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Patients Are Ready for Digital Health. Is Your Practice?

Patients today expect to engage with their healthcare providers from anywhere and at any time. Is your practice ready?

Patients today expect to engage with their healthcare providers from anywhere and at any time. The digital movement in healthcare has been underway for some time with the rise of mobile phone use over the last two decades, improved patient portals, and new generations who are digital natives. Even before the pandemic, many patients were already doing most of their medical research online and accessing specific health data like lab reports and vaccination records, through patient portals. By 2019, 86% of patient portal users were already viewing test results online and 32% had begun sharing information with other providers for referrals or second opinions. 

Millennials have long been advocates for improvements in digital health with 60% already being in favor of greater telehealth options back in 2015. Today, many Millennials are responsible for caring for children and older parents and seek providers that offer simplified healthcare access. It’s not just Gen Z and Millennials who are comfortable with digital access but even baby boomers. According to AARP, the number of older adults using smartphones to book medical appointments, communicate with providers, and order prescriptions increased from 28% to 40% in 2020.

COVID-19 Accelerated a Need for Digital Access

There is no argument that COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of digital healthcare and telehealth. If your practice didn’t have a patient portal or other digital ways for patients to easily contact providers, you were likely scrambling to implement a new system. Telehealth adoption, which was often the area of digital health with the most skeptics, even grew by 79x at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and stabilized at 38x. As a result, patients today expect a new standard for engaging with care teams, both at their convenience and on their terms.

Digital Health & Oncology 

It seems like common sense that remote monitoring and managing symptoms of oncology patients could help avoid unnecessary ER visits, adjust treatment plans as needed, and improve long-term cancer outcomes. Regular reporting of patients' symptoms to care teams has been associated with a 20% increase in overall survival compared with usual care.

However, we know that in reality patients are not often reporting their symptoms. Studies show that up to 50% of toxicities and associated side effects experienced by patients during treatment are not reported to their care team. Those who don’t speak English may be nervous to call the practice due to phone line complexities or a fear of not being understood. Various social determinants of health and cultural factors can also cause individuals to fear “bothering the doctor.” There is also a certain amount of psychological stress and fear associated with calling the practice; patients worry that symptoms could indicate a need to go to the ER or a sign that the disease is progressing.

“Nobody wants to call the doctor’s office and this (ePROs) is much less intimidating. Patients are scared, and this is a lifeline for them.”
—Maggie Black, Nursing Manager at Cancer Specialists of North Florida

Providing patients with the ability to regularly and easily communicate with their team can help improve long-term care. Canopy's EMR-integrated ePRO-Based Patient Monitoring platform empowers patients to periodically report symptoms via an intuitive smartphone app, text message, or Interactive Voice Response (IVR) tool. Patients want to interact with care teams when given the opportunity, and one study published by the Journal of Clinical Oncology indicated that engagement with Canopy’s ePRO app and IVR system was 88% at 6 months, with 12-month retention greatest among patients 65 years or older. 

Patients and their families can constantly stay in touch with their care teams giving them a stronger sense of autonomy in their healthcare journeys.  At CSNF, ePROs have been very popular across the patient population, even among elderly patients highlighting that patients are ready for more digital tools. “We thought that the older population wouldn’t like it or embrace it, but they realize that it’s made their life much easier,” said Beth Beth Page, Director of Compliance. Even caretakers utilize the app to stay in touch with care teams.

Is Your Practice Ready?

While the shift to digital health brings many benefits, managing the influx of patient touchpoints can be challenging for nurses and providers, who often work out of disparate systems that are not purpose-built for remote patient engagement. Some practices are concerned that adopting new digital tools for patients, like symptom reporting, will lead to decreased efficiency or increased administrative burden for their already burnt-out teams. However, the right technology can act as another team member for care teams, ensuring lanes of communication are wide open and workflows run smoothly.

Canopy partnered with oncology practices to develop Intelligent Patient Relationship Management solutions, empowering care teams to efficiently scale quality care. Teams can intake remote patient touchpoints, like symptom reports or other requests, into a centralized Work Queue that intelligently prioritizes patient-related tasks. Standardized symptom triage helps nurses make the right decisions faster through symptom-specific pathways, intelligent alerting, and EMR-integrated auto-documentation. Staff are empowered to deliver the highest quality care, regardless of varying experience levels, and can offer more equitable care to patients without increasing their busy workloads.

Northwest Medical Specialities sought to utilize its technology partners to reduce administrative tasks for its staff and increase efficiency across the practice. Today, ticketing capabilities have offered improved response coordination and quality with a 9-minute response time to patient symptom-related phone calls. The workflows quickly surface the most important patient inquiries and associated patient information. The standardized symptom triage and decision support have also helped all staff uniformly improve care quality.

“The triage staff like that you can skip around on a triage pathway, and you can complete the pathway as the patient is giving you the feedback in an organic way.”
—Amy Ellis, Chief Operating Officer at Northwest Medical Specialities.

Remote symptom reporting reduces unnecessary visits for patients which also frees up physician time and allows them to greatly focus on care. A single-site study of 923 patients at Highlands Oncology Group utilizing Canopy ePRO, found that the majority of patient issues were resolved by nursing specialists and provider intervention was not required.  While over 29,000 reports were submitted by patients, the system optimized and prioritized staff work, and only a small number of reports ( 6%) required an office visit.

Is your practice ready to meet the growing demand for digital care? With the right technology partner, you can give patients the ability to remotely engage with your practice and be leaders in their care journey, all while optimizing practice operations.  Contact to learn how our platform can standardize care, improve daily workflows, and ultimately, improve patient care.