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June 28, 2017 Readers Write 2 Comments

Why Online Provider Search and Referral Management Programs Demand High-Quality Provider Data
By Thomas White


Thomas White is CEO of Phynd Technologies of Dallas, TX.

Healthcare systems, like any business, are competing for customers (patients) and referrals. In many respects, this competition has increased as patients are either forced to, or opt to, take more control over their own healthcare. The rise of consumerism is pressing healthcare systems to improve their online presence. Physicians and healthcare systems must fully leverage web tools to grow their customer base by empowering patients with the high-quality information they need to make important healthcare decisions.

The Internet has made it much easier for patients to search beyond their local area for the most qualified providers who meet their needs, participate in their insurance plan, and offer the highest-quality services. As a result of this new paradigm, healthcare systems must prioritize the quality and ongoing maintenance of the provider data that feeds their online “Find A Doctor” search and referral tools. Simply put, a poor search experience is a major turn-off. Patients may go elsewhere, referrals (and revenue) are lost, and reputation is damaged.

Patients and referring physicians alike expect to have the same online experience they would with Google and other search engines: instantly and easily find what they are looking for. Healthcare consumers satisfaction grows (and referrals are gained) when they can quickly find a doctor via a simple process that gives them useful information in easily understood terms. Accuracy is assumed.

Patients expect to see provider demographic, practice, insurance, and contact information with a few keystrokes. That’s a given. And when they are presented with more data than expected — such as the provider’s availability, ratings, languages spoken, clinical focus, research interests, treatments provided, and travel directions — even better.

This search process can be further enhanced if the provider’s data includes videos and other multimedia information. Video profiles personalize information and instructional videos can simplify patient visits and improve customer satisfaction and engagement. It’s kind of like online dating and hoping for the perfect match. In both cases, as they say nowadays, a picture can be worth a thousand words, and a video is worth a thousand pictures.

Patients are more likely to book an appointment if their search results direct them to a provider who meets their needs. High-quality data can seal the deal.

Online providers search tools are not just for patients. Physicians use them to identify the most appropriate in-network referral options for their patients. If the information from a referral management website is inaccurate or out of date, it can result in referral leakage, lost revenue, and wasted time. If there’s a delay in the delivery of urgently-needed care, then patient well-being and satisfaction may suffer. This can hurt reimbursement, particularly in today’s value-based care environment. Value-based payments emphasize evidence-based medicine and efficient delivery of care. These basic tenets should be supported by the information from any “Find A Doctor” search tool by ensuring patients see the most appropriate care giver the first time.

None of this, however, can be achieved without a holistic approach spanning the enterprise (clinical, financial, and marketing systems) to capture, manage, and share high quality provider data. A unified approach to provider data management is critical to meet the rising tide of healthcare consumerism and value-base care initiatives, never mind remaining competitive. Providing effective online provider search tools to healthcare consumers and providers is an investment that can quickly pay for itself through referrals that keep patients in network and improve overall satisfaction.

While online provider search tools are certainly not new, they must serve the demands and expectations of increasingly savvy and demanding online healthcare consumers and harried referring physicians trying to balance conflicting demands on their time and attention. Healthcare system leaders should assess how well their organizations online physician referral and outreach programs are meeting these end-user needs and determine relevant ROI measures to improve their effectiveness with an enterprise provider data management approach.

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Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. Consumers won’t tolerate poor data quality of EHRs. Per recent survey, CEOs distrust med data (impact finally reached top.) MU added confusion redefining commonly defined med lists.

    CIOs often shocked at poor data integrity, clinicians rarely are, discussing automating clinical “tasks” where critical thinking invisible e.g. changing IV med infusion rates, administer meds based on EHR data without clinician intervention.

    e-Records have wrong patient data; missing data; data entry and copy /paste errors; inaccurate medical device data, vendor algorhythm errors we want to run rules against. This strikes fear in some with corporations moving to replace clinicians (with fast food, factory workers, drivers) to “save money”.

    LI posted article had AI guru claiming AI would “replace very expensive oncologists”. (Like Watson replaced GPs?), as if possible and a good thing. In 40 years and multiple generations of technology, we’ve failed to solve BASIC deadly problems, e.g. PPID, med tracking, and have woeful data integrity but brag technology can replace RNs, and MDs in two most complex, multi-factorial, human touch-critical specialties – oncology and primary care.

  2. I don’t disagree with the idea that replacing high-touch physicians with AI is both absurd and terrifying, saying that data integrity is the fault of technology is a bizarre complaint. The EHR isn’t inventing data to put into a patient’s chart. The EHR isn’t fat-fingering the keyboard and typing the wrong information, or selecting the wrong value from a list. The EHR isn’t miskeying, mistyping, copying and pasting the wrong note, or or failing to hit “save” and losing note or chart data — that’s entirely human error. The system is “dumb” — all the intelligence built into a task engine or state machine depends entirely on the inputs, and if human beings are entering bad data, that’s what the engine will run against. You can’t lay that one at the feet of a database.

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