Home Health Care Improving patient satisfaction will be key in the benefits space for 2019

Improving patient satisfaction will be key in the benefits space for 2019

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Prioritizing the consumer experience has permeated nearly all industries. Uber and Lyft changed the way we experience travel, Netflix made us think twice about going to the movie theater and OpenTable eliminated the need to call ahead to restaurants.

The healthcare industry is no different. As we reflect on this year’s advancements around patient experience and look toward what we can expect in 2019, we are sure to see a sharper focus and range of continued changes that help deliver an improved experience for patients. Whether visiting a hospital to see a primary care doctor for a yearly checkup or an urgent care during flu season, look for the following trends to emerge in 2019.

Technology will continue to pave the way for an improved patient experience
In many cases, technology has helped to eliminate something everybody hates: waiting in line. In urgent cares especially, the opportunity to make appointments online to expedite your visit will become more prevalent in the coming year. As on-demand healthcare centers continue to improve the patient experience, implementing new and easier ways for patients to see their doctor will be critical in a space with so much competition.

Additionally, hospitals and urgent cares will be nearly paper-free by the end of 2019 2019. When CMS Administrator Seema Verma called for the elimination of fax machines by 2020, it sent a clear message of continued digitalization throughout all industries. In healthcare, this means that patients will have more access to medical records and bills via their phone or computer as Electronic Health Records are more widely adopted.

States will expand coverage for virtual care and telemedicine services
What’s more convenient than skipping the line at the doctor’s office? Not going to the office at all! While many still prefer the in-person interaction with their doctor, the continued preference of “on-demand” everything means telemedicine services will continue to grow in popularity among the millennial generation. This means more will have access to expert medical advice without leaving the house.

Legislative changes have already encouraged the use of telemedicine, and this trend will continue to gain momentum as states loosen regulatory measures that prevent doctors from meeting patients virtually. This development will help doctors see more patients per day and keep patients with minor concerns from unnecessarily wasting time in a waiting room.

Payers will place greater emphasis on disease management and preventive services
Keeping people healthy is the most effective way for payers to both reduce costs for themselves and their patients. However, a recent survey conducted by the patient advocacy group Doctor-Patient Rights Project (DPRP) concluded that insurers deny coverage for 10 percent of all claims for preventive measures such as medical testing or screening. That would mean nearly eight million Americans with insurance missed opportunities to prevent serious health issues in 2018.

Look for the number of denied claims for preventive care to go down in 2019 as payers realize this type of care can save money in the long run.

Documentation requirements will ease slightly
Physician burnout is a huge issue in healthcare and much of that feeling can be attributed to the extensive amount of documentation required of them to fill out following patient visits. Doctors spend years of their life and a small fortune going through medical school only to find themselves spending a quarter of their time filling out monotonous, redundant paperwork once they actually start practicing.

If physicians can avoid having to redocument work done by the ancillary staff, they can focus on the thing that they love doing most: treating and caring for patients. In turn, this means they are able to see a higher number of patients than before while also helping to avoid daily burnout.

Employers will create new types of health insurance plans
A survey published last January by insurance broker Willis Towers Watson found that 22 percent of employers are considering a direct-to-employer plan through a local health system in 2019. By partnering with healthcare systems in their area, employers can create accountable health plans that will improve quality of care as well as help save on costs.

These types of plans save the employer money on expensive treatment like specialty care while additionally benefitting the hospitals by getting more patients in the door. This strategy also circumvents the large health insurance companies that have increased premiums consistently in recent years.

Again, the common theme among all the above predictions is the focus on the patient experience in 2019. Applications that allow you to book appointments on short notice or see your doctor virtually will enhance the convenience factor.

Meanwhile, an emphasis on preventive care and health plans established directly between employers and health systems will keep costs down and quality of care up. There will always be areas to improve upon in healthcare and the on-demand care space when it comes to improving patient experience, but it’s encouraging to see the industry continue to take big steps in the right direction and thinking of patients as more than just a transaction.

Photo: Paul Bradbury, Getty Images

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