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Why Health IT Must Work More Like Amazon

Healthcare providers must look beyond Meaningful Use regulations and start asking: Is my site inspiring loyalty from patients?
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Patient Engagement

Kaiser Permanente has found that a patient is 2.6 times more likely to stay with a particular physician in its network if he or she is using the company's site to do things such as message back and forth with the doctor.

Aurora Health Care found that no-shows for doctor visits fell from around 10% to just 2% if the patient made the appointment using the provider's online scheduling system.

Vanguard Health Systems has layered about 8.5 billion pieces of consumer data on top of clinical healthcare data in hopes of better understanding people coming to its website. So if you're the "chief medical officer mom" coming to Vanguard's site to make appointments for the kids, Vanguard plans to show you images of families and messages about immunizations. A man in his 50s should see people who look like him, and perhaps get a reminder that it's time to start scheduling a regular colonoscopy.

Kaiser, Aurora and Vanguard are at different stages of connecting with patients online, and they have different approaches. But one common thread is that their digital "patient engagement" strategies aren't centered solely on electronic medical records data and related patient portal features such as access to lab results and health data. They're exploring new areas that will make patients want to do business with them.

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Too often when meeting with IT teams, "if I ask them what they think of when I say 'patient engagement,' they say patient portals," says Dr. Peter Kilbridge, senior director of research at the Advisory Board. Portals that surround an electronic heath records such as Epic's MyChart are one piece of engagement, but IT would do better to focus on the whole process of patient care and communications, then back into the technology tools that support it, he says.

Like retail, financial services, music, travel and a range of other industries before it, healthcare is becoming a digital business, and that means providers should benchmark their online engagement against other industries'. Healthcare providers will face these questions: How come a retailer such as Amazon or Apple can remember I bought an Ace of Bass recording the last time I visited, but the people who help keep me alive or healthy have to ask about my allergies every time I show up at the doctor's office? Why can I book a flight, hotel and car from three different companies on one website but not schedule doctor appointments online and see all of my upcoming medical visits in one place?

"Our members are always comparing us with the best website they've ever used," says Dr. Ted Eytan, physician director with Kaiser Permanente's Center for Total Health. Accepting that people are making those comparisons is one big step in the right direction.

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