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Vast majority of physicians want to be more involved in health system digital patient access initiatives

Providers recognize the importance of a modern, online consumer experience, but most want more control around related projects.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

The majority of providers want to participate in digital patient access initiatives, but often feel left out of the process, according to new research just released by Kyruus.

Kyruus has a stake in the findings, being a provider of search and scheduling solutions for health systems. But the numbers indicate that providers have a stake as well; 91% of those listed on their health system's website say they want to be more involved in the management of their profiles.

The findings indicate that providers recognize the organizational imperative for health systems to offer a more modern consumer experience online, but want more control and communication around related projects. NInety percent of respondents acknowledge that their find-a-doctor profile is very or extremely important for patient acquisition and referrals, but almost half were not involved in the creation of their personal profile.

Unsurprisingly, 41% are dissatisfied or only somewhat satisfied with how their profile represents them, with accuracy and lack of differentiation among their top concerns.

Karen Conley, DNP, RN, senior director of clinical services at Kyruus, said there were a couple of potential reasons why so few providers are actively involved in creating their profiles.

"Overall provider engagement is suboptimal," said Conley. "Coming from personal experience, I've seen it firsthand, and I think there are a lot of reasons. When you think about the provider profile, there's marketing, information technology is involved, and usually the head of operations or someone in charge of access strategy. Sometimes they have a fear of involving providers because they think they're too busy, they don't have enough time to do it. They underestimate the role of providers."

WHAT'S THE IMPACT

Digital profiles are important to providers because patients are increasingly looking for easy ways to access healthcare, said Conley. They're going online to search for conditions and treatments; provider profiles can play a role in getting the right patients to the right providers at the right time.

More and more, providers are becoming more aware that their profiles should be up to date and reflect the clinical work they want to do.

"No one knows the provider information better than the providers themselves," said Conley. "That's why it's important to involve the providers from the very beginning … and also have input into the overall strategy when it comes to patient acquisition. It helps them buy into not only their profiles, but online scheduling, too.

"Online scheduling is becoming more and more important," she said. "When you look at providers and how they've historically practiced, they had a lot of control over how they practiced. Now they have a lot of pressure from health systems, and they feel a lot of their time is taken up by administrative-type things. Things like provider burnout are because of all these changes. The profile is oftentimes the last piece of control they have."

The study suggests that engaging providers proactively in digital initiatives can help health systems engender their support, and boost the effectiveness of efforts to enhance patient access.

Among the other findings are that 63% of providers think patient ratings and reviews are very or extremely important for patient acquisition, while others question their validity and relevance.

Sixty-four percent of respondents are not yet offering online scheduling despite the fact that almost half of this group is at least somewhat interested in implementing it; and 94% of providers see room for improvement when it comes to communication from their health system around patient access initiatives.

Meanwhile, 41% of providers are dissatisfied or only somewhat satisfied with how their health system's find-a-provider website represents them. Of dissatisfied providers, 43% report concerns around data accuracy and the ability for the profile to differentiate their clinical practice.

When it comes to online scheduling, 9 out of 10 providers report recognizing the benefits of online scheduling, most often as a means of new patient acquisition (42%). Although half of those without online scheduling are interested in the functionality, providers have concerns about the potential impact to their practice operations and scheduling protocols.

There are opportunities for health systems to better support providers in these areas. Conley suggested establishing a clinical data governance committee, and while it may sound daunting, key representatives from key specialties can then work together to decide on the best access strategy. It's important to ensure that providers have a seat at the table.

"You can get some quick wins with those providers who are excited about it," said Conley, "and then once it's proven that this is a good thing, it can spread."

THE LARGER TREND

The age of consumerism has arrived in healthcare. For providers, it means they need to start offering convenience, whether it be in the form of telehealth, retail clinics or, yes, patient access portals. And the push to offer these bells and whistles may intensify in the wake of findings released earlier this year from NRC Health and CHRISTUS Health: Convenience is now the no. 1 factor that influences which provider a consumer will select for their care.

Twitter: @JELagasse

Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com