There are a lot of emerging technologies in medicine, and many of them are designed to help providers and patients streamline care and communication. Not only does this improve the efficiency of a clinic, it can also enhance your ability to care for patients. Portals and apps that provide patients with the ability to message their providers electronically are one of the tools increasing in popularity.
Unfortunately some providers worry that opening up this line of communication will lead to an avalanche of messages that you won’t be able to keep up with, compromises in patient privacy, or patients who don’t come in for care and instead try to get “virtual” care without an appointment. However, the benefits of these systems often outweigh some of the potential risks.
One reason to consider adding electronic communications to your practice is to improve operational efficiency. Without electronic communication capabilities, your staff is doing everything by phone—reporting lab results, scheduling appointments, taking calls about minor (non-life-threatening) questions, and more. All of these things take up staff time, which takes them away from other duties.
Adding electronic messaging allows your clinic to:
- Automatically report normal lab results to patients via email or through a portal
- Accept messages with simple questions from patients, and answer those questions without a phone call
- Schedule and re-schedule appointments as needed without playing phone tag
- Refill prescriptions without phone calls between patients, providers, and pharmacies
Allowing patients to send a quick message to a provider can also eliminate unnecessary appointments. This improves patient satisfaction, but also opens more appointments in your schedule for new patients or critical patients, reducing long wait times for an appointment.
Addressing Common Concerns
Before you implement this technology in your practice, it’s important to address concerns and implement operational workflows to protect your patients and avoid adding more work to an already overburdened staff.
- Patient Privacy – use a platform that takes all the necessary precautions to protect patient data and is HIPAA compliant. Normal SMS text messages between a clinic and patient or a provider and patient are not encrypted and do not meet the standards for HIPAA patient data privacy, which can put your practice at risk for a data breach and financial penalties.
- Workflows – it’s also important that you and your staff figure out a good workflow to send and receive messages. Having a proper workflow ensures that your staff checks messages regularly, forwards items to providers when they cannot address the patient’s concern, and don’t miss critical patient messages, like a request for a medication refill.
To find out more about how to implement patient-provider communications in your practice, call AdvancedMD today. We can help you learn more about the available platforms and answer all your questions about getting started.