Most private practice healthcare providers got into medicine to fulfill their love of caring for patients — not to run a business. However, if you’re a practice owner or partner, your world encompasses so much more than patient care. Managing day-to-day operations, executing a patient acquisition and retention plan, and setting a practical growth strategy are all necessary to maintain a thriving healthcare practice.
Fortunately, using a healthcare technology platform (also known as a practice growth platform) helps you run a variety of operational functions with greater ease, while propelling practice goals — clinical and financial.
How to choose a healthcare technology platform
In any industry, implementing new technology can often feel like a double-edged sword. While these advanced solutions are meant to streamline operations and improve efficiencies, finding the right solution, and getting the technology up and running, can be overwhelming for a lean healthcare practice team.
Yet, all healthcare practices, regardless of size or specialty, can reap the rewards that come with the right healthcare technology platform. From optimizing your online presence or improving your online reputation, to increasing new patient volume or helping avoid staff burnout, technology can address a variety of practice challenges.
Despite the great value that comes with the right tech solution, some practices are hesitant to take the leap. In most cases, private practices — especially those with just one or two MDs — don’t have much experience evaluating and vetting new technologies. Conducting a thorough analysis of any new solution requires:
- a solid understanding of your practice’s primary (and secondary) goals
- your practice’s key performance indicators
- a long-term growth plan — defining what success looks like over the next 5-10 years
If you’re considering how technology can help you improve and enhance your practice operations, these three questions can help guide your evaluation process.
Question #1: What will this technology help me achieve at our healthcare practice, and how will it support our goals?
Before you begin evaluating practice technology platforms, it’s important to define your practice’s strengths and areas of opportunity. From there, you can establish goals you want the new technology to address.
Some want to ensure growth in new patient volume. Others aim for overall revenue growth. In these cases, you’ll need a platform designed to support both patient acquisition and retention. Think about solutions that help you master digital medical marketing and promotion, including a website, search engine optimization, online listing audit and improvement, and email marketing tools.
Some medical and dental practices want to focus on improving their patient communication process or their overall patient experience. Here, finding a platform that offers a variety of enhanced patient communications tools (such as two-way text messaging and email outreach) and new ways to measure patient satisfaction (automated patient surveys) can help achieve those goals.
Finally, some practices want to lighten their front-office administrative load (and keep staff), and turn to technology to help streamline front-office workflow. Healthcare practice solutions that offer digital tools such as online scheduling, digital registration and intake, and automated appointment confirmations and reminders, can help any practice run more efficiently — which not only helps decrease staff burnout, but also meets patient preference, and can increase practice revenue.
Regardless of your practice goals, ensure they are well-defined. Then, refer to those goals when evaluating potential technology solutions.
Question #2: How will this technology help our practice enhance the patient experience?
At every practice, patients are the top priority. No matter which solution or platform you’re evaluating, it’s critical to consider how it will affect — and enhance — the patient experience.
Digital tools designed for patient access and convenience, such as online scheduling, telehealth, and two-way text messaging, show your patients that you value their time. Since 72 percent of patients say they would switch doctors for a better experience (per our 2021 patient survey), investing in a platform that can deliver convenience is a sound and necessary strategy.
It’s also important to consider how the platform you’re evaluating can help strengthen the patient-provider relationship. Since it’s widely believed that acquiring a new customer costs five times more than retaining an existing one, a platform that helps drive patient retention will always be a good investment.
What’s needed? Tools that inspire patient loyalty, that help you stay connected with your patients in between visits, and help them feel connected to you. For example, targeted email campaigns that deliver timely and relevant health information (e.g. flu vaccine reminders, targeted messages related to specific health conditions) can keep your practice top-of-mind, and encourage patients to book future appointments.
Question #3: How will I know if the healthcare practice platform is working as intended?
Famed business consultant Peter Drucker is credited with saying “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” This phrase certainly rings true when it comes to a healthcare technology platform. The only way you can be sure you’re getting value from your investment is having transparency into key performance metrics that are most important to your business, preferably available in real time.
In the business environment of a private practice, this can range from your practice’s local online search rankings (especially in Google search) and number of new appointments per provider each month, to no-show rates and patient review volume and frequency.
Your technology platform must offer insight into how the tools and strategies put into place are performing — and they should be a click or two away, if they truly are delivering on the promise of efficiency. Having this data at your fingertips supports better decision-making and can help you shift strategies quickly, as needed for better performance.
Other key technology considerations for your practice
After you’ve examined and answered these three questions, the next step is just as important: Consider what it will take to implement the platform. Find out how much support the company offers in getting you started (and beyond), and for how long. See if their system integrates with other technology you already have, most notably your EHR. Consider whether the new platform is designed to scale with you as you grow, and ways the prospective vendor(s) can support you after you’ve adopted the technology. All of these factors should play into your assessment and selection.
Getting the most from your investment: the benefits of an all-in-one approach
While there are dozens (or more) healthcare technology platforms out there, your best bet is to find a single solution that can address as many of your practice goals as possible, as well as the entirety of the patient experience. The “piecemeal approach,” tackling a couple practice needs at a time, ends up costing more and requiring more resources to manage.
For example, let’s say your business priority is online medical marketing. Many practices hire a website development agency that may have some search engine optimization experience. Or they hire one website development firm with input from a separate SEO agency. They now have two vendor relationships, and two invoices, and haven’t yet addressed enhancing their online presence, or improving their online reputation, both essential components of medical marketing and patient acquisition.
Add in the need for patient satisfaction surveys and you could be managing half a dozen vendors and paying for contract after contract. Meanwhile, the various tools are unlikely to integrate, so you won’t be able to tell which strategies are performing well and which aren’t delivering the results you’d hoped for.
Instead, an all-in-one platform can support your practice from a patient’s first visit to your website through their first appointment and beyond, to patient relationship management and return visits. You’ll appreciate the simplicity of one company and one platform. Your patients will appreciate a streamlined, convenient patient experience from start to finish.
Making your healthcare practice a thriving business: Four must-haves for a technology platform
What is a practice growth platform and how can it help private practices achieve 2021 goals?