In the first of our two-part series on winning over patients, we focused on communication as a differentiating factor for healthcare practices to rise above the crowd in a competitive market. Not every practice employs an effective, proactive, patient-first communication strategy. Those that do stand out, answering patients’ questions — sometimes before they’re even asked — and staying top-of-mind as a top local healthcare provider.
Our next set of strategies address two aspects of practice management that satisfy and can win over patients, but also improve the workday at your office.
1. Develop your long-term telehealth strategy.
Since the pandemic began, telehealth adoption has skyrocketed. While skeptics think levels may taper off in a post-pandemic world, research conducted July 2020 already demonstrated that consumers expect (and will demand) expanded virtual care options to remain long after COVID-19. In that survey research of 1,945 people, 65 percent say they plan to use telehealth after the pandemic, and 78 percent felt COVID-19 shined a light on the need for more telehealth options.
PatientPop patient survey research confirms that desire. In December 2020, 80.5 of patients expressed satisfaction with telehealth visits. Nearly 83 percent said they were comfortable or very comfortable with virtual visits.
The payer world tends to agree with the need for expanded telehealth use, and continues moving toward reimbursement rules that integrate virtual visits into patient care. As of this writing, 43 states and the District of Columbia have established state telehealth payer regulations, with further expansion expected this year.
Making sure telehealth is an integral part of your practice growth strategy can help you differentiate your practice from those who only offered it as a stop-gap during local lockdowns in 2020. To hardwire telehealth into your practice, consider these strategies.
Practice strategy: Identify visit types (and patients) that telehealth would best serve.
Telehealth won’t replace the need for in-person care, but it can play a key role in improving care delivery and strengthening the patient-provider relationship. Virtual visits are ideal for follow-up appointments and short check-ins, for patients who lack transportation, or for those with physical or health problems that make in-person visits challenging. Evaluate your visit types and determine where telehealth appointments make the most sense. Then, be sure to offer virtual visit options throughout your schedule, including your online scheduling.
Practice strategy: Conduct an analysis of telehealth benefits for your practice.
Because virtual care typically involves a shorter patient workflow and quicker visit times, and helps reduce no-show rates, the benefits can really add up for practices of all sizes. Evaluate the potential impact these benefits may have on your practice, including cost savings, and staff and provider satisfaction.
In many cases, the business demands and regulatory allowances brought about by the pandemic made it possible for practices to quickly overcome many telehealth adoption challenges. This includes getting providers, staff, and patients on board, learning the telehealth billing ropes, and refining the virtual care workflow. This rapid adoption should make it easier for forward-thinking practices to know what’s worked, and reap the numerous benefits that could come with expanding telehealth offerings in the future.
Practice strategy: Promote your virtual offerings.
Once you’ve got your telehealth strategy set, shout it from the rooftops. With patients clamoring for more telehealth options, increasing visibility for your offerings can help your practice stand out with patients who prefer virtual care when it’s appropriate.
Promote your telehealth offerings on your practice website homepage. Add a separate telehealth page to your website if you want to discuss it in depth — also a great way to increase your chances of top search result rankings. Include a special virtual care link to your site within your Google business profile (similar to the one for COVID-19 information), and consider an email or text message campaign to let current patients know all the ways they can utilize telehealth.
You can also increase awareness and adoption by way of In-office signage, point-of-service materials, and ensuring your practice staff is letting patients know about your telehealth services and approach to virtual care.
2. Focus on patient convenience.
In our world of online consumerism, we all know convenience is king. But did you know that nearly 70 percent of patients say they would switch doctors for convenience or a better experience? Putting convenience first can help drive practice growth and demonstrate your commitment to patient satisfaction.
Strategy: Consider expanding your hours.
Life is busy, and many patients don’t operate on a 9-to-5 schedule. Consider adding evening or early morning hours during the week. If the market demand is there, evaluate whether weekend hours might make it easier for your patients to connect with you. Not only can this increase your overall appointment volume, it can play a significant role in satisfying patients.
Strategy: Modernize the patient experience.
Offer the simple conveniences patients are used to in other areas of their lives, like online scheduling or text message reminders. Consumer research tells us these small changes can have a significant impact on prospective patients when choosing a provider or, again, in enhancing existing patient satisfaction. In fact, 68 percent of patients say they’re more likely to choose a healthcare provider that offers the ability to book, change or cancel appointments online. Likewise, two-thirds of patients told PatientPop research they prefer text messaging as their primary communication channel with providers for appointment information.
Finally, trade in those clipboards for digital registration. Not only will you save time for your patients and front-desk staff, but you can also reduce manual processes and improve staff satisfaction.