Last week we discussed how changes in the healthcare environment have set the stage for a renewed emphasis in how your practice communicates with your patient population. These changes have led to an explosion of potential technology solutions.
With the rise of text messaging as the preferred way many of us communicate, the FCC made a ruling in July 2015 that attempted to clarify several points about the requirements of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA). Among other things, the TCPA outlines telemarketing restrictions and limits the use of voice messages, text messages, and fax machines. As the regulatory landscape surrounding patient communications has matured, text based solutions have started to emerge accordingly.
In addition, because of Meaningful Use, the vast majority of practices have installed sophisticated electronic medical records systems, and the EMR/EHR industry itself has increasingly embraced interoperability. With cooperation amongst government agencies, organizations such as HIMSS and AHIMA, and the EHR vendors themselves – think Epic, Cerner, Meditech, and others – the industry is undoubtedly maturing.
If you’re considering implementing a text-based next generation patient communication system into your practice, here are some practical questions and areas of inquiry that you can use as you evaluate potential solutions and vendors:
- What level of EHR integration is supported? What reference customers that use your particular practice’s EHR can the vendor point you to?
How much experience does the vendor have with orthopaedics? Once again, don’t be afraid to ask for reference customer information.
What level of detail does the vendor offer regarding their implementation processes and ongoing support? How comfortable are they making implementation team members available to you during the sales process?
How clear is the pricing model? How does it support the business objectives of your practice?
- What does the vendor mean when they claim “texting capability?” For example, do they mean one-way reminder messages or true bidirectional texting?
- How does the vendor address security? What certifications do they hold?
- How savvy is the vendor about TCPA regulations? Remember, it’s likely that the vendor’s terms of service transfers compliance risk to your practice, so you’ll want to be sure your vendor is up to date on the law.,/li>
Performing deep diligence ahead of time is the best way to make sure you don’t run into unwelcome surprises later in the implementation or integration processes. In addition, to the extent you can clearly articulate and (or) quantify your own practice’s desired business outcomes, this can often help make discussions with potential technology partners go more smoothly. In fact, experienced vendors will take this process one step further, and work in collaboration with you to define desired results.
A concluding thought: It’s easy to get lost in the details when contemplating complex technology projects. Perhaps the best North Star is to focus on how your practice makes your patients feel and how this can be improved. Your patients will thank you for it.
Looking to learn more about the foundations of practice management? Check out AAOE’s new online course, Practice Management 101, sponsored by WELL.