Take Away Patients’ Pain with Online Forms and Enrollment

Digital enrollment makes gathering patient information from any location easy and compliant.

by Adobe Healthcare Team

posted on 03-12-2018

Most appointments when you visit a new doctor’s office typically start like this: you arrive 15 minutes early, check in with the receptionist, and are handed a clipboard with a small stack of paper forms to complete. You might scribble on the forms illegibly, trying to remember every aspect of your medical history, and hurriedly hand the form back to the front desk so you can get in to see your doctor right away.

But wouldn’t this entire experience be much more efficient if it were digital?

A clipboard, pen, and paper have been staples of the patient intake process, but employing digital onboarding tools such as HIPAA-ready digital forms as well as electronic signatures can transform this process and save valuable time. Digital service enrollment enhances the patient experience — making it more convenient for patients to provide information securely — before they ever step foot into a provider’s office. Going digital also enables data automation, ensuring patient information is securely stored in the right database.

However, hospitals, doctors, and other healthcare providers operate in a highly regulated industry and in an entrenched culture that is accustomed to a specific way of practicing care, so transitioning from a paper-based system to a digital one requires careful planning — and some convincing. Still, in exchange for greater operational efficiency and a better care experience for patients, the trade-off may be worth it.

Why healthcare isn’t entirely digital

Aside from HIPAA regulations that protect patient privacy, making the cultural shift to digital is a significant hurdle for healthcare providers.

According to a recent American Medical Association survey, 85 percent of doctors say they understand the benefits of using digital health tools for patient care, but only 42 percent are currently using these technologies to improve workflow at the point of care, and just 26 percent are using them for patient engagement. But doctor-patient interactions aren’t the only area that could benefit from digital workflows. Just nine percent of Medicare beneficiaries, for instance, indicate that their health plan used data from digital health tools.

David Magrini, senior vice president and general manager of Merkle Health, says most healthcare providers realize the benefits and cost savings they could generate by moving away from a paper-based system, but making this change is harder in practice than in principle.

“It’s more costly to keep the system paper based, but there’s also a good bit of a change management that would have to happen in these systems, the processes, and in healthcare’s operating model to move away from a paper-based system. The industry has a lot of competing priorities,” David says.

One of healthcare’s overarching priorities in recent years has been the Triple Aim initiative for improving the patient experience, improving the health of specific populations, and reducing the cost of care. Digital service enrollment can help the industry achieve some of these goals.

There are copious amounts of paperwork in healthcare, but by using forms-management solutions and digital signatures, providers can improve the onboarding process and safely and securely gather relevant patient information. Moving to digital also enables improved data security, the ability to easily revise forms as necessary, a simplified approval process, and better communication and information accuracy between patients and doctors.

Digital service enrollment, which can be used for patient onboarding with providers and for open enrollment with health insurance plans, allows patients to have a seamless experience, regardless of how they access online forms. They can easily complete digital forms from a web browser on any device — whether desktop, tablet, or phone — because of the responsive technology that helps forms reformat for any screen size.

A digital onboarding process not only includes forms for gathering information, but also should allow for the use of digital signatures that meet legal standards. It’s important to note that although the format that providers use to collect information will change with a digital process, many of the protocols for collecting this information remain the same.

With e-signatures, it’s critical for providers to clearly display the terms of the agreement and to demonstrate consent — so patients know exactly what they’re signing. Digital forms that require e-signatures should also provide an option for patients to print or receive an email copy of the form, enable safe recordkeeping for providers, and include identity verification that requires the signer to authenticate his or her identity with certain information or via a username and password.

At every step of the way, this process should be HIPAA-compliant, safe, and secure — especially on the backend as providers access data from these databases — to give patients a better care experience, whether it’s during an in-person appointment or when a provider electronically communicates with them.

Providers need a technology partner — not just a vendor

At the end of the day, the roadmap for implementing digital processes must start with the end goal in mind. And to provide a seamless digital transition, you should select a partner who understands where your pain points may be and when customers are most likely to drop out of the process.

“You need a partner who understands that ecosystem,” says David. “There are equal parts marketing strategy and developing an experience that the user wants. I think those two requirements come back together in the form of data capture, analysis, and express action — all of the things that create relevant consumer experiences.”

Additionally, Logan Franey, an Adobe product marketing manager, says providers need to consider several things before they move to a digital enrollment solution.

“They need to look at what their process is today. When you implement technology, you want to take the process you have today and work the technology around it. You don’t necessarily want to change the process based on what the technology allows you to do,” Logan says. “However, I think there’s also a huge opportunity to actually change your process when technology allows you to do more with it — like with digital signatures. Instead of sending a form to someone who has to sign it and mail it back, using a digital process can actually limit the potential for theft.”

There will also be basic operational considerations for providers, such as whether they’ll need to retire that clipboard entirely and invest in tablets, or how they will train their staff on new digital practices.

“First and foremost, it’s that change management piece that they really have to consider and figure out strategically. ‘As I collect data, how am I going to manage that?’ ‘What security protocols are we going to have in place?’” David says. “Then they have to consider whether they have the skillset internally, which most of them probably do, but then it becomes a bandwidth issue.”

“In the long run, it’s going to save them money, but the challenge is the data management and total management of that information,” David adds.

In an age when consumers are expecting a retail-like experience in all their interactions — including for healthcare — overcoming the challenge of moving from analog to digital processes is no longer an option for healthcare providers. While the industry has relied on intimate face-to-face interactions in the past, as they move to new technology for online insurance enrollment and virtual office visits, everyone in the healthcare space must find ways to gather effectively the information needed to deliver a seamless and convenient digital experience.

Read more about #Best Practices for Healthcare from Adobe’s vertical industry team for healthcare.

Topics: Industry, Digital Transformation, Healthcare

Products: Experience Manager, Experience Cloud