Patient engagement is the buzzword across the healthcare industry right now, so it only makes sense that there’s an entire solution category dedicated to helping providers better connect with their patients. But between standalone options and EMR add-ons, providers are left on their own to figure out hundreds of possible solutions. Patient engagement decisions are even more complex for FQHCs, whose patient populations tend to have their own set of engagement habits and preferences. To help providers who serve underserved populations make the best engagement decision possible, we’ve put together this guide.
At CareMessage, we tailor our solutions to the needs of FQHCs and healthcare organizations serving underserved populations and have put together this introduction and list of questions based on our experience with over 200 successful customer relationships.
What’s the Purpose of a Patient Engagement Platform?
Unlike EMRs, patient engagement platforms (PEPs) are digital applications that empower patients to connect with providers, with access typically happening through a phone, smartphone, tablet or computer. PEPs may or may not connect to a patient’s medical record. PEPs can also complement population health tools, improving the actionability of any data collected. PEPs often have functionality you’ve seen before — appointment scheduling, recording health outcomes, communications options — but ultimately, they’re tech solutions that are centered on patient needs.
Types of Patient Engagement Platforms
In the era of value-based care and patient-centered expectations it’s critical to understand PEPs and the range of flavors they come in.
These solutions have a slant toward the marketing department and are typically used by larger hospitals and health systems. They include content management systems, communication functionality, and sophisticated consumer behavior features like consumer data platform options.
Communications sits at the heart of patient engagement, and these PEPs are zeroed in on that task. They can cover a wide range of communications including patient education, appointment scheduling, and even be focused by channel (like texting, or email).
Commonly seen as an EMR add-on, the patient portal is probably the most familiar patient engagement tool available. While some are standalone, many platforms now include portal functionality along with their other capabilities.
Ultimately, the best PEP for your organization should be centered around the needs of FQHCs, allow you to thrive in a shifting reimbursement environment and realize tangible benefits to your bottom line.
Questions to Help You Identify the Best Solution for Your FQHC
An FQHC can technically implement any of the PEP options above, but which is the best fit? Organizations who work with underserved populations make special considerations around social determinants of health and their patients’ unique preferences and situations. These considerations will directly impact your choice in PEP. For example, our research has found that the patients FQHCs serve are heavy users of text messaging, with 81 percent having an unlimited texting plan. At the same time, only 21% indicated that internet access was a primary reason for using their phone, meaning portals and even a clunky app wouldn’t align with their communication habits. In this case, a portal-based option might not deliver the ROI a mission-based organization needs.
When you’re evaluating your PEP options, consider some of the questions below.
Do they specialize in a market or patient type?
- Does this provider have a broad target patient population or do they focus on the specific and unique needs of FQHCs and underserved patients?
- Are they mission-driven like your organization?
- Have they invested time and resources in understanding the FQHC market and underserved patients?
What’s their history and reputation?
- What has the organization done to prove they can support your specific needs?
- Do they have proven success, case studies, testimonials, and customer advocates that can vouch for their outcomes?
- How many customers do they work with and are these customers similar to your organization? What has their experience been? Are you able to talk with any of them?
What does integration look like?
- How do they make integration as easy as possible for you?
- Does their platform offer interoperability and bi-directional integration with your EMR or population health management tool?
- What is the integration process like? How long does it normally take? What kind of IT and staff resources will it require? What does training entail and how will your current processes be impacted? What types of maintenance options are available?
What kind of content support is provided?
- Will you need to develop/use your own content or do they provide templates and/or off-the-shelf content options that reduce workload and effort on your part?
- If content support is available, is it made for a generic patient audience or is it customized for underserved populations? Does it take into consideration demographic factors like reading level, language support, and cultural sensitivity considerations that mechanical translation tools don’t provide?
- Is the content backed by scientific studies and field experience?
- Can content be personalized to meet individual patient and organizational needs?
How does pricing work?
- How much can you expect to spend on this solution? What’s the average ROI?
- For message-based solutions, will you pay per message or per patient (which encourages strong usage and communication)?
What kind of ongoing support is available?
- Is an implementation specialist provided?
- Will you have access to a customer success manager or similar support that can provide regular goal setting and review? How often will they follow up?
- Is a support team available? Is it through email, chat, or phone? What’s their average turnaround time?
Do they value your feedback?
- Do you have the opportunity to provide feedback on the experiences of your team and patients? What are your options in sharing your thoughts?
- Is your feedback taken into consideration in product road mapping?
- Are they proactive in asking for ideas and input on their future development plans? Do they provide a feedback environment where you will feel valued as a partner?
Ultimately, the best PEP solution will be a partner in your mission as an FQHC. Make sure to save this checklist for future reference as you consider investing in tools that help you accomplish even more in supporting your patient community.