Docs, patients ready for online tools

By Healthcare IT News
09:32 AM

Physicians and patients alike are ready to move registration, prescription renewal, bill pay and other services online, according to a new study from Intuit Health.

The Intuit Health Patient Engagement Study of 556  U.S. practices was conducted in April and found that 95 percent of doctors want their patients to fill out medical and registration forms online before their appointment. When Intuit Health asked patients about filling out forms and the registration process, 81 percent said they'd like to move this task online too.

The survey also identified many opportunities for practices to become far more efficient, including many areas where they could save time, money and build stronger, ongoing relationships with patients.

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  • Nearly one of every four health care providers who do not offer an online communication solution feels it is difficult for patients to reach them to ask questions, make appointments or receive lab results.
  • Nearly half reported their practices are running 30-60 minutes behind schedule.
  • One-third of providers say their staff spends three or more hours each day trying to reach patients to communicate follow-up information.
  • Eighty-three percent of doctors say their staff has to remind their patients more than once before a patient pays a bill.
  • Forty-five percent say phone interruptions happen so frequently they impact office efficiency.
  • Seventy-two percent say patients complain about having to repeatedly fill out the same paper forms, and more than 50 percent say their patients complain about spending too much time in the waiting room.

"Customers already use online self-service tools today in banking, travel, shopping, and communications. There's a huge opportunity for providers that are still using phone, fax and mail as the primary ways they communicate with patients," said Steve Malik, president and general manager of Intuit Health.

"Providers have at their disposal a large, qualified, eager and no-cost workforce that wants to accomplish these key tasks and communicate more efficiently online. When doctors give patients convenient and easy-to-use online tools, they'll be amazed at the positive impact an engaged and satisfied patient can have on their staff's time and their bottom line."

Intuit's research also identified how offering easily understandable bills can improve a doctor's ability to get paid in a timely manner.

  • Ninety-eight percent of providers believe their bills clearly tell the patient whom to pay. Conversely, one-fifth of patients surveyed say they have no idea where to send their medical payments.
  • Eighty-eight percent of providers believe their bills clearly show the amount due and how that figure was calculated. On the other hand, 37 percent of patients do not have confidence that the amount they are being asked to pay is correct.
  • Nearly two-thirds of doctors say it takes them an average of up to two months to receive payment after they send patients a bill.
  • Eighty-four percent of doctors say that up to a quarter of their patients have let a medical bill go past due or to a collection agency.

In addition to improving the overall patient experience, the survey showed that qualifying for incentive dollars under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's Electronic Health Record Stimulus is also driving adoption of EHR and portal solutions. Sixty-seven percent of providers say they plan to offer a patient portal, communication or EHR solutions in the next 12 months to provide patients with access to health records and clinical information, appointment scheduling and prescription refills.

A separate study of more than 100 current Intuit Health patient portal clients clearly shows the benefit of offering online communications. The portal increased productivity and efficiency for providers staff by reducing time spent on routine tasks such as mailing or calling patients with follow-up reminders.
It also helped doctors to stay on schedule, get paid faster and have fewer patient bills go to collection. Portal clients also reported having more satisfied patients, and received fewer phone calls and complaints about waiting room times and repeatedly filling out the same forms.

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