Improve Your Patients’ Experience

Jun. 28, 2022

How to Use Your EHR to Build Patient Relationships

Leg_Blog_EHR

By Amy Yaeger, Vice President, Strategic Services
Legato Healthcare Marketing

In May, Legato Healthcare Marketing’s President Mike Milligan and I gave a presentation about digital marketing at NRHA’s annual conference, where we briefly touched on using electronic health records (EHRs) to enhance the patient experience; now let’s take a deeper dive into what this tool can do for your organization – and your patients.

Electronic Records Improve Patient Satisfaction

A lot has been made about how EHRs improve efficiency and save money – but not as much focus has been placed on how this mandated tool can enhance the patient-provider relationship.

Rather than viewing the EHR as an electronic hurdle to the provider-patient interaction, train your team to use your EHR to build stronger relationships with your patients. EHRs can improve patient satisfaction – when used effectively.

What does effectively mean? It’s pretty simple: For one, EHRs provide a level of communication that was impossible before the digital age. Not only that, both providers and patients benefit from the efficiency and safety benefits of EHRs.

We all know that a strong provider-patient relationship keeps patients coming back for care – an effectively-used EHR should be one of your strongest marketing tools when it comes to patient retention.

There are several key ways that your staff can use the EHR to improve patient satisfaction:

  • Being transparent
  • Communicating clearly and conveniently
  • Making collaborative decisions
  • Emphasizing efficiency
  • Putting safety at the forefront

Transparency

As a former educator, I’ve learned this: The best way to get someone to buy into something is to tell them why you’re doing it – and why you want them to do it, too.

How many of your patients realize that their providers are tapping away at a keyboard during their appointments because healthcare systems are legally required to keep electronic health records?

Probably fewer than you think.

The word transparency gets kicked around a lot these days, but what I’m talking about here goes back to its pre-buzzword days: Ask your providers to make sure their patients readily understand the purpose and importance of the EHR. Unfortunately, just because the healthcare world knows that EHRs are required doesn’t meant that your patients know – or understand – why they’re an essential aspect to value-centered care.

Have your providers explain to patients that they’re typing at the computer while talking because that’s how they make sure that the information in the patient’s record is accurate, which allows them to provide patients with the best care possible. This goes a long way toward helping patients better understand how the time providers spend inputting data is actually for the patient’s benefit.

Not only that, but most patients also appreciate being able to see the screen themselves, so asking providers to share it with patients helps make appointments feel more like a partnership; to that end, many organizations position exam room computers on laptops, wheeled workstations or ones that have extendable arms. Familiarizing patients with the EHR during an appointment is one of the best methods to encourage them to use the EHR themselves.

According to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, nearly 40 percent of individuals nationwide accessed a patient portal in 2020, and that number was expected to grow dramatically as the COVID-19 pandemic progressed; building a stronger relationship with your consumers often means providing them with the tools they want – and use.

When a patient can use a portal to access their online medical records, that also leads to quality patient experiences: EHRs keep patients informed and educated about their medical history because patients are able to see exactly what they are diagnosed with, opening the door to honest communication with their providers.

Communication

EHRs create an avenue for engagement because they allow providers to securely communicate with patients – without requiring the patient to go in for an appointment.

Optimizing your EHR means patient-centered, convenient care, including:

  • full and accurate news about their medical evaluations
  • lab results
  • follow-up information after an office visit or a hospital stay
  • e-prescribing
  • self-care instructions
  • reminders for other follow-up care
  • screening for mental health concerns, COVID, or other conditions
  • requesting or scheduling appointments
  • links to resources and educational materials
  • online payments
  • messaging the care team

Not only that, quick and easy communication between patients and providers may help providers identify symptoms earlier, while also positioning the care team to be more proactive about reaching out to patients. Remember that an EHR doesn’t replace the patient-provider relationship – it complements it, often on a flexible, convenient timeframe for patient-centered care.

Simply put, EHRs empower patients to take control of their own health, which is another step in building the patient-provider relationship.

Collaboration

The best relationships are never one-sided, and the EHR makes this more apparent than ever: Transparency and clear, timely communication offer the opportunity for providers and patients to collaborate through informed decision-making like never before. Patient participation is especially important in managing and treating chronic conditions, and the transparency and communication aspects of a well-functioning EHR make this easier – and more likely – than ever.

While EHRs support collaboration between patient and provider, they also facilitate continuity of care among the patient’s care team: Ongoing health management is made simpler through the EHR because all of the information is readily available across a health system, which decreases fragmentation and improves care coordination. This makes for timely, high-quality and cost-effective care in the long run, which is another facet of EHR use to share with patients.

Efficiency

Because EHRs collect everything in one place, they make for efficient appointments, which seems especially useful when everyone, from patient to provider, feels as if they could use a couple of extra hours every day.

An EHR also allows providers to quickly follow up on past encounters that may not have been resolved in the system; not only does that allow providers to close the loop, but also reinforces to the patient the thoroughness of their care. All of this happens efficiently, because the information is right there in front of the provider and patient – which helps keep everyone on schedule and is appreciated by patients just as much as it is by providers (talk about relationship building!). 

Safety

Last, but certainly never least – and patients need to be aware of this beneficial aspect – EHRs improve patient safety in a multitude of ways such as:

  • storing medical records in a single, online location
  • identifying a patient’s health trends
  • tracking prescription history and allergies
  • checking for care inconsistencies
  • providing vital information at the point of care (which can potentially be lifesaving)   

When providers have access to complete and accurate information via electronic records, it can improve their ability to diagnose diseases and reduce—even prevent—medical errors, leading to better patient outcomes.

Moreover, when important medical information is instantly available, it allows providers to spend less time asking for information, which means more time treating the patient, resulting in improved patient care, while also demonstrating to patients that providers understand their health needs.

It’s important to make sure that your patients are using your EHR: Ask your registration staff to familiarize patients with it, and make sure that there’s information about using it on your organization’s website. You can also spread the word to patients about the benefits of using your EHR through an email campaign or even as a tactic in another marketing campaign.

Key Takeaway

If you are a marketer or you oversee a marketing team, ensure that your department is at the EHR table: It wasn’t until I became a clinic director that I saw all the things the EHR could do to enhance the patient experience. I also learned about the reporting side to help you move the needle on many of the things I shared in this blog, including efficiency and patient engagement.

Need advice about implementing some of these steps? Legato can help – our people have years of healthcare marketing experience, so if you have questions about how to make this work for your organization, we’ve got the answers! Reach out to me at amyy@golegato.com.