One of the most important concepts in modern healthcare IT is the idea of digital transformation.
Digital transformation is a key term used to describe the process of moving data, files, and office processes from physical paperwork to the computer. Before the digitization process, medical records were kept on paper, and files were manually written out and stored in file cabinets.
However, as a result of this transformation, nearly every administrative process performed in a doctor’s office today is completed on a computer–and fully integrated within their entire network of medical software. This dramatically reduces medical transcription mistakes, improves patient care, and enhances data privacy.
Research also underscores the importance of digital transformation for healthcare executives. In 2022, over 70% of healthcare CEOs named digitally enabled service as one of their top 3 priorities for the year.
Let’s explore some of the benefits of popular digital transformation solutions, like the healthcare customer relationship management system (CRM)–the most important software for front office medical workers.
Front Office Benefits
While most experts focus on the patient satisfaction benefits associated with a healthcare CRM, this type of digital solution also offers myriad benefits for front office staff members. These include seamless integration with other office software, improved communication, reduced customer service workload, and more.
One of the most important benefits associated with healthcare IT solutions like a CRM is the ability to seamlessly transfer data between different software. This is especially important since front office staff members at many hospital systems are required to use multiple types of software to complete a single process.
For example, it is quite common for a staff member to schedule appointments using a scheduling application, update billing information in their dedicated accounting system, send a patient reminder through the patient portal, and add crucial medical details to their electronic health records (EHRs). This is an incredibly time-consuming and cumbersome process.
However, the introduction of healthcare CRMs eliminated much of this workflow. Now, the administrative assistant’s scheduling app automatically syncs with the patient portal–sending appointment reminders to the patient’s phone and syncing their calendar. Billing information is automatically added to the patient portal as well, while payments are synced with the accounting department’s billing system.
Similarly, medical records are seamlessly transferred between systems. Patients no longer need to request important medical documents–they can simply download them from their digital chart.
Front office staff members consistently rave about the self-service patient registration and communication services present in custom CRMs, like those built by I-ology. That’s because the self-service aspect represents a huge workload reduction for those who answer phone calls.
Before the widespread adoption of healthcare CRMs, patients had to call the main phone line and spend 20+ minutes providing personal medical information and insurance details to the receptionist. The receptionist, on the other hand, entered all of this information by hand into their office EHR. This time-consuming process required a huge front office staff to handle the volume and complexity of calls.
Integrative patient portals with self-service features, on the other hand, allow medical offices to reduce their front office staff size by transferring much of the onboarding and communication process into the digital world–where receptionists and practitioners can respond to patients within the flow of their work.
Patients also love the seamless communication offered by these CRMs. They can make appointments, request prescription refills, and ask follow-up questions over a quick email–rather than spending 20 or more minutes on hold. Furthermore, research has shown that the improved communication that results from this digital platform improves patient outcomes and reduces post-op complications.
Improved Data Privacy & HIPAA Compliance
Data privacy has always been a major priority in healthcare recordkeeping. This is especially important because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), which introduced a set of information storage and safety requirements for healthcare providers.
Failure to apply these standards to your organization’s physical and digital record-keeping can result in large governmental sanctions and loss of customers.
Importantly, the introduction of digital record-keeping and healthcare CRMs increased the vulnerability of this data–since this data is now stored on the cloud and vulnerable to malicious cyber-attacks.
The consequences of a successful cyberattack are huge as well. Research estimates that the average healthcare data breach costs an organization $7.13 million–the highest data breach cost for any industry and much higher than the global $3.86 million average cost per data breach. Even more concerning, the number and severity of cyberattacks have risen dramatically since late 2020–with a 45% increase in the second half of 2020 alone.
Hospital executives and their front office teams can help protect valuable patient data and improve their organization’s cybersecurity practices by implementing a patient CRM with robust data privacy protections.
Automated Billing & Self-Service Payments
Another impressive benefit associated with patient CRMs is the ability to automate the billing and payment process. This saves valuable front office time–as well as reduces the customer service workload of the accounting department.
Rather than sending a paper bill through the mail and forcing the patient to return a check or call the billing department to pay with a credit card over the phone, medical practices can automatically upload the service bill to the patient portal with the click of the button.
Patients love this system because it makes bill payments easier on their end as well. Rather than spending precious time on the phone or struggling to find a checkbook that consumers no longer use, patients can pay their bills with their debit or credit card online–bringing their account balance to zero in just a few short minutes.
Reduce Readmission Rates
One of the most important patient care metrics in the healthcare industry is a hospital’s readmission rate. Government regulators and healthcare experts alike point to a hospital’s 30-day readmission rate as one of the most important indicators of patient care.
Underscoring the importance of this metric, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began “reducing Medicare payments for certain hospitals with excess 30-day readmissions” in 2012.
Following the implementation of this policy a decade ago, hospital systems and individual providers have been scrambling to reduce readmission rates among their patients. They’ve consistently found that improved communication, discharge processes, and post-discharge self-management support are the most effective ways to reduce patient readmission rates–all of which can be accomplished with a robust CRM.
Furthermore, while reduced readmission rates may seem to be a benefit associated with medical practitioners and surgeons, reduced readmission rates also benefit front office staff members in myriad ways.
First, reduced readmission rates greatly lessen the number of post-discharge phone calls, follow-up appointments, and long-term rehospitalizations. Secondly, improved post-discharge care improves patient satisfaction metrics–resulting in happier and more agreeable customer service interactions.
Finally, improved post-surgical care boosts patient outcomes and results in healthier, happier patients and better organizational rankings.
While many executives are embracing healthcare IT solutions like digital transformation as a way to improve patient care and hospital patient satisfaction rankings, front office staff members are also benefiting tremendously from the implementation of robust healthcare CRMs with patient-centric self-service options.
These integrative patient portals remove much of the paperwork and scheduling burden from receptionists–and allow the patient to complete the majority of their patient registration and follow up tasks on their own.
Receptionists and other staff members report higher job satisfaction, reduced workload, and improved communication as benefits derived from this software. In addition, their managers report better HIPAA compliance, improved patient outcomes, and a seamless billing process as additional benefits associated with this type of digital solution.
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