It’s no secret that healthcare is changing rapidly. New technology, payment models, and shifting government regulations can be hard to keep straight. At the center of all this change remains the relationship between a doctor and a patient — but even that is changing.
A 2016 study of nearly 1,800 people that examined what patients want most from their healthcare experience found that 75% of patients want a more personalized relationship with their providers, and 60% of patients want more affordable and transparent pricing. The study also revealed that convenience and digital tools were major patient priorities. These things help empower patients so they can be active participants in their own healthcare.
These desires can’t just be chalked up to those darn Millennials, either, as the study was a representation of the U.S. demographics as a whole. The need, therefore, to understand and react to these changing priorities and need for patient empowerment is crucial for any healthcare practice looking for continued patient acquisition and success.
Here are four strategies healthcare practices can use to meet changing patient desires, empower them to take a more active role in their own care (a crucial capability for succeeding under value-based contracts), and increase their patient retention.
A website that is easy to find through search is the foundation for any practice to constantly engage and empower patients. At this point it’s basically table stakes for any practice looking to take things to the next level. It’s a place to build trust with and empower patients outside the exam room through a patient portal, resource libraries, and more.
The web is the place where you can constantly engage your patients to take their health more seriously. Do that, and you can be assured that your patients will begin to feel that sense of a more personalized relationship develop, which can lead to higher patient retention.
When a patient wants help, they want it as soon as possible. The best way to empower patients to care about their health as a provider is to meet them where they are. That might be with $40 telemedicine calls or secure text messaging exchanges; it definitely means offering online scheduling and same-day appointments; and it means figuring out ways to reduce waiting room times and other sources of friction by automating routine office tasks.
If a patient can’t get answers from a provider, chances are good they will turn to a Google search or not bother with their medical concern at all in the hopes that it will go away on its own. But patient empowerment doesn’t have to be a setback for providers. Convenience is what practices strive for to break down the barriers of indifference — leading to patient acquisition and long-term patient retention.
Patient empowerment doesn’t start and stop in the exam room. Because plenty of patients are comfortable turning to online searches to self-diagnose their symptoms, it’s never been more important for providers to create clear and achievable action plans, broken down into simple, measurable steps.
It’s also important for doctors to share their medical knowledge with patients through the patient portal, via a website blog, through a weekly newsletter, or some other avenue. Giving patients the right information helps them to develop the confidence that they can overcome any health issue, no matter how complex or debilitating. Even better when you follow-up with an automated survey to get feedback from them on the information and care plans.
Patients aren’t a homogeneous group: Some are healthy, others are not, and most somewhere in between depending on age and other social determinants. But regardless of health situation, once a person starts measuring data unique to them like blood sugar levels or body fat percentage, they are empowered to make necessary changes to monitor and improve those metrics. It gives them a digestible way to care about their health and achieve small wins that add up to huge changes over time.
Being successful in a fully consumerized healthcare marketplace will require providers to fundamentally change the way they do business. Regardless of the reimbursement model, building patient empowerment and providing overall value to patients — not just care in short in-office increments — will be one of the surest and safest ways to crush patient acquisition and patient retention.
For more ideas on how to empower patients, check out the blog “How Healthcare Providers Can Connect with Patients Out of the Office.”
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