Patient intake solutions are revolutionizing the healthcare industry by digitizing and automating the burdensome administrative tasks traditionally completed in often overcrowded waiting rooms.

The best pre-arrival platforms have successfully removed the barriers that prevented patients from conveniently completing all required administrative tasks before they arrive for their appointments. Since the pandemic, healthcare practices are using patient intake solutions to streamline the check-in process with the important benefit of significantly enhancing the patient experience.

Patients generally welcome this new capability to deliver their healthcare data at a time they choose, typically before setting foot in the practice office. They are also empowered to manage the scheduling of their office visits via a shared integrated calendar and to communicate with their healthcare practice via text rather than waiting on hold to conduct the same business by phone – both features some of these platforms offer.

Concerns arise

While pre-arrival intake platforms represent an evolutionary transformation in the physician/patient relationship, there’s also a potential downside to these platforms of which most patients are unaware.

Many of these platforms collect and store identifiable patient information, raising concerns about data security and privacy when it comes to taking advantage of these conveniences.  Specifically, several recent investigations (PatternsBMJNCBI) have shed light on the concerning practice of patient intake apps sharing data with advertisers for targeted advertising purposes. This involves the use of data mining techniques that analyze patients’ information and preferences, enabling advertisers to target their messaging and promotions to specific individuals.

Imagine heading into your doctor’s appointment to discuss a diabetes management program and seeing a branded diabetes medicine show up on your cell phone or tablet just as you walk in for the consultation. This raises some very serious questions.  As an example, could seeing this ad prejudice you or your doctor’s decision when it comes to identifying the best treatment option?

Based on the information patients provide during intake (current medications, past medical history, reason for visit and more), advertisers can pepper the patient with ads and advertorials. What’s even more surprising is that many healthcare organizations don’t even know that the platform they subscribed to is participating in this pharmaceutical advertising program.

Even more concerning is that the fee that these platforms charge the pharmaceutical companies often exceeds the subscription fees that the practices are paying. Simply put, some digital patient engagement platforms are harvesting patient data to significantly increase their revenue without them even knowing it’s happening.

In a rush to take advantage of the convenience of these intake platforms, most patients overlook the section in the terms and agreements that enables the app developer to share personal information obtained via the app. In fact, most patients don’t realize that they have opted into these ad plans and they have the absolute ability to opt out.

The Washington Post recently highlighted the ethical challenges surrounding health privacy and the alarming extent to which patient data is being leveraged for targeted advertising. The use of patient data for commercial purposes raises questions about consent, transparency and the potential exploitation of individuals and healthcare organizations.

Patients may feel violated and lose trust in healthcare providers if their personal information is used without their knowledge or explicit consent.

Enforcement action

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been actively focusing on the use and disclosure of health information for advertising. In a recent report by WilmerHale, the FTC emphasized the importance of healthcare providers implementing robust security measures to protect patient data. Failure to do so not only compromises patient privacy but also puts healthcare organizations at risk of regulatory penalties and reputational damage. But so far, there is no firm regulation in place.

While patient intake solutions and targeted advertising can potentially enhance patient experiences and provide valuable information, a balance must be struck between innovation and privacy. Healthcare practices should prioritize the patient experience and well-being, ensuring that data-driven solutions are implemented responsibly, transparently, and with patient consent as the foundation.

Unfortunately, many practices have discovered too late that they’ve exposed their patients to this type of data harvesting.  In the desire to go pre-arrival and contactless, many of these healthcare practices get locked into long-term contracts without doing thorough due diligence.

By automating the intake process, patient-intake solutions reduce the risk of errors and eliminate the need for manual data entry, which can be a source of errors and staff burnout. Automation helps to ensure that patient data is accurate and up to date, which is critical for effective diagnosis and treatment.

That said, healthcare providers must prioritize patient privacy and take proactive steps to ensure data security. By doing so, they can foster a culture of trust, empower patients to have control over their data, and ultimately enhance the overall patient experience within patient intake solutions.

Hari Prasad is the founder and CEO of Yosi Health.

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By Hari Prasad

Significantly amplified by the pandemic, the well-being of healthcare workers is an increasingly universal concern. The resulting staff shortages burdening all our healthcare professionals with elevated workloads and are sending shockwaves through the system.

Several recent studies indicate the healthcare industry has lost about 20% of its workforce over the past few years, including 30% of nurses, many of whom are aging out of the system and not being replaced by new recruits.

Last year, the pressure on front-office administrative workers reached such alarming levels, the US Surgeon General issued an advisory. Staff burnout and accompanying resignations created a crisis in patient care and an urgent call for an intervention is being made.

A major contributing factor to staff burnout is the reduced staffing levels. The pandemic initiated many of these personnel shortages leaving the remaining staff to pick up the slack. As a result, administrative staff are stretched thin resulting in increased workloads and heightened stress levels.

The situation hasn’t eased much since the retreat of the pandemic. As a result, increased stress, fatigue, and emotional exhaustion are significantly impacting the mental health and well-being of healthcare workers. Combine this with a decreased sense of professional fulfillment and you have the recipe for burnout and, ultimately, resignation.

