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Healthcare social media comes of age

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  By Mike Coyne,  May 6, 2013

How healthcare organizations can plan and design provider communications that align with key priorities throughout the year.

The use of social media technologies in healthcare is not a new concept. We know physicians are using social technologies to collaborate with colleagues and discuss cases. Additionally, patients are using social media to connect with support groups and to reach out to physicians with questions. These are all important applications. However, social media’s true potential for healthcare is just now beginning to emerge.

The promise of social media lies in eliminating the inefficiencies that have historically plagued the healthcare industry. Organizations such as health plans, hospital systems and newly formed accountable care organizations (ACOs) all need better ways to communicate with their physician networks, yet they continue to rely on old methods (fax, mail and homegrown portals) that have proven ineffective.

As healthcare reform takes hold and the emphasis moves from quantity to quality of care, physicians are expected to bear more of a financial risk than ever before. To maximize revenues and avoid penalization, they will need to become more aligned with payers and the hospitals in which they practice. One of the most efficient and cost-effective ways to do this is through a physician relationship management (PRM) strategy that combines social technologies, which have already proven effective at connecting people and delivering information, with thoughtfully created, impactful content.

The foundational elements of PRM are based on the customer relationship management (CRM) model, which focuses on using technology to organize, automate and streamline high-impact communications with customers. As an active physician community with over 170,000 members, QuantiaMD has worked on reinventing the CRM model for healthcare stakeholders who need to communicate more effectively with physicians. The first step in a successful PRM campaign is to establish an active, vibrant community that’s easy to access and chock-full of relevant resources and educational content where physicians will want to spend time, learn and connect with each other. Secondly, an organization should leverage proven relationship builders, such as game mechanics, feedback mechanisms and a secure mobile platform, to make learning more engaging and to encourage responsive participation. Finally, it is vital to be able to continuously track success through simple, built-in analytics that inform along with the ability to adjust and scale the program over time.

By implementing a PRM application, a health plan can be proactive in planning and designing provider communications that align with key priorities for their organization throughout the year. For example, to introduce a patient-centered medical home (PCMH) program effectively, a health plan must establish well-defined expectations for providers and clearly articulate what they are being evaluated on and how they can succeed under these new reimbursement and care models. It is unrealistic to assume that time-starved physicians will seek out a health plan’s website and read a 20-page PDF file on the program guidelines, and this will negatively impact the intent and effectiveness of the program. In order to ensure success, health plans should utilize a PRM application to disseminate high-quality, easily digestible information on physicians’ terms. This will not only acknowledge physicians’ busy schedules, but will also reinforce best practices and ways to enhance standard performance measures (e.g., HEDIS or 5-Star).

A PRM application can also be leveraged to conduct required physician training and drive clinical and performance discussions through a medium that complements physicians’ standard workflow and is consistent with how they want to receive information that supports the business of medicine. While physicians have been active in using social media to support knowledge-acquisition and ancillary services, the key stakeholders in healthcare have been slow to adopt these technologies to enhance relationships with providers.

Now that we’ve entered the era of healthcare reform, the financial stakes have never been higher and there is an imperative for health plans, health systems and ACOs to tackle the issue of system-wide communication gaps. It is time for these organizations to invest in systems to provide a mobile, secure channel for timely and relevant communication that is available anywhere at any time. Only then can they begin to build real, meaningful relationships with physicians that bend the cost curve and meaningfully impact the delivery of healthcare.

About the author

Mike Coyne is CEO, QuantiaMD. To learn more, go to www.quantiamd.com.


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