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3 Takeaways From APTA PPS 2017

3 Takeaways from APTA PPS 2017

I had the pleasure of attending and exhibiting at the APTA PPS 2017 Annual Conference in Chicago Nov 1-4.  It is always a well-attended show with private practice owners, clinicians, and vendors learning and sharing with one another about process, tools, and strategies to keep cost of delivery down, maximize reimbursements, marketing strategy and patient retention, and of course providing a quality patient experience.

The Exhibition Hall:

The exhibit hall was full of companies and groups all promoting products and services to generate success.  As I have been attending these conferences for a while now, I noticed more “software vendors” on display.  This is a good thing for me to see because it builds confidence that software adoption and use of software tools and technology are being utilized in running and managing a successful practice.

Full transparency, I am a product manager for one of those software solutions, MediLinks.  We were very happy to be able to showcase our software and have meaningful discussions with folks looking for better alternatives for running their practices. It is also always nice to run into clients using our products, and to catch up with valued partners that we work withEven though the competition is always growing, it is rewarding to see so many software providers that can offer ways to improve patient care as well as improve the practice owners’ ability to manage and market the value of rehab services they offer.

The Educational Sessions:

To that point, the educational sessions were full of topics, strategies, and different experiences that practice owners shared on both successes, and learning lessons along the way. There were many different themes, but three in particular stood out to me:

  • Strategies and the impact on patient engagement
  • Patient retention
  • How practice owners can use data and outcomes to market what they do.

That is essentially what it is all about, right?  It’s no secret that most practice owners work really hard to stay profitable and in business.  To do that, it’s critical that the owner understands their referral sources (need patients to treat), that quality care is provided (need satisfied patients), and that you are staying compliant with regulations and following payment rules to maximize dwindling reimbursements (all the business end stuff).

That is a pretty well understood model by most. What I mainly latched on to though, are a lot of practice owners are continually struggling with, and/or looking for better ways to grow referral sources, grow payer sources, and acquire (and retain) more patients.

So, here are my 3 key takeaways from APTA PPS 2017 that resonated as super important for all rehab providers to consider:

1. Make Patient Engagement a Top Priority

Is your model “out of sight, out of mind”?  We cannot just manage patients when they show up at the clinic.  A common idea was that practice owners must use tools to reach out to patients before, during, and after care to make sure the experience of treating/managing a condition is done so with quality, value, and results.

Here’s a few examples:

  • Informational blogs and links on your practice website,
  • Call and text reminders
  • Patient self-reported outcomes
  • HEP follow up
  • A patient report card on discharge

Telehealth was discussed in a few sessions as a great way to engage patients before, during, and even after care.  If done properly, this can serve as a predictable  source of patient referral and a model for ongoing growth and retention.

2. Build Your Patient Pipeline

What kind of marketing of your services do you do?  How are your patients finding you? Don’t wait until the patient calls you.  Look for strategies and tools you can use to educate people on conditions, topics, and/or exercises to improve overall health even before they have a problem.  Social media, informative websites, and patient portals are great examples of that.  Have a place people can go to learn or get questions answered. Not only active patients, but any person looking for information. At one point or another that person or someone that person knows may need rehab services, and they will remember your outreach.

Also, do you discharge your patient to never contact them again? Figure out ways to stay engaged with patients who are no longer receiving active care. Offer wellness programs or as simple as a follow up to see if the patient’s condition is still better or being managed.  Continue to offer resources for learning and education.  Build your presence before, during, and after care.

3. Share Your Success and the Value You Offer

Why should patients pick you? Why should referring physicians send patients to you? There are numerous options when looking for PT practices.

  • Use the data and outcomes you are collecting.
  • Show value that the care you are providing gets the patient better, faster, for lower costs.
  • Show that you have high Net Promoter Scores and that patient satisfaction is high.
  • Demonstrate how you engage patients as part of their plan of care and goal setting to offer a quality patient experience.

It is one thing to say it, but we all know you must show it.  The only way to show it is by making collection of outcomes a top priority, and using the data to drive quality patient care and overall satisfaction.

These were just a few key areas discussed. APTA PPS is always a great conference to share and learn from, and we are already looking forward to APTA PPS 2018 in Colorado Springs.  The passion and drive of the practice owners, therapists, and yes even the vendors are great examples of the caring individuals trying to make a difference in improving the patients experience and care.  As healthcare continues to change, it will be important for practice owners to embrace software and technology to make it easier and more efficient to deliver care to patients.

