Patient-Centered Care: The Power of Patient Relationship Management


In today’s healthcare systems, delivering quality patient care involves multiple components, each focused on a specific area of treatment. However, when there are poor interfaces and disjointed processes, it can lead to inefficiency, increased costs, and a negative patient experience. Many hospitals are now recognizing the power of Patient Relationship Management (PRM) practices to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of healthcare processes while prioritizing the needs and experiences of patients.

The need for managing the patient experience has never been more crucial. Factors like an aging population, advancements in diagnostics and treatments, and increasing competition among healthcare providers have placed immense demands on healthcare services across Europe. Unfortunately, many care pathways are still designed around healthcare delivery needs rather than patient-centered approaches. This often results in conflicting appointments, process inefficiencies, and a lack of information sharing, leading to poorer clinical outcomes and patient experiences.

PRM, as a patient-centered approach, focuses on planning, decision-making, delegation, and control of tasks to maintain relationships between patients, hospitals, surgeries, pharmacies, insurers, and the public healthcare system. By utilizing information and communication technology, PRM aims to provide the best possible services to patients while efficiently utilizing available resources.

So how can hospitals address the growing healthcare demands and patient expectations while working within constrained budgets? One solution may lie in taking inspiration from the commercial sector’s successful customer relationship management (CRM) practices. By proactively managing relationships with patients and clinicians throughout the care pathway, healthcare providers can improve the patient experience and reap benefits for themselves. This can be achieved through strategies such as sharing a clearly defined, joined-up process with patients and carers, streamlining information sharing, and providing reminders to improve workflow.

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Implementing a PRM approach in European hospitals has the potential to deliver significant benefits. A survey of 70 healthcare organizations, including public and private hospitals, cancer centers, and other providers, showed that 75% of participants intend to improve patient relationship management. This strategic importance is driven by both hospital benefits, such as planning efficiency, cost savings, and reduced risk, as well as rising patient expectations.

To kick-start PRM improvements, healthcare organizations should identify problem points in their processes by actively listening to feedback from patients, staff, clinicians, and partners. By involving all stakeholders, including patients and their families, in the improvement process, organizations can ensure that PRM practices align with patient needs and expectations.

Additionally, healthcare organizations should consider alternative delivery models that go beyond the traditional “patient comes to the hospital” approach. By triaging patients and directing them to more appropriate services provided outside of the hospital, organizations can enhance the patient experience and alleviate demand on hospital-based emergency services. Implementing online appointment requests, mobile apps, and telehealth integration can also improve patient care and accessibility.

Reviewing and upgrading information and communication technology systems (ICT) is another crucial step in implementing PRM. Utilizing newer technologies, such as interactive voice response systems, online platforms, and social media, can improve communication between staff and patients while reducing costs. Moreover, social networks offer an opportunity for patients to share their experiences and feedback, invaluable for both providers and other patients.

Managing the change process is essential for successful PRM implementation. Appointing a patient relationship director and involving patients, staff, and clinicians at every stage can ensure a patient-centric approach. Incremental delivery, piloting specific technologies, and agile governance are key to driving improvements without overwhelming the organization.

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By adopting a PRM maturity model, healthcare organizations can journey from discrete improvements in patient services to more comprehensive patient care and an enhanced patient experience. This process involves identifying local problem points, exploring alternatives to traditional delivery models, leveraging ICT systems, considering the consequences of the patient experience, and managing the change process effectively.

In conclusion, PRM is pivotal in today’s healthcare environments. By prioritizing patient-centered care and implementing strategic PRM practices, hospitals can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of healthcare processes while actively engaging with patients throughout their care pathways. The journey towards PRM may seem challenging, but incremental approaches can quickly demonstrate tangible benefits for specific target groups. It is crucial for healthcare organizations to adopt PRM best practices to stay competitive in an evolving and diverse market for healthcare services.

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