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Beyond the EHR: Why We Need a Patient Communication Layer

Blog Jake Pyles

Published in HIT Consultant

Healthcare looks a lot different than it did a few years ago. Healthcare leaders need to address rising consumerism, persistent labor shortages, systemic equity gaps, and a critical shift toward value-based care.

It’s worth asking: If the healthcare landscape has changed so much, why do foundational electronic health record (EHR) systems stand largely unchanged?

Sure, the walled gardens surrounding the EHR have dropped a bit, as the EHR giants have been badgered into interoperability by an industry that needs access to data across every system and touchpoint to more effectively serve and treat patients. But hospitals crave solutions, not point products. They need centralized and orchestrated tech stacks that foster better patient and employee experiences, serve insights when and where they’re needed, and enhance clinical and operational decision-making.

Ultimately, EHRs were created as documentation and billing engines—and those are still their primary purposes. And even if they aim to pivot, they just aren’t nimble enough to comprehensively serve the rapidly evolving needs of hospitals and healthcare systems. That means that it’s on technology leaders in the healthcare space to build the environments they want—the ones that can elevate patient experience, optimize operations, and improve outcomes.

The Imperative for a Patient Communication Layer

It’s time we took action to upgrade our technology infrastructure and finally start delivering on the promise of a consumer-focused, value-based healthcare ecosystem.

So what’s missing?

A layer that sits atop the EHR, facilitating active patient engagement and efficient provider workflows. Enter the patient communication layer: a patient engagement and communication platform designed to enhance the healthcare experience by facilitating effective and efficient communication between patients and healthcare providers. The layer integrates seamlessly with EHRs, allowing for personalized, data-driven interactions that cover every stage of the patient journey, including pre-care, in-care and post-care. The focus is on delivering relevant information and support to patients, ensuring that their needs are met promptly and that they remain actively engaged in their healthcare process. The benefits stretch across functions and the continuum of patient care.

Automated and Personalized Patient Interactions

For providers, a communication layer can deliver massive efficiency gains through automation. Routine communications like appointment reminders, pre-op instructions, discharge education, and chronic care check-ins can be automatically triggered based on patient events and data within the EHR. This intelligent automation allows providers to offload tedious manual outreach while ensuring patients remain engaged throughout their care journey. By automatically sending appointment reminders, prescription updates, post-discharge follow-up instructions, and more—all customized based on each patient’s unique health profile and preferences—providers can engender better engagement, improve adherence to care plans, and ultimately achieve better outcomes.

Importantly, this automation should extend beyond mere reminders; it can encompass a range of interactions such as health tips, wellness checks, and personalized health education content. By automating these aspects of patient communication, healthcare staff are relieved of routine tasks, enabling them to allocate more time and resources to critical care areas and complex patient needs. This strategic optimization of workflow not only improves patient outcomes but also enhances the overall efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare delivery.

Real-time Data for Proactive Care

Incorporating real-time conversational patient data into provider workflows alongside the EHR fosters more proactive care. This integration allows for an immediate, responsive approach to patient care—frontline providers can get instant access to relevant patient details at the point of care, giving them insight into patient preferences and histories. That means that clinicians can promptly identify and respond to patient needs based on ongoing and historical patient feedback.

Supporting Value-Based Care and Equity

A comprehensive patient communication layer is pivotal for transitioning to value-based care models. By automating personalized digital interactions across the care journey, providers can boost patient activation and adherence to care plans. The bidirectional data exchange allows care teams to monitor patient-reported outcomes and promptly intervene when needed. This proactive approach improves outcomes tied to quality metrics like readmission rates, care gaps closed, and patient satisfaction scores. Additionally, the communication layer’s ability to reach wider populations helps advance health equity, a core tenet of value-based care. With intelligent automation reducing busy work, staff can focus on complex needs instead of manual outreach, further optimizing for value over volume.

The Path Forward

The path forward for healthcare organizations is clear—modernize technology frameworks to align with the industry’s transformative shifts toward consumerism, value-based care, workforce challenges, and health equity. In the absence of innovation from EHR giants, the opportunity exists to take charge by strategically layering modern patient engagement solutions on top of current EHR investments.

Implementing a comprehensive communication layer with intelligent automation, and data integration unlocks a new era of consumer-focused, value-based healthcare delivery. The net result? More engaged patients, clinicians who can be more proactive, outcomes and efficiency that are improved, and healthcare organizations that are aligned around quality and health equity. Though change might require some effort, the long-term dividends far outweigh traditional operating models. Those embracing this innovative approach will ensure their technology optimally serves healthcare’s mission of exceptional patient care.

About Jake Pyles

Jake brings more than twenty-five years of financial and operations experience at various software companies to his role. In his position as Chief Executive Officer, he leads the development and execution of the strategic plan for CipherHealth in its quest to modernize patient care and engagement standards. Jake came on as the Chief Financial Officer (2018) and was soon promoted to Chief Operating Officer (2019) and then Chief Executive Officer (2020).

Prior to joining the company, Jake spent four years as CFO at Paradigm Geophysical, leading the company to its eventual sale to Emerson Electric. Previous to this, he was the CFO for Seismic Micro-Technology, where he managed the sale of the company to InfoMarkit. His background also includes ten years of experience at McAfee Security and BMC Software, where he served in several senior financial and operational roles. Jake holds a B.A. from Southern Methodist University and an M.B.A. from the University of Texas.


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