While most of us love technology, it has not always lived up to its promise in health care. EHRs and patient portals have sometimes come under fire by doctors and patients alike for being cumbersome to use and impeding the doctor-patient relationship. Health apps are booming in popularity, but no one quite knows what to do with all that data yet.

When used correctly, however, the right technology can enhance health care. From online appointment scheduling to text reminders to patient education videos, here are several examples of tech done right.

1. Online appointment scheduling and bill pay.

Ironically, one of the easiest ways to improve patient satisfaction and boost your practice’s bottom line at the same time is often overlooked. Making an appointment over the phone takes an average of eight minutes, most of that time spent on hold, according a recent study by Accenture. Patients want the convenience of scheduling appointments online. And, it’s a great way for practices to fill empty appointment slots and attract new patients.

ZocDoc, a doctor referral and scheduling site, found that as many as 85 percent of the appointments made on its site are from new patients. ZocDoc, as well as other online scheduling services, allows practices to offer online appointments on their own website through a widget, as well as on the ZocDoc site. If you have an EHR or patient portal, check to see if it offers an online appointment-scheduling feature.

It may also pay, quite literally, to offer patients the option to pay their bills online. Even though the majority of us now pay bills electronically, the medical industry has been slow to catch up. This article from American Medical News looks at three ways to set up online payment systems for patients.

2. Text and email reminders.

This is another example of technology that patients really want but that many doctors aren’t giving them. Practices may stubbornly cling to appointment reminders by phone because that’s how it’s always been done and they think it’s the easiest way.

However, 76 percent of respondents to a new FICO survey of smartphone users say they are eager for their doctors to use mobile technology for appointment reminders, while 69 percent say they would embrace these tools for making appointments and medication reminders. And if you’re solely relying on the phone, you may not be reaching some patients at all. Data shows that voicemail is obsolete among millennials. They’d much rather receive a text or Facebook message.

Again, some EHRs and patient portals include text and email reminder functions, so you may already have this capability and not realize it.

3. Patient education videos.

Video is revolutionizing health care. Data shows that most of us are researching our health online, and that more people will click on a video than a text result. Because there is so much medical information out there — much of it from questionable sources — it’s more important than ever for doctors to be a source of high-quality health content that educates their patients.

The benefits of video are numerous: this format appeals to visual learners and helps them better understand and retain complex information; it’s easy to use before, during, and after the appointment; and it can be shared with family members and caregivers without anything being “lost in translation.”

There’s also the fact that doctors who use current technology such as video and tablets appeal to tech-savvy patients who expect their health care providers to be up to speed. A recent survey found that not only are a whopping 97 percent of patients OK with their doctors using technology during visits, but 58 percent also said that technology positively impacts their overall experience, especially when it’s “used collaboratively to educate or explain.”

For more on how technology is changing medicine, check out our post, How Digital Health Tools May Change the Future for Doctors.

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