First Impressions and Your EMR: The Hidden Danger to Patient Loyalty

By Steven Huddleston, CEO

By Steven Huddleston, CEO

You finished a grueling evaluation to select your new EMR. It’s a multi-million-dollar investment that will take a few years to get optimized. It impacts everyone in the organization. It’s the right long-term investment, but the technology is an instrument of change…change in results, change in behavior, change in thinking.

In fact, the depth of change to your healthcare operation is daunting. It’s daunting because it’s so deep that the work inherently creates a mindset and a behavior that intensifies the demands of focusing inwardly. No doubt you can relate to this story. Perhaps you have weathered the initial blows of go-live and are working to optimize. Maybe you are in the throws of implementation or perhaps evaluation. As a former healthcare CFO, I can relate.

At any stage of your EMR lifecycle, this inward focus often creates the unintended, yet still negative consequences to the culture of your people, to your cash, and to your operational effectiveness. While these consequences are relatively short term in nature, one unintended consequence is not short term. And it’s the one, non-clinical thing that impacts you the most…

…the negative impact on patient loyalty.

Patient loyalty begins at first impression, at the point of patient access. Remember when you were in school? You worked hard to get an A. But how much harder was it to keep an A? One slip and the grade slips. Getting it back is considerably harder than earning it. Patient loyalty works the same way. You may have earned it, but keeping it gets harder with a slip.

If you’ve been following this series on first impressions, you know about the value of viewing your organization from the outside in. But because the EMR is purpose-designed from the inside out, we all reach the inevitable flash point. The instrument of change (EMR) forces us inward out when we need to be outward in.

What’s the rub? Is that really the hidden danger? The danger that the EMR can threaten patient loyalty? In part, yes. So…don’t do the EMR? We know it’s a wise investment for many reasons…some of which will eventually lead to greater operational efficiency. And yes, long term, that efficiency will make the provision of healthcare for the community easier and better. But at what cost to patient loyalty in the years it takes to optimize it?

That leads us to the hidden danger that lies another layer below…choosing the right purpose-designed technology for working outside-in. EMRs do not represent outside-in (patient-first) technology. Yet, because of the sheer size and depth of the investment, the little things get swallowed up in this inward-out focus. Like the tip of a spear, some little things are responsible for great impact. Such is the case with patient access technology. Patient access technology too often gets lost in the shuffle of big EMR work. It’s often treated as an afterthought, relegated to a checkbox on an EMR decision sheet.

The right patient access technology is purpose-designed to prioritize an excellent patient experience, which inversely creates a positive effect on the designed experience for the healthcare providers delivering that patient experience. And it’s truly low hanging fruit by comparison to an EMR effort of any kind. The right Patient Access technology is low-medium effort with high positive impact for both patient loyalty and increased cash. And it’s one of the reasons I’m where I am now…leading a team of colleagues and clients who know this to be true.

So what’s the moral of the story?

Don’t relegate your Patient Access decision, and more importantly, patient loyalty and cash to a checkbox on a sheet of paper. Make time to invest in patient access technology that supports the best of first impressions.

What challenges do you face in creating loyalty? What things have worked for your organization in making quality first impressions during scheduling, pre-registration and financial clearance? Share in the comments or feel free to email me at If you found value in this post, share it with your peers! 

In the meantime, stay tuned for the next series on optimizing the Patient Access experience with your Epic EMR.