How to embrace digital technology in healthcare — and remain HIPAA compliant

Making healthy connections

Today, if you want to engage your patients, you must embrace digital technology in healthcare.

A 2018 survey from Accenture suggests that not only are most patients plugged in, but that their numbers are increasing. In the research, 75 percent of U.S. consumers surveyed said technology is crucial to managing health. Patients are using wearable technologies to track health outcomes and accessing self-service online portals for scheduling and education. Deloitte says these tools improve patient engagement, which ultimately improves health outcomes.

Healthcare, like all other industries, is widely affected by the use of handheld digital devices and other online technologies.

Healthcare IT News suggests that using these tools improve patient satisfaction scores. As we move from fee-for-service to value-based reimbursement, these scores will have a direct impact on your bottom line.

But Healthcare Informatics says we’re lagging behind other industries in our digital transformation. This will change because our patients demand it, according to a Nielsen survey. While hospitals are working to improve their digital interactions with patients, how can medical practices use digital healthcare technology to stay competitive while also meeting customer expectations?

The state of our connection and why it matters

Today, we can use digital tools to confirm a patient appointment via text or use social media to attract more patients. Telemedicine is expanding again, and there are a host of apps that can help doctors reach patients without the hassle of an on-site visit. A Deloitte survey links patient engagement and satisfaction to the use of these tools and says that “consumers are increasingly open to new channels of care” in the digital space.

A 2018 study tracked how consumers are currently using digital tools to improve their health. It found:

  • The use of digital wearable devices has more than tripled since 2014.
  • One-half of patients are using a healthcare app.
  • Nearly three-quarters of patients are willing to share data digitally with insurance carriers and their doctors.
  • One-quarter of patients have engaged in a telehealth visit and 74 percent were happy with the result.

Related: The IoT in healthcare: Forget wearables, now there are ingestibles

Understanding these trends requires hospitals and medical practices to create new ways to impact the patient journey with digital technology.

But how can a small practice stay current with these trends?

Best ways to use digital healthcare technology to connect with patients

Practice Builders suggests that digital tools are an effective and potentially low-cost way to connect with patients and build a practice. They recommend using the power of the internet to reach patients in the following ways:

Make sure your website is mobile-first.

Digital Technology In Healthcare Mobile

This means that the site views well on any digital device no matter the size of the screen. Creating a clean and responsive website is imperative because it’s likely that the first connection between you and a new patient will be on their smartphone.

Use your website to blog.

Having regularly updated web content will place your website in a better position on a Google query. Offering a blog with wellness tips will help position you as an expert in the eyes of potential patients.

Use social media to reach patients.

Inputting content that ties to your website still matters for today’s practice. Encouraging patients to review your services online is another way to connect with new customers. Pay attention to online directories and encourage patients to give an online review of your service.

Related: How to ask for testimonials and reviews from your clients

Use email and text

Send patient appointment reminders and stay in touch with patients throughout the year with newsletters and educational articles.

While these are all low-cost, yet effective methods to increase the digital connection with patients, what kinds of tools exist to improve digital engagement?

Editor’s note: GoDaddy Email Marketing will help you create and track your emails, making it easy to connect with your patients.

Useful tools for patient connection

An article in Pharmacy and Therapeutics suggests that our digital connection to patients can take many forms:

  • Communications including HIPAA-compliant email and text, video conferencing or telemedicine and online patient scheduling.
  • Practice and hospital information systems such as EHRs, clinical decision support systems, remote monitoring tools and more.
  • Clinical software like medical calculators or apps for coding and billing are just two examples in a broad field.

The article says these types of tools are used across five broad categories in medical practice: administration, health records, communication, information gathering and medical education. Clinical teams can use these tools for everything from writing patient notes or capturing dictation to multimedia messaging and patient monitoring.

While a smaller practice likely cannot handle a digital transition in all of these categories, there are a plethora of applications available to begin the journey in a few key areas.

Related: Healthcare security basics: 9 inexpensive ways to improve online security

Digital Technology In Healthcare MRI

Here are a few examples:

HIPAA-compliant email

Email is an important way to reach patients, but research shows  that the majority of physicians are not leveraging this important digital venue. HIPAA-compliant email protects patients and practices while improving digital communication.

See how GoDaddy can help provide your business with HIPAA compliant email.

Telehealth applications

This type of digital healthcare technology allows clinicians a secure, smartphone-savvy way to share test results or have a HIPAA-compliant video conference with patients. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) now reimburses for these visits, making a new telemedicine service line an attractive service for both patient and provider. Check out Capterra’s review of the latest in telehealth apps.

Medical reference tools

These tools can be helpful for clinicians and patients. Medscape is one of the best free tools available to check drug information and catch up on the latest medical news.

Healthcare engagement apps

University of Washington Medicine’s UW Baby is a free pregnancy app that allows patients to input data about their pregnancy and learn about what’s happening week by week during the process. While the app was developed by a healthcare system, it’s a useful tool for any practice that doesn’t directly compete in their market.

FollowMyHealth is an app developed by Allscripts that offers patients a mobile version of an electronic health record. The app integrates with Apple Health to track patient blood pressure, glucose and weight as well as exercise. It also lets patients pay bills, request prescriptions, and set appointments with their smartphone.

While these are just a few of the low-cost apps on the market for physician practices to engage with patients in the digital space, there are new tools constantly coming online.

Digital technology and the future of your practice

The latest studies show that a majority of healthcare consumers would leave their current practice for another that offers a better digital experience. Yet the same surveys suggest we are lagging behind in adopting the latest digital technologies to improve the patient experience.

Accenture says, “There is an opportunity for providers to differentiate themselves by offering new, technologically advanced services that satisfy consumer interest and expectations.”

These trends indicate that tomorrow’s medical practice should capitalize on these tools to engage patients and satisfy their growing demand for digital connectivity.