Top tech trends to watch in 2017
“Technology that incorporates patient engagement enhances patient’s desire to work towards a health goal.” Photo: Shutterstock
More than ever, the success of an organization depends on its ability to prepare for change and predict which trends will make a major impact. The chiropractic industry is no different.
Forecasting and anticipating change is a complex task that takes the combination of different views drawn together in the right way at the right time. More and more patients are taking a proactive approach to managing their health care, through utilizing apps designed to modify personal health habits. Some 58 per cent of smartphone users have downloaded a health-related app, according to a 2015 NYU Langone Medical Center study of 1,604 U.S. smartphone owners.
Patients are demanding an interactive experience for their health care needs, and health care practitioners are requiring more flexibility to provide service to their patients. These expectations are putting pressure on the chiropractic industry to evolve to meet the market demand.
Technology is constantly changing the way we practice. Here are four emerging trends to watch in 2017.
Front desk automation
Office automation is changing the way chiropractors practice. New chiropractors are foregoing the traditional chiropractic practice model and, instead, opting for a flexible design that may or may not include an assistant. No assistant? No problem.
Offices without a chiropractic assistant are opting to utilize front desk automation technology with such features as digital check-in and collection of subjective information on the screen by the patient.
Payment automation is made easy with payment and billing automation that includes automatic billing, insurance explanation of benefits, and payment plans.
Scheduling appointments directly from the adjustment room encourages patients to remain committed to their treatment plan.
Larger practices with full or part-time assistants use front desk automation tools to free their time to focus on patient experience and education. Saving four to six minutes per patient adds up to the bottom line. The extra time frees up staff to update the clinic's social media accounts, plan community events and marketing strategies.
Despite some industry concerns, front desk automation has created an inclusive proactive environment for patients.
Giving patients the ability to update health status directly into their patient record is long overdue. Engaged patients are empowered patients and more likely to have better health outcomes and care experiences.
The digital marketing revolution has created opportunities for practitioners to provide a level of care outside of the office. In an increasingly connected digital world, chiropractors potentially reach millions of people and prospective patients online through podcasts, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. Lifestyle marketing is here to stay, and the next level includes providing patients with quality products from your online store.
Current treatment care may include recommending or making available products designed to improve the quality of patient health. The in-office store is limited to practice hours, staff expertise, access to quality vendors and dismal competitive pricing. Providing your patients with in-house access to quality products takes hours of research, staff time ordering inventory, and overhead cost that most practitioners simply can't afford.
Seventy-five per cent of consumers have a smartphone, and a majority of them research and/or shop online using their mobile devices. Patients place a lot of trust into their health-care provider's recommendation - from researching products to buying online at the right price. If you don't provide the product at the right price, they may go elsewhere.
Enter the rise of the turnkey e-commerce website. Early adopters of online storefronts set up and maintained websites that demanded a large investment of time and money. Practitioners found that retail shelf space was hard to justify - keeping inventory in stock is expensive, setting up and maintaining a website using a multitude of drop shippers is costly and complicated, technology is changing rapidly and return on investment isn't guaranteed.
E-commerce solutions have evolved with market demand. Tasks that can be outsourced today include full catalog management, relationships with single drop-ship partners, SEO services, blog posts, email marketing and social media interactions with customers, as well as fully managed e-commerce services.
The cost of fully managed e-commerce services is more affordable than ever, with some forward thinking e-retailers offering a complete solution with no upfront cost, no long-term commitment, and a low monthly cost.
With such attractive options, it's no surprise that more doctors are setting up shop online, and 2017 may be a pivotal year for e-commerce integration.
New integrative tools are changing the way we treat patients. The days of using an x-ray to prove the need for care are long gone. Scanning technology with the ability to measure spinal neural function and consolidate the "big three" (sEMG, thermal and HRV) or all five tests (adding the wROM and algometry) into a single, overall impression, allows chiropractors to make more accurate care recommendations with better clarity regarding patient outcomes.
The latest neural functional innovation links today's most important spinal-nerve analysis with simplified reporting designed to include patient experience. Technology that incorporates patient engagement through gamification enhances a patient's desire to work towards a health goal, which will in turn increase patient retention. Patients and chiropractors alike have long needed a single, tangible goal for ongoing chiropractic services, and this groundbreaking technology may provide the answer.
How did the creators of the original Star Trek series accurately predict almost all the technology we'd be using 40 years later?
The market is inundated with wearable apps designed to help people lose weight, record our heart rate, measure movement or correct posture. Wearable technology is still in its early stages and some experts have noted that wearables have, for the most part, been utilized by tech aficionados and athletes who marvel in tracking personal health data.
The market experienced a problem with many technology companies focused on rushing to market before meeting HIPAA (Health Information Portability and Accountability Act) and other regulatory approvals, or neglecting to provide practitioners with actionable feedback on how to integrate wearable data into treatment plans. It created market uncertainty resulting in many gadgets being put away after the novelty wore out.
Some chiropractors, however, are discovering ways to integrate posture wearables into treatment plans. Recent studies have shown that with coaching, patients using wearable tech self-correct posture issues and create new movement patterns. Data derived from a wearable device potentially offer the health-care practitioner a powerful tool and insight to provide a new level of preventative care beyond traditional treatment. The year 2017 may see further wearable integration into preventative care and beyond.
Engaging consumers through new technology will yield sales, patient retention and loyalty. Remaining open to adopting new technology gives us the opportunity to better serve our patients. B.J. Palmer said it best: "We never know how far reaching something we may think, say or do today will affect the lives of millions tomorrow."
Dr. Stephane Laverdiere, DC, is a 1995 graduate of National College of Chiropractic. He opened and managed three successful practices. He is co-founder of Atlas Chiropractic System, an innovative world-class paperless office system. He enjoys pioneering the features that will be used by chiropractors worldwide. He lives in Ontario, and is interested in organic sustainable living and everything it entails.
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