Patient Engagement Technology – Why it matters in 2018?
Patient engagement technology is a reality in healthcare today. It is not anymore just some evolving industry buzzword or ideal model of pharmacist’s role and healthcare. The idea of patient engagement actually overlaps with 2 more process in pharmacy business – patient experience and pharmacy marketing. Any effort done in one of these two areas can become an opportunity to build on to offer as an innovative tool of patient engagement.
Patient engagement technologies are essential for the unparalleled digital transformation of healthcare. They hold the unique potential to transform care-seeking consumers into new patients and empower the old patients to become aware and more involved in their health and medications.
Ultimately patient engagement is defined as: Any method used to improve patient behavior, patient experience and patient-pharmacist communication which ultimately aims to achieve better therapy outcomes and empower patients.
This idea of patient engagement and patient experience is not new but the role technology will play over coming few years needs our attention in pharmacy business. Pharmacy and Pharmacist roles are shifting but their efficiency of operations is still same as long time ago. There are many opportunities to make use of technology and use the time and energy saved to spend more time with patients discussing health and medications.
By combining principles of pharmacy marketing and patient experience the goal of patient engagement technology is to do any of these following:
Ten Goals of Patient Engagement Technology:
1- Improve or speed up patient-pharmacy communication
2- Identify innovative methods of interaction with customers
3- gain insights from patient feedback data and use to design new strategies of service and pharmacy marketing
4- Use technology to differentiate pharmacy business as their Unique selling point (USP)
5- Improve efficiency of operations in pharmacy
6 – Satisfy patient demands as per industry trends
7 – Save time and Solve problems fast
8- Empower patients to understand their health and lifestyle better
9- Put data in patient’s hand to enhance adherence and therapy outcomes
10- Allow patients to discover more about health by providing information resources
Let us look at some technologies serving patients to make their lives easier by saving time and also helping healthcare professionals to engage patients better.
Top 15 Patient Engagement Technology ideas for Pharmacy:
Product Database – Customers will either spend several minutes on google locating the store or call around to find out if pharmacies carry the product they are looking for.
What’s worse- they sometimes literally walk-in and spend minutes looking for and ask pharmacists at last. I think this is a great waste of time for patients and pharmacists. It is very easy to set up a product database on pharmacy website and have customer look up products right from their phone before they show up in store to purchase. Patient engagement increase with such simple innovation in how you answer questions of patients. Take it a step further by actually integrating this feature in pharmacy app.
Online Prescription – Already not-so-hit among patients this super convenient service of accepting online prescription is a great selling point for convenience to patients. If you are a pharmacist you already know how painful it is for working patients to drop off a prescription and then come back again to pick up and sometimes they are left with no choice but wait around for prescriptions in pharmacy. I cannot stress enough how dramatically this will affect customer acquisition and pharmacy business reach in coming years because it is very obvious looking at consumer behavior today. Independent pharmacy banners and corporate retailers have already rolled out their branded pharmacy apps to allow patients to upload prescriptions through mobile app.
Independent pharmacies cannot compete directly by investing a huge amount in having their own version of mobile apps – but we have got some good news for you! Now you can have your pharmacy emails secured and encrypted and have conversations with patients including prescription attached in email.
Another option -to have secure web form on pharmacy website for patients to fill out information and upload pictures of prescription along with pick up times. The most convenient option for independent pharmacy is coming soon from patientandpharmacist.com where we will let patients find your pharmacy and send prescriptions your way using a mobile app.
Symptom Checker – Allowing patients to answer questions on what kind of symptoms they experience is a powerful tool to empower and educate around use of medications and medical conditions. The health advice is constantly updated and approved from medical doctors before it is posted on website. Having this online help in place can save them a lot of time and sometimes a trip to doctor’s office. An amazing service from the government of British Columbia and Govt. of Alberta to let patients check their symptoms is available since long time, however patients are not aware of this service. By encouraging patients to use it before consultation pharmacists can avoid spending time on consultation that can be easily handled by interactive questionnaires. Community pharmacists do not need to reinvent the wheel and start their own service but instead just help get the word out to larger group of patients. Or may be make this feature available through pharmacy app. Check out the demo of Online Symptom Checker
Consumer Mobile Health apps– Mobile apps to track sleep, blood pressure, calories, number of steps, blood glucose levels etc. have already become popular among patients. According to studies, patients are more adherent in tracking these health parameters given how easy it is to measure and record them. They are not just health tracker apps, they are actually adherence apps given how much people like to use them. With the same idea, prescription reminder apps needs to be designed that can provide more information and education beyond just sounding an alarm to remind patients to take their medication. Patient adherence is affected by a majority of factors and it is not wise to expect mobile apps to completely change patient behavior but there is a room for innovation around how patients like to get reminded about taking dose of medication. For example, this company called Round Health came up with a better idea of reminding patients to take medications by combining minimal design and technology.
Pharmacy Mobile apps– Needless to mention, almost all pharmacy banners have rolled out their mobile apps to help patient manage their medications through pharmacy app. It is sort of an extension of physical practice to online. The growth is not as predicted since majority of patient demographics consist of seniors who are not able to interact with pharmacy using technology.
ePHI Patient Portals– Mobile applications and patient portals are the best examples of technologies that have a considerable impact and low financial overhead. Used together, they can give patients instant access to their health information and the ability to set appointments and communicate with their primary care physician in an asymmetric relationship. But the problem here is patient portals are expensive to access in Canada and patients have to pay to access their own health records. One company based in Toronto called DOT Health fixed this problem and now allows patients to access their health records and personal health information anytime anywhere. This indeed is the best example of what kind of patient engagement technology we need to build in Canada.