There is a bright spot on the horizon. Patient intake solutions have emerged as a powerful tool to help alleviate a significant part of the administrative burden. By streamlining a number of necessary but repetitive, tedious, burdensome waiting room processes, these solutions provide much-needed relief to healthcare workers and offer tangible benefits for both staff and patients.

How does that happen? A robust, configurable, and advanced patient intake solution can optimize administrative workflows, resulting in significant time savings for healthcare professionals.

Traditional administrative tasks like patient intake, appointment scheduling, and patient communication are time-consuming and demanding for healthcare staff. Countless hours are spent on the phone, admitting patients, answering queries, coordinating appointments transcribing information from the clipboard, collecting payments, etc. These routine tasks, while essential, detract healthcare providers and staff from their core responsibilities of delivering quality care.

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Yosi Health fast-tracks patients to care

Yosi Health was born from the conviction that there must be a better way to serve patients while reducing staff burnout and improving the bottom line. Over 20 million patients across 29 specialties and all 50 U.S. states have now reaped the benefits of hyper-personalized interactions with their healthcare providers via Yosi Health’s platform. Their patient engagement and workflow automation solutions dramatically reduce patient admin tasks and help humanize clinic visits for patients when it matters most. The result? More humanized patient interactions and face time with their physicians.

Text messaging is one of Yosi’s most powerful tools in delivering to patients’ growing demand for consumer-like convenience, while reducing staff burden and transforming patient care simultaneously.

By Hari Prasad, founder and CEO, Yosi Health.

Wasteful administrative costs are crippling healthcare. That’s the key finding of a recent research brief published by Health Affairs, a leading journal of health policy under the aegis of Project HOPE, a nonprofit international health education organization.

Claiming that nearly 50% of administrative spending is wasteful, the brief reveals that systemic non-standardization of procedures and widespread administrative billing errors as the major root causes for the waste.

While the report admits no single intervention is likely to make a dent in the problem – and its solution includes a multi-billion dollar, three-tier healthcare reform plan – there are ways modern healthcare practices can start reducing harmful administrative waste without having to reinvent America’s entire healthcare system.

The solution to address wasteful expenditures for individual clinics and practices can come through updating  their current administrative procedures. Thanks to advances in AI and automation, this “modernization” can be accomplished relatively inexpensively and doing so has proven beneficial for both practice staff and their patients. Best of all, it’s a step the industry has already begun taking during the pandemic – instituting new protocols such as telehealth and pre-arrival appointment check-in. Seeing the process through is still not a high priority for a lot of practices who still ask themselves, where’s the tangible ROI on such an investment?

The pandemic showed us what a log-jam the traditional waiting room represents to the business. It showed us how much time front office staff spends on the phone, and in person, recording patient information and managing the practice’s work flow.

When waiting rooms were no longer a healthy option, it didn’t take long for solutions to become available that would effectively take the chore of waiting room “paperwork” requisition online. For many practices, it was a long overdue improvement.

Michigan Avenue Primary Care of Chicago knew they needed to consolidate disparate registration and appointment management systems into one integrated platform. At the same time, they needed to implement telehealth to accommodate their immediate care, primary care, and ENT practices. By adopting pre-arrival focused and fully customizable patient-intake solution, they were able to bring these services to their offices and successfully pivot during the pandemic lockdowns.

For this medical practice, it was one of the best ways to start combatting administrative waste. Workflow automation, optimized for the needs of their specific practice, went a long way towards reducing staff burnout, improving EHR accuracy, increasing the bottom line, and drastically elevating the patient experience. It also significantly reduced the instances of data entry error.

“By modernizing and consolidating our patient intake procedures, we’ve been able to minimize data entry work by staff and reduce errors,” reports Dr. Joshua Merok, associate medical director at Michigan Avenue Primary Care. “It actually improved our patient feedback scores, despite introducing the system at a very trying time for everyone.”

Using an automated billing method can also cut down on administrative waste. Collecting payments pre and post visit can be made much smoother and easier for both patients and staff.  New solutions offer a user-friendly, PCI-compliant interface which allows a physician’s practice to collect co-pays and outstanding balances from patient’s pre-arrival, while leveraging “credit card on file” to receive faster payments after the visit. Even the collection of past-due balances can be automated and by offering flexible patient payment services to accommodate patient budgets, their care can continue uninterrupted.  And because most of the system is automated, front office staff (and your billing staff) will have much more time to deal with other tasks.

Finding the right solution for your practice can seem daunting at first, but here are few thing to keep in mind: Make sure the solution you’re considering meets or exceeds necessary HIPAA requirements.  Ask the vendor about relevant certifications – being SOC 2 Security Compliant, or having HITRUST CSF Certification, and PCI compliance are all important markers that ensure your solution will be one both patients and regulators can trust.

Getting a jump on administrative “waste management” will benefit your practice, your staff, and most importantly, your patients.