The Challenges of Managing a Modern Healthcare Practice
The modern healthcare industry is fast-moving, ever-evolving and almost impossible to predict, so there’s always a new challenge on the horizon for practice managers. Here are some of the most pressing issues that need to be addressed.
Switching Focus to Preventative Healthcare
As part of a national strategy to secure the future of the NHS, the Five Year Forward View stressed the importance of helping people live healthier lives – thereby reducing the number of patients needing treatment.
While the concept of encouraging patients to be more engaged with their healthcare stretches back over 30 years, this is nonetheless a strategy that requires widespread changes in the present. Although GP appointments are an important element of preventative care (for both private and NHS practices), the key is finding better ways to deliver healthcare information.
This is one area where digital screens are proving invaluable by presenting forward-thinking practice managers with the opportunity to display a wide range of eye-catching healthcare content. Not only do these provide the option of using videos, animations and posters designed by the NHS’s marketing team, they also empower staff to create their own dynamic campaigns to highlight local healthcare initiatives.
"This new solution from Jayex has helped us move away from leaflets on the waiting room wall towards something much more proactive and productive. The ability to create our own content and target what we show and where, is proving invaluable for this winter’s vaccination campaigns.”
Many healthcare providers are also taking advantage of the popularity of smart-devices, wearables and apps, with the NHS leading the way, recently launching their NHS App Library. These apps have been shown to play an important part in encouraging patients to live healthier lives, from helping them cope with mental illnesses and keep track of treatments, to providing support to those quitting smoking or losing weight.
Replacing Legacy Technology
While digital screens and smartphone apps are quickly becoming widely adopted across the healthcare industry, many providers still rely on devices that undoubtedly belong in the past.
At a time when the use of email and SMS messaging are almost ubiquitous, it's astounding that the NHS is the biggest user of fax machines in the world and spends £79m a year on second-class stamps. Private healthcare providers are equally as culpable for these types of anachronisms.
Another prime example of how healthcare processes are still rooted in the past and held back by outdated technology, is appointment booking.
Until recently, booking an appointment to see your GP could best be described as "hit-and-miss". You either took time out before work or during your lunch break to queue up at your practice or risked the horrors of healthcare hold-music – neither were practical, enjoyable or efficient.
Healthcare providers are slowly catching up with the times and beginning to make use of widely available online booking portals. Of course, any practice manager hoping to integrate similar technology will need to keep in mind that these solutions can't merely be functional, they need to be user-friendly too – otherwise patients won't engage with them.
Any attempt to replace legacy systems will also come with the spectre of the NHS National Programme for IT looming overhead. The failed project spanned ten years and cost the NHS nearly £11bn, eventually resulting in local healthcare authorities being given more autonomy over their tech upgrades.
Inclusivity and Accessibility
When replacing legacy healthcare systems, it's vital you consider the implications it has for all patients. Digital solutions can improve many aspects of healthcare but aren't an automatic solution to one of the hardest-to-swallow truths about healthcare – the link between income or social status and the quality of care received.
Although many healthcare organisations are making great strides forward in this respect, one of the biggest challenges modern providers face is ensuring that pervasive social inequalities don’t translate to healthcare inequality. It’s also one of the industry's most important responsibilities.
Everybody has the right to access the same standard of care and, if you're going to remove any potential barriers, you’ll need to consider every aspect of your services, from every possible point-of-view.
This may include, but is in no way limited to:
- The availability of a wide range of translation options for non-native speakers
- Audio-visual aids and information available in braille for patients with visual impairments
- The reduction of barriers to physical accessibility like the inclusion of ramps, lifts and whelchair accessible tables
It's important to seek outside input when developing strategies to deal with this issue, not just from affected patients, but from the many advocacy groups who disseminate information on providing inclusive and accessible services. For example, we consulted with the RNIB to ensure our patient check-in kiosks are as accessible as possible for people who are losing, or have lost, their sight.
You’ll also need to accept that, despite your best intentions, you may still have blindspots. The only way to tackle this and move forward is to encourage feedback from patients and arrange regular assessments of your accessibility and inclusivity strategy.
Simply put, accessibility and inclusivity should be a key element of any healthcare provider’s strategy as we move into the 2020s and failing to do so risks alienating many patients.
Whereas traditionally there have been two very distinct models of healthcare in the UK (publicly-funded NHS care and patient- or insurer-funded private healthcare), the modern healthcare industry has seen the emergence of a third model.
Now, under patient choice, NHS patients are often able to choose treatments provided by private healthcare organisations but paid for (usually at a loss) by the NHS.
With price no longer a barrier, NHS and private healthcare facilities are in direct competition, however quality of clinical care is no longer the only standard patients judge providers by. In fact, 59% of patients surveyed by NTT DATA Services want to see their healthcare experiences reflect those they have in the retail space.
With healthcare increasingly driven by standards you’d expect in consumer industries, the overall experience patients have when visiting a provider is, perhaps, as important as the treatment they receive. And, because patient experience focuses on meeting a set of universal pre-defined standards, it’s simple to measure, improve, and set yourself apart from the competition.
Although the healthcare sector has always used surveys as a tool for understanding its patients, digital displays and check-in kiosks provide an opportunity to better capture and analyse data. Rather than asking patients to fill in printed surveys as they leave or visit your website when they get home, software like Enlighten Surveys empowers you to deliver questionnaires whilst they're at the kiosk and you already have their attention.
Progress is particularly rapid in the healthcare industry, as it exists at intersection of three of the fastest-moving disciplines – technology, science and sociology. With change coming thick and fast, any practice manager should already be well-versed in tackling new challenges.
And, as ever, the ideal solution to these challenges isn't just new hardware, it's a blend of organisational change and technological innovation.
For example, digital displays in your waiting room empower you to highlight preventative healthcare campaigns and patient check-in kiosks enable you to better capture patient information – but this is only half the battle.
To be successful, practice managers will also need to plan the content the screens will display and develop patient surveys that provide actionable insights. They'll also need to prepare their staff for the upcoming changes.
Click here to learn more about how you can rise to the challenges of managing a modern healthcare practice by improving patient experience within your organisation.