Fear Not, Patient Engagement Is Far More Frictionless Than EHR Implementation

 

Hospitals and health systems have everything to gain from implementing patient engagement solutions, as they’ve shown to lower readmission and complication rates, cut costs, and boost patient satisfaction scores. But some providers are still hesitant to implement new software.

This is not because healthcare providers aren’t looking for new ways to communicate daily with patients, or make patients into more active participants in their own medical care.

It’s because many providers have spent the past couple of years—and most likely invested millions of dollars—in rolling out new electronic health record (EHR) systems. Still reeling from the expenditure of time and money that comes with an EHR implementation, and busy treating more patients with fewer resources, the last thing providers want to think about is installing new software.

This hesitation, however, comes from not understanding how comparatively frictionless, inexpensive, and quick the implementation of a solution like HealthLoop. A patient engagement solution like ours is different than an EHR system in several important ways, and since providers will come under increasing pressure from patients to offer automated engagement tools, these differences are worth pointing out.

I’ve experienced the EHR implementation process first-hand having worked in hospital technology strategy and operations for many years, supporting institutions all over the country with assessing EHR options, planning implementation strategy and budget, and optimizing post-implementation. As Senior Director of Customer Success and Enterprise Strategy at HealthLoop, I have some lessons to share on why implementing patient engagement solutions are far more frictionless than EHRs.

 

Vendor selection

When administrators are tasked with selecting the right EHR system to invest in, they are faced with a task that can usually take about six to eight months. The process will involve on-site visits to top vendor campuses like Epic and Cerner, as well as interviewing peer healthcare facilities that have already implemented EHRs.

Administrators need to put considerable time and effort into assessing their organization’s needs, and then doing due diligence to find the vendor who can best meet them.

By contrast, the due diligence that goes into finding the right patient engagement solution is short and sweet. HealthLoop is currently the only system that integrates with all major EHR systems on the market.  Choosing another tool could easily mean implementing a standalone solution that doesn’t integrate with the EHR you’ve already spent millions of dollars investing in and having more than one “source of truth” for patient’s medical data (which is sure to land you on your HIM department’s bad side!)

If there is one patient engagement solution that is certain to work seamlessly with the EHR you’ve spent considerable time and money to implement, HealthLoop is the tool for you.

 

Implementation cycle

One of the most difficult aspects of the EHR rollout for providers is the long cycle time. Deploying an EHR system is a process that involves many steps and generally takes about 12-18 months from discovery to go-live.

Administrators putting EHR systems in place must build out content for the system, standardize that content, train staff to configure the system, and then design and validate the workflow. A good deal of coding and configuration go into set-up and optimization of a new EHR system.

On the other hand, implementing a patient engagement solution like HealthLoop is a standardized process that takes customers an average of 72 days from kick-off to go-live.

Instead of facing the daunting task of creating and standardizing content as administrators do when they set up EHRs, providers will be pleased to find that HealthLoop has content ready for over 150 procedures and medical diagnoses; content written by physicians and based on evidence-based practice.

The system is easy to customize if desired, but customization is completely optional.

HealthLoop is designed to be ready for implementation right out of the box, which is what administrators still recovering from EHR implementation want.

 

The Cost 

It is not uncommon for healthcare providers to invest $10 million to $20 million to purchase, implement, and support an EHR solution.

In deploying a new EHR system, providers must pay licensing fees for the software, then a range of bills for implementation and setup. Annual maintenance of the system is also a considerable fee, as is the training that staff needs to use the EHR properly.  Providers must hire or train coders to build and customize EHR systems, and frequently hire consultants to help with various stages of the process.

A patient engagement solution like HealthLoop can be implemented for a small fraction of the cost of EHR.  Rather than bringing in outside consultants, HealthLoop assigns each customer an internal Implementation Manager (already included in the cost of implementation) that is dedicated to working with your organization’s clinical, operational, and IT sponsors.

 

Differentiated Value: Real-Time Remote Monitoring

Sometimes providers question whether patient engagement solutions will really add measurable value to their organizations. The EHR systems they have implemented have been effective at storing data about the patient’s history, but their implementation process has been a major drain on organizations’ time and budgets.

Patient engagement solutions do far more than collect and store patient information. They give providers a real-time window into how their patients are doing each day, which is valuable information as they attempt to keep patients from returning to the hospital and try to deliver care in a more proactive fashion – arming patients, often the most underutilized stakeholder in the process, with the information they need to get to their best outcome.

EHR systems are records of what has happened, which of course is valuable information. But patient engagement is a detailed look at what’s happening, which has an even more compelling value proposition. It is a crucial piece of preventative medicine, which is increasingly important to a healthcare system looking to decrease readmissions, increase quality, and thrive under value-based payment models.

 

The Takeaway

Implementing patient engagement technology is a very different experience than implementing an EHR system, and providers should keep this in mind as they come to a decision about it.

While the rollout is comparatively simple, there are even more important considerations that should go into the decision to install a patient engagement and remote monitoring platform.  Patients who feel they are being listened to are happier, healthier patients. They are more likely to feel like a person rather than just a procedure/diagnosis, and far more likely to recommend their provider in online forums and to friends and family. Engagement solutions make the patient a more active participant in their own care, which takes some of the pressure off physicians, nurses, and other care team members.  Providers who use automated patient engagement will see fewer complications and return visits to the hospital, and fewer patients needing follow-up appointments after discharge.

These are benefits that EHR systems do not offer.  Augmenting your EHR investment with a solution like HealthLoop that is quick and easy to implement and empowers your patients to be healthier and more satisfied with their care can easily differentiate your organization as one that truly provides a five-star patient experience.

 

HealthLoop scales the impact of care teams through the power of patients. 

 

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