Immunization Update Software– How about having an online software that walks through a series of questions to anybody looking to update their immunization history. Pharmacists get asked a lot of questions about vaccinations and they can use this opportunity to educate patients by empowering them with interactive tools from pharmacy website that guide them what vaccines are available for free under publicly funded programs, what vaccines are covered by most third party insurance plans, which vaccines are available without prescription from pharmacist etc. Patients will remember this little things that saved them hours long wait at doctor office just to get some information like this or even a prescription of vaccine. Also, this can actually save time to pharmacists who otherwise would have to spent 10-15 minutes with patients identifying the right course of action.
Pharmacy Live Chat– We have created “Pharmacy Live Chat” platform as an example of how pharmacy business owners and pharmacists can offer this service with their own branding to their customers and answer questions about health and medications.
Compounding pharmacies absolutely need to start Pharmacy Live Chat feature on their website or Facebook pages because this can potential leads into customers. Obvious reason to chat with patients and providing quotes of compound medications in real time is it saves time, but more importantly when patients are looking to fill compound prescriptions the first thing they are curious about is price and insurance coverage. Patient engagement done like this will turn into a unique pharmacy marketing channel for compounding pharmacies.
If you are looking to make pharmacy website or pharmacy mobile apps compliance to PIPEDA, PHIPA and PIPA acts of Ontario, Alberta or British Columbia we can create using our secure technology services. Ask our Pharmacy Technology and Marketing Consultant
Secure Emails – Independent pharmacies are not going to afford extending practice online with pharmacy mobile apps and the costs of securing websites are also high as compared to normal WordPress pharmacy website which everyone uses – but we found an ingenious solution to independent pharmacy’s communication problem if they are using email as a primary method of communication from patients. Let us say if someone sends a prescription through email to your pharmacy to be filled and picked up later – it wouldn’t be secure otherwise without using a Secure Email service. So just by securing your emails you can allow patients to send you prescriptions and any information that could save time to patients.
Digital Educational Brochures– Pharmacy marketing using digital brochures and content of medical conditions and medications is necessary if pharmacists are looking to engage Millennial demographics because this age group are so used to having access to everything online. If your content is good enough it can become a community of patients who care about pharmacist’s advice and trust them.
Pharmacist Prescribing apps – Like doctors, pharmacists can also prescribe apps to help patients learn more about their habits, lifestyle and medical conditions. There is a factor of trust involved when an app is recommended by pharmacists, patients will tend to be more compliant in making the best use of technology if their healthcare provider recommend it. Here are some best rated medical and pharmacy apps
Online Community and Forums– Referring patients to online forums and communities to learn from people experiencing the same problem and what they do to cope on a daily basis. This is extremely helpful for conditions like diabetes, arthritis and chronic pain. Along with medication expertise from patients if we connect patients to communities they can discover valuable information. For example, support groups in local neighborhood can improve the quality of life of patients.
Interactive quizzes and surveys – In physical locations we can use technology to capture insights about what customers think about dealing with a pharmacist and what kind of care they expect to have. For example, designing an interactive quiz in patient waiting area on tablet /computer and asking patients to honestly rate the services pharmacists can incorporate some practical steps to improve their level of care. Also, how about if you ask patients to interact with your online vaccination tool to see what they need to do to update their immunization records?
Online Prescription Refills– through text and email are around for many years and quite honestly they did a great job in keeping patients informed about how and when to refill medications. The technology needs to be replaced with simple text alerts given the rise of messaging behavior among customers. Helping patient and pharmacist inc. is working on technology that goes one step further where you don’t have to enter a lot of information to refill medications- instead just a text saying “I need to refill my blood pressure medication” and the pharmacist gets a notification on their system that you need a refill.
Real time insurance and drug coverage cost – we pharmacist spend so much time checking and answering phone calls if medication is covered by third party insurance or if it’s covered by provincial drug coverage plan. There needs to be an independent portal that can check and respond to real time quote of insurance coverage or status of insurance. It is too late when patient already shows up in pharmacy and spend too much time waiting to hear from pharmacist.
By improving patient experience it is obvious that patient engagement will increase because they liked the way they were treated (engaged/communicated) and so now the patients will definitely remember your pharmacy and will turn to your pharmacists for help. Although not evident immediately, but in long run, patient engagement technology can prove to be the best investment you would ever make in your pharmacy business, even more important than traditional pharmacy advertising.
At Helping Patient and Pharmacist Inc. we experiment with a lot of different concepts of how to engage patients, how to create patient engagement technology, how to improve patient experience and how to innovate pharmacy marketing. What we discovered is that the answers are different for different communities and how are socioeconomic factors. There is no definite one size fits all model to improve engagement and experience of your pharmacy but we hope that this guide will inspire some pharmacy business owners to look beyond the standard way of operating pharmacy business and seize this opportunity of rising pharmacy technology.
We will be happy to help you find out the best and cost-effective solution to grow your pharmacy business and engage patients.