providing patients with a positive experience.
Q – What is more important for doctors in regard to social media and rankings…embracing the channel or using the data proactively to control outcomes?
A – We have entered a world in healthcare of choice, where patients no longer are doing what their physicians said just because they said it. They are making more decisions on their own health and they do it with information. So as more information becomes available, patients are going to do the extra work to find top ranked physicians. We will see this trend increase particularly as the younger generation starts accessing the healthcare system.
Q – Do you think technology is going to start separating the medical practices or do you think it will have much of an impact in the near future?
A – I think overtime, it will, but I do think that it will still take time for practitioner to get in the game. I have known physicians who have had to go out of business because they couldn’t keep up with the administrative hassles. Automating those hassles through technology in ways that make it efficient and lets them focus on providing great patient care is a very positive approach. If that leads to more efficient care, everybody wins. As technology changes, culture will need to change as well. To be successful, practices will need to look at ways they can empower their employees to be a part of the revolution, which will help in the adoption. As people start seeing the connection between culture, productivity, patient experience and financial results; I believe things will change. The more information the better and the quicker we can get to that data, the better decision consumers will make.
Q – OneReach Health is focused on trying to help practices care about personal touch, patient engagement/loyalty and level of service. Even though we provide a great solution that practices care about, there still is a bit of a fear factor to embrace new and innovative technology. As it relates to culture and empowering the employee, is there anything you would recommend that would help create more efficiency and effectiveness?
A – I think the most important thing is changing the conversation and talking about purpose. In healthcare, we say are we making people healthy and providing care, but it’s bigger than that. Your technology solutions are obviously geared around solving their challenges but from a very basic point, employees want job security. If they feel technology is a threat to that, they will push back on it. This means having people who are open to change and sometimes this means changing people who aren’t. Part of culture change is making sure you have the right people on the team. In most cases I have found if you provide a higher purpose to why the business exists and they are being included in choosing and vetting the technology and sharing success with it, people are usually willing to come along for the ride…it just takes time.
Q – One of the stats we quote in Pew Research is 55% of the population between ages 18-29 prefer texting to any other method of communication, which isn’t the aging population visiting hospitals, but are those visiting doctors’ offices. Do you think innovation around text messaging can start enhancing human interaction as it relates to healthcare?
A – Oh yes, I think texting is huge! I think texting is the next level of innovation. I don’t like to call anybody. When my dentist finally went to texting that confirms my appointment and lets me just respond to that, I love it. If I get a voicemail asking me to call back, I can’t stand it. I think of course, the younger generation is more used to technology, but the older generation is still texting and using their phones. Texting just makes life so convenient and I believe is really the next frontier.
Q –OneReach Health provides practices with the technology allowing patients to text directly with their doctors or front desk. In our experience, patients are already for this. What do you think the timing is before texting with businesses becomes mainstream?
A – Texting in the next few years will get bigger and bigger. But within 5 to 10 years we will really see many of the newer technologies used in a way that the majority of the audience uses them. Will it get to 100%? Never. Will it get to 50%? Maybe.
Q – With the new healthcare legislation coming through, many are concerned that all of the concentration will be on compliance, which could stifle innovation. What is your opinion on that concern?
A – It is something to worry about just because there is so much unknown about the Affordable Care Act and what it’s going to mean for healthcare providers. My sense in talking to doctors is they are lost and trying to figure it all out as they are going to have to comply. There is the physician’s version of the HCAPS, where they are going to see money out of their pocket if they don’t have high satisfaction. So they are being forced to look at things that will change their practice and will have to adapt to this changing world.
Q – Do you think giving the public the ability to choose the doctor they want is going to be a game changer in the industry; instead of the doctor being mandated by the insurance companies as it has been in the past?
A – Yes, that’s changing already. The statistics are 65%-70% of patients are willing to go somewhere other than where their doctor tells them. So it’s not blind faith anymore. The consumer is going to be in a much better position to make choices. I can tell you lots of stories, but if I don’t have a positive experience, I am not going back. I know there are plenty of people down the street that are just as qualified. Practices will need to be more focused on patient experience. Currently, many practitioners don’t have a sense of what it really means to build a relationship from the moment they meet someone. And that’s going to have to change. There are dollars at stake now and I think that’s really good for the industry.