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Patient Engagement In A Digital World

Patient Engagement in a Digital World

patient engagement

As I am preparing to write this blog, I find myself torn between writing it in the mindset of a clinical product manager of software OR as a patient that receives care. Bear with me. I will probably bounce back and forth, but I feel that is OK because, as a clinical product manager of software, I should consider my interactions, observations, research, and life experiences as a patient. The topic today is related to patient experience and patient engagement. I have written about similar topics before in previous blogs, such as Patient Engagement Improves the Patient Experience and Patient Experience: Is a Smart Therapy Documentation System Important?.

Patient engagement is a topic I feel very passionate about. I recently read a very intriguing report called Industry Research: Healthcare and Life Sciences: 2017 Connected Patient Report. The report caption describes it as a “trail map for understanding todays digital patient.”

 Key focus areas:

  •  Doctor-patient communication today
  • Communication between patients and insurance companies
  • Pharma’s increasing role in patient outcomes
  • Why AI in health causes optimism and concern

Now, my interests are in post-acute care for inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, but I think the story this report tells is absolutely relevant for rehab providers.

The report starts off with a well-written introduction:

To understand how Americans communicate with their healthcare providers, insurance payers, and pharmaceutical firms — and their thoughts on up-and-coming technologies in healthcare such as artificial intelligence (AI) — Salesforce commissioned its “2017 Connected Patient Report.” The survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Salesforce from May 4-8, 2017, among 2,083 U.S. adults, ages 18 and older, among whom 1,893 have health insurance. The data shows that a number of American patients (defined as those who have health insurance and a primary care doctor) primarily communicate with their health insurance providers via the phone, but nearly three quarters of Americans think it’s important that their provider uses modern tools like web portals, live chat/instant message or two-way video. Patients are similarly open to communicating with pharmaceutical companies, with 83% stating they would share direct feedback about a medication with a drug company to help improve their ability to develop and support new medications. Finally, the report identified generational gaps regarding the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare. While younger Americans are interested in AI like digital assistants in healthcare, older Americans tended to be more excited by AI if it can help their doctors spend more time to focus on their health.

The part of this report that really resonated with me was that, even though the good old telephone is a primary means to communicate with patients, “nearly three quarters of Americans think it’s important that their providers use modern tools like web portals, live chat/instant message, or two-way video.” This is an important stat. As providers, it will be our duty to make sure we can offer efficient and effective ways to communicate with our patients. That is communication both ways—provider to patient and, just as important (but often overlooked), communication from patient back to provider. For patients, this stat is important because, as care moves more to value-based models, we should demand more and better ways to have input and access to the plan and actual care that is provided. As patients, do we have tools that make it easier to engage in our care, and does that engagement improve our overall experience?

Another interesting part of the report was around the use of AI. Now, I have watched all the sci-fi thrillers that paint a world where AI takes over humans like the next person. We are not there yet. Some would argue that AI is dangerous. Others feel it can really help with tasks that take up human time and effort. It was interesting to see how the questions were asked for “AI in health causes optimism and concern.”

In summary:

  • Enthusiasm for the potential applications of artificial intelligence in healthcare varies by generation, with a majority of millennials (59%) indicating that they are excited about the potential of AI to positively affect healthcare compared to 33% of baby boomers.
  • When asked about currently available AI applications, baby boomers (28%) were significantly less likely than millennials (63%) to agree that they would be interested in a digital assistant to recommend personalized healthy habits, similar to how retailers recommend things to buy based on purchase history.
  • Of the baby boomers that are excited about the potential of AI in healthcare, 70% say the reason is that it can give doctors more time to focus on patient health, perhaps by taking care of more administrative tasks so doctors have more time to be with patients.
  • Among baby boomers that are concerned about the impact of AI on healthcare, 74% are worried about AI providing an incorrect diagnosis that is used over a doctor’s recommendation — something only 60% of millennials are worried about.

As I have stated before, technology is intertwined in all aspects of our lives. Healthcare is and will be no different. We can either let it hinder us, or we can embrace how to use it to better our overall experiences and interactions. I think as technology continually advances, patients and providers will have numerous tools available to really bridge a gap of meaningful ways to communicate and engage in the care provided. Providers AND patients should really be looking at pushing the envelope on ways that patients can share insight into their care as well as have access to their progress in an easy-to-understand format.  What do you think?

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