Many top health systems still behind on digital patient access, report finds

Though the pandemic has accelerated health organizations’ digital initiatives, the race to keep up with patient preferences continues to be challenging for many top-ranked hospitals, a new analysis from Kyruus finds.

The health tech company assessed the top 20 hospitals in the U.S. according to the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings. It looked at four categories—consumer engagement tools, an easy and modern search experience, consumer-centric filtering options and self-service booking capabilities—to determine areas of strength and opportunities for improvement when it comes to digital patient access and engagement.

Overall, hospitals need to focus more on the end-to-end consumer experience, with the ability to find care online, book an appointment and prepare for it with ease, according to the analysis.

Only one-quarter of health systems have virtual assistants or chatbots, Kyruus found, though they are considered highly helpful to patients. More than half display clear and embedded calls to action that prompt consumers to do things like book appointments online or call a number to schedule one. While many also have mobile apps for existing patients, just over a third have apps through which new patients can find or schedule care without creating an account.

A reason for this is health organizations lean too heavily on their electronic medical records (EMRs), says Scott Andrews, general manager of health systems at Kyruus. Because EMRs collect and compile data, they naturally can facilitate a portal for existing patients. But EMRs are not equipped to help with digital patient access preferences, Andrews told Fierce Healthcare.

“The most brilliant software in the world is useless if it’s not implemented and rolled out correctly,” Andrews said.

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Three-quarters of health systems understand the concept of searching by keywords in their find-a-provider systems. Most also offer predictive search results. However, only one provider offers the option to filter search results by location, availability and virtual care options. That’s despite more than 60% of consumers saying virtual care options will impact what provider they choose in the future, according to Kyruus findings from past reports on patient access.

The majority of providers did include the ability to sort or filter by location. But only 5% indicated providers’ availability, something more than 80% of consumers say is very important, according to Kyruus.

Nearly half of consumers want to book medical appointments online, and more than half would switch providers just to have the option, the report noted. But less than half of health systems offer this capability to new patients within their find-a-provider tool. Even less—only 10%—offer online scheduling for non-provider services like imaging. And only about a third offer online scheduling for virtual visits to new patients within their find-a-provider. Such flexibility is “a key differentiator for health systems online,” Kyruus noted in its report.

Kyruus is a provider data management platform, offering health systems patient access solutions like provider search and scheduling. While services like Kyruus, which specializes in change management at health organizations, can be costly, health organizations may see a return on their investment, Andrews said.

Being able to translate Kyruus’ platform into another language, for instance, reaches communities and drives patients to an organization that might otherwise be missed. These types of solutions can also help reduce cost inefficiencies, Andrews said, such as when a patient calls an access center to get a question answered that could have been taken care of online. Technology can be leveraged to automate easy or redundant processes that otherwise take time and resources away from healthcare workers, he said.