Introduction

Patient engagement software is a fast-growing segment of the larger medical software marketplace. According to research firm Markets and Markets, the patient engagement marketplace was worth $5.5 billion in 2014, and is expected to reach $13.7 billion in value by 2019.1

This buyer’s guide will help define patient engagement software, as well as outline common features and functions, various applications, a case study of a market-leading solution, and a list of comparable systems. We’ll also include helpful talking points for convincing your colleagues that an investment in a patient engagement solution is wise. Our goal at TechnologyAdvice is to make the patient engagement software purchasing process as quick and painless as possible, whether you’re a physician, administrator, or other stakeholder.

What is Patient Engagement Software?

Though the marketplace for patient engagement systems is growing rapidly, many physicians still aren’t quite sure what patient engagement software is, or how it fits into their practice. Simply and broadly defined, patient engagement software is any electronic system designed to communicate with patients, provide educational resources, or manage the patient-provider relationship.

You may have noticed that our definition of patient engagement softwarebears a striking resemblance to one for patient portal software. But a true patient engagement solution goes beyond the often simplistic, incentive-driven secure messaging and view-download-transmit capabilities of most portals. Only the best patient portal software can truly be called a patient engagement solution. To learn more, see our comprehensive buyer’s guide to patient portal software.

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Comparing Patient Engagement Solutions

When you compare patient engagement software, it’s important to understand each component of the system. The best patient engagement software combines aspects of practice management software, medical billing software, marketing automation, and customer relationship management (CRM) systems. The features and functionalities outlined below can be found in most patient engagement systems, though some will have more than others, and many patient engagement software vendors also offer other health IT systems.

Common Features

Secure Messaging

Secure Messaging allows patients and providers to engage in encrypted two-way electronic communications.

View-Download-Transmit

View-Download-Transmit refers to the system allowing patients to view, download, and transmit their lab results, imaging studies, discharge summaries, or other protected health information (PHI) to another provider or providers.

Patient Registration

Patient Registration allows patients to electronically complete new patient forms, provide health history, immunization records, medication lists, etc.

Patient Scheduling

Patient Scheduling through a patient engagement system usually allows the patients to request an appointment on a specific day or time slot, though most systems still require confirmation or reconciliation of the schedule before the request is approved/scheduled.

Appointment Reminders

Appointment Reminders via text message, email, or recorded message allows your front desk to spend more time on patients in the office instead of hours on the phone.

Prescription Refills

Prescription Refills can be requested through many patient engagement solutions, saving time by eliminating unnecessary appointments.

Online Bill Payment / Statements

Online Bill Payment / Statements are becoming increasingly popular as physicians seek to shorten their revenue cycle and provide more options for self-pay patients. When compared to traditional payment processors, this feature frequently saves practices money.

Patient Education

Patient Education resources are increasingly being delivered online through patient engagement solutions. Physicians can pre-select content for specific patients or conditions, and the system makes it available to your patients.

Email Marketing

Email Marketing features are included in many patient engagement systems so you can nurture the patient-doctor relationship in-between appointments and disseminate practice news or patient education resources.

Additional Considerations

Cloud / On-Premise:

The vast majority of patient engagement software will be delivered via the cloud, which is hosted by the vendor or a third-party company. Some enterprise-level medical software systems offer on-premise patient engagement systems for institutions that would prefer a self-administered software environment.

HIPAA Compliance:

Access to protected health information must be restricted with a unique username and password for each system user. Sharing login credentials is arguably a HIPAA violation, even if those sharing are in the same organization and both have permission to view the documents.

Meaningful Use:

There are several objectives and measures related to patient engagement in the various stages of the Meaningful Use Incentive Program. If your organization is participating or intends to, patient engagement software systems like the ones below can help satisfy a multitude of Meaningful Use-related requirements.

Mobility:

The rising usage of mobile devices to access the Internet and health information means that whatever system you choose needs to have a mobile application or mobile-optimized website so that your patients (and you!) can access the system when and wherever they’d like.

Patient Engagement Software Case Study

Organization: Starling Eye Group2

System: Solutionreach

Starling Eye Group, an optometry practice in Gainesville, Florida, is owned and operated by Heather Starling, OD. As someone who “believes in the power of the doctor-patient connection,” Starling and her staff have been sending out handwritten birthday cards via mail for years. She also periodically mailed surveys to her patients to assess patient satisfaction with the quality of care they’d received. Like many practices, Starling dedicated a staff member to call patients and remind them of appointments, sometimes taking most of the day. Starling and her staff eventually switched to email for many of these processes, but it still took too much time.

