patient engagement

Healthcare Communication Tools Your Patients Will Love

Now that digital tools are at the disposal of many patients and pediatric practice, effective healthcare communication needs to take place beyond the front desk and exam room. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, healthcare communication is a critical part of clinical diagnosis, development of treatment plans, patient engagement, and improving healthcare outcomes. Here we’ll cover communication tools your practice should utilize to improve communication between patients, parents, communities and pediatric practices -- plus, how these tools can save stress, time, and revenue for your practice.

Why Screen Time is Important for Pediatric Healthcare Communication

“Effective communication is responsive to the needs of the whole patient and family dynamic; it is essential to patient-centered and family-centered care, the basic building block of the medical home concept endorsed by the AAP as a cornerstone of care.” - the American Academy of Pediatrics

Those who work in pediatric healthcare already know that communication is a “cornerstone of care,” but are you using all of the tools at your disposal? When forming relationships with providers and an opinion about healthcare services, families and patients tend to consider all interactions with their practice, including digital and online interactions, and the ability to access their healthcare information. 

According to a 2020 study published in the Journal of Patient Experience, healthcare organizations including pediatric practices will need to consider and improve upon all of the patient’s in-person and digital touchpoints to foster care and communication and to fulfill patients’ expectations of convenient, accessible healthcare. This need is especially highlighted in healthcare’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as communities recover and respond to shifting hybrid work, school, and healthcare settings. In the sections below, we’ll cover some of these digital touchpoints, from the patient portal to mobile tools to your EHR.

Improve Engagement with the Patient Portal

Often, caregivers of children have questions about ills and spills that don’t necessarily require a visit to the office. The patient portal is a convenient communication tool for families and a key digital touchpoint for pediatricians. Since the patient portal is the digital tool often used first in efforts to communicate with pediatric practices outside of the office, it’s a good idea to consider the patient portal a potential first impression of your “digital practice”.

Accordingly, key features of the patient portal offer convenience and reassurance to families when they need it. We recommend in great patient portal should include:

  • Private, authorized accounts for caregivers and adolescent patients to access health information, including records, visit history, and practice resources
  • Ability to exchange messages, documents, attachments, and photos securely and privately, according to HIPAA-specific guidelines
  • Ability to submit payments
  • Ability for patients to view key healthcare documents like immunization records and lab results

Accessing healthcare information enables your pediatric practice to avoid information blocking, a crucial component of the 21st Century Cures Act. You can learn more about information blocking and PCC’s resources on the Act here.

PCC’s patient portal, My Kid’s Chart, can assign roles for authorized users so that the right message gets to the right patient or caregiver every time. In My Kid’s Chart, you can even send CHADIS questionnaires! 

Engagement on the Go: Mobile Tools

Pediatricians and kids are always on the go, so it makes sense to use tools that can keep up and are available on smartphones and tablets. For pediatricians, the ability to use mobile tools frees physicians and staff from being tied to their EHR or a desk, so that they can help when working outside of the traditional office visit, such as an after-hours or telemedicine visit.

Mobile apps and tools can support pediatricians’ day-to-day clinical and administrative tasks, as well as facilitate communication between staff and patients. While clinical tools using artificial intelligence are largely in development and require further study, there are some mobile applications available which could act as clinical support, including a list of recommended applications from the AAP and beyond.

Other mobile tools include the ability to access your EHR on a mobile device. PCC offers pocketPCC, where pediatricians can view and sign charts, take notes, and review their daily schedule -- perfect for physicians on the go or who practice at different locations.

Patients and caregivers who use mobile devices can find added convenience and even relieve stress with the right tools. When families can access healthcare tools at home, they can get faster reassurance, answers to their questions, and participate in their healthcare communication in a low-stress environment. One great example is the ability to send CHADIS questionnaires to a My Kid’s Chart patient portal with PCC and CHADIS. Patients get added convenience, and this workflow also allows for a faster workflow in the practice. Learn how to send CHADIS screenings to a patient’s portal account with PCC.

Clinical Communication: Using Your EHR

Unless it’s a tool such as Broadcast Messaging, a fantastic resource for patient engagement and recall, patient communication in the EHR is usually indirect, as it is the product of all the communication pediatricians, staff, families, and patients have shared and included in the patient chart. Your practice’s EHR both stores this health information and allows healthcare workers to synthesize it into actionable care plans and workflows:

  • With PCC EHR, you can view CHADIS patient questionnaire results right from your EHR in the patient’s chart to reduce printed forms in the office.
  • Add attachments, such as images and PDFs, notes, and flags to keep staff and providers up to date.
  • Use internal chat to collaborate with colleagues and keep communication flowing, no matter where you are in the office.
  • A scheduling system that allows providers and staff to see their day at a glance and filter them by things like date, appointment type, physician, and location.

Effective team communication through your EHR helps your practice run efficiently and ultimately translates to a better experience for your patients. Healthcare communication improves patient outcomes and pediatric practice efficiency, but it’s also a concern for trends in U.S. healthcare policy and will continue to grow in importance as modern families come to need and expect prompt access to information to help them make the right choices for themselves and their children. 

The 21st Century Cures Act requires that practices avoid information blocking, or practices that prevent patients from reasonable access to their healthcare information. Learn more about information blocking and the 21st Century Cures Act -- and how your practice can respond -- with this webinar from PCC’s Megan Maddocks.

Information Blocking in the 21st Century Cures Act for Pediatric Practices

Allie Squires

Allie Squires is PCC's Marketing Content Writer and editor of The Independent Pediatrician. She holds a master's in Professional Writing from NYU.