Triaging Patients and The Road Less Traveled

March 20, 2020 | Stericycle Communication Solutions

What comes to mind when you hear the word "triage"? Would you be excited to hear that last quarter you had more adults with cold symptoms visit the system's neighborhood urgent care center? Or an over-concerned parent and their a crying child camped out in the hospital emergency department asking to see the first available provider for the child's swollen finger?  Let's not forget the lonely patient's inevitable wait for their primary care office to reopen who then talks with the front desk receptionist about their cat, their allergies, and oh yes, their need to book a follow-up appointment.

Healthcare leaders have a difficult balancing act with the demands of revenue cycle management and value-based care initiatives in one hand, and increased pressure for patient satisfaction and high levels of consumer-centric service in the other. As patients take greater control of their care and as value-based care initiatives take hold, providers and health systems must be ready with innovative ways to improve access to care, streamline care coordination, and better balance provider loads. Let's look at several considerations for organizations seeking to direct patients to the best provider and best care venue with the greatest ease.

Just like online dating: increase digital matches

Three of four consumers start their search for healthcare providers online, initiating their patient journey digitally. When a patient keys in their symptoms, they expect search results to point them to providers who commonly care for that concern, not just the nearest hospital. Plus, if you're the provider on the other end of that search, you want to make sure that your schedule is filled with the most appropriately matched and most qualified patients. Providers must work to become more discoverable in searches—done on any type of device—and to "attract" the right consumers to their services and in wide variety of locations.

Patients are online shoppers searching for the most convenient care

No one likes the runaround. At the forefront of the healthcare consumer's concerns is being in the right care facility at the right time to see the right provider. When front desk staff overseeing the decision-making, they often sort demand for care based on provider availability, whereas optimized online provider profile can help pinpoint and match patients to the best and closest service provider.

Through a virtual triage solution, patients can accurately self-direct to the most convenient venue. Information on all of your providers, their most common conditions treated, and other pertinent data can support the patient's choice—day or night—to visit your health system. Then, the results appear simultaneously with online scheduling options. The integrated approach converts consumers at their moment of intent.

Value-based care considerations

Legislative and marketplace pressures on healthcare are growing. Value-based care agreements require health systems to reduce utilization rates in higher cost venues of care and move patients to the most effective care approaches. Providers are increasingly incentivized to deliver treatment in value-based care environment and must determine effective ways to evaluate and potentially decrease the number of services performed. 

Our healthcare system is at an inflection point for raising awareness of, and putting new systems into place to support, the types of issues that a patient can and should be treated for in each venue of care. Health organizations, and their patients, can work together to reap the benefits of value-based care, especially as they strive to improve preventative care.

Meet expectations for tech-enabled, and higher needs, healthcare consumers

Seamless technology offered through our Intelligent Scheduling solution gives consumers the capability to schedule appointments for a procedure in a hospital's subspecialty department, an urgent care center as well as physician or specialist offices. Traditional appointment scheduling and front office support works as a complement, not an afterthought to online tools. It's not unheard of for an anxious patient to call with additional questions around their concern—but calling the office is no longer the first stop on their journey. Your team's support with patients on the day of, or after the visit, is often the better use of their time. Plus, it's this personal interaction that helps to ensure excellent care and is most likely to influence, and earn, greater patient satisfaction.

Increase your organizational competence for triage--digitally

Implementing the Intelligent Scheduling software can improve your ability to acquire new patients, match them to the best provider, and fill your providers' schedules the patients who need them most. More than 100 health systems and hospitals nationwide rely on Stericycle to schedule patients digitally.

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