Problems:

  • Too much time spent writing and mailing greeting cards for patients’ birthdays.
  • Too much time spent manually calling patients to remind them of upcoming appointments.
  • High cost and low engagement with mailed patient satisfaction surveys.
  • Using unwieldy Excel spreadsheets to maintain patient lists

Since Starling desires to keep her practice “modern and up-to-date,” it was natural for her to look to technology for a solution and to enhance her patient outreach and communications efforts.

In July of 2011, she elected to adopt Solutionreach, specifically the SR Engage bundle, designed to:

  • promote patient care
  • increase patient retention and advocacy
  • automate the appointment reminder process
  • send out electronic patient satisfaction surveys and other patient messaging such as birthday greetings, patient education resources, and special offers

Starling has also started sending regular practice newsletters with general eye care information, practice news, and information about special offers or events.

“Most patients we as eye doctors, only see once a year. Solutionreach allows us to be in closer contact with the patient throughout the year. Patients identify themselves as part of our practice. They love the birthday greetings — all patients get a text message on their birthday from the practice. It is much harder for patients to slip through the cracks, as they get multiple messages when they are overdue for an exam.” — Dr. Heather Starling, OD, Starling Eye Group

Solutionreach integrates with the majority of practice management and EHR or EMR systems, which meant Starling’s staff didn’t need to spend time entering contact information into Solutionreach separately. Since Solutionreach only reads data from the practice management system, there’s essentially no chance of data corruption or virus infection — and the system is HIPAA ready out-of-the box.

“Solutionreach has freed up my staff and I am able to see more patients. We also have fewer no-shows due to the automatic text and email reminders my patients receive. We get a fantastic return rate on the post-appointment surveys… things that were taking up a lot of staff time to do manually are now done automatically. We have had a great return on our investment.” — Dr. Heather Starling, OD, Starling Eye Group

Other Market-Leading Solutions

Solutionreach was a great fit for Starling and her staff, but it might not be the best system for your needs. The systems listed below are alternatives to Solutionreach that offer similar functionality — some less, some more. See a product summary for each of these systems on TechnologyAdvice.com

Updox, IngagePatient, ClientTell, Talksoft, Bridge Patient Portal, Patient PULSE

Creating Buy-In

Patient engagement software usually isn’t a tough sell. Case studies like the one above are abundant and prove that engaged patients are typically happier and healthier patients. Our own research on digital patient engagement showed younger patients especially prefer the ability to book appointments, see lab results, and otherwise engage with their physician online. Older patients still prefer to use the phone, and while they usually spend more on their healthcare, engaging younger patients is a better recipe for long-term success and patient loyalty — especially for physicians just beginning to establish a practice.3 There’s also mounting evidence that patients who are more engaged have better health outcomes.

Of course patient care and health outcomes come first, but if your organization participates in the Meaningful Use program, there are a number of objectives and measures directly tied to digital patient engagement, such as the inclusion of patient-generated data in the electronic health record, the capability for patients to access their lab results and other health information, and the sending of messages from provider to patient. Failure to meet the minimum threshold may mean the loss of incentives and a reduction in reimbursement levels for program-eligible providers.

Choosing a Patient Engagement Solution

That’s where we come in. Here at TechnologyAdvice, we’ve compiled vast resources — whitepapers, blog posts, podcasts, video walkthroughs, etc. — to help organizations like yours select the technologies that best fit their unique needs. Our unbiased Technology Advisors will listen to your requirements, answer any questions you may have about features, integrations, or pricing, and provide a number of customized recommendations — and our service is completely free. Give them a call today or use the Product Selection Tool at TechnologyAdvice.com to begin narrowing your options.

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Sources
  1. “Patient Engagement Solutions Market worth $13.7 Billion by 2019”. *Markets and Markets*. Accessed June 6, 2015. http://www.marketsandmarkets.com/PressReleases/patient-engagement-solutions.asp
  2. “Establishing the Doctor-Patient Connection Year-Round”. *Solutionreach Practice Solutions Blog.* Accessed June 6, 2015. http://www.solutionreach.com/COMPANY/blog_viewer/establishing-the-doctor-patient-connection-year-round
  3. “How Patients Want to Communicate With Their Physician”. *TechnologyAdvice Research*. Accessed June 6, 2015.
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