Imagine you want a haircut or need an oil change, but have to wait weeks for an appointment. Worse, you also have to play phone tag for a couple days before talking with someone who can schedule you. If this were the case, chances are you’d go find another barber or mechanic.
Yet, this is often the experience patients face today. A lack of access and an enormous lack of convenience. Today’s consumers don’t have the time or patience to wait for much of anything — including interactions with their healthcare providers.
Healthcare practices not only have to make a great first impression within this consumerist landscape, but also need to consider the entire patient experience outside the exam room. That means meeting patient expectations, streamlining communication, and driving patient loyalty. From start to finish, this all requires offering digital tools and interactions to keep patients satisfied and coming back.
Patients share their top digital preferences
In the PatientPop third annual patient perspective survey, we asked patients which digital interactions they preferred for greater convenience. Here’s what they told us about specific exchanges across the patient experience.
Online scheduling: In our research, more than 60 percent of patients said they prefer online scheduling from their healthcare providers. According to a 2019 report, only half of patients who call for an appointment are able to book over the phone on the first try. Practices that don’t offer this highly in-demand scheduling option risk losing patients who prioritize convenience.
Digital paperwork, registration, and intake forms: If your practice is still using a clipboard for each patient check-in, it’s time to stop. First, 62.4 percent of patients said they want to fill out registration and forms online, on their time. Second, one of the top reasons patients leave a healthcare practice is due to long wait times — and needing to rifle through pages of forms upon check-in can sure make the experience feel long.
Finally, practices that ask patients to complete their paperwork digitally prior to their appointment are better able to streamline their office workflows, with less paper to manage, and less change of data error.
Access to electronic medical records: Today’s patients prefer to take control of their own health. It’s imperative that practices offer a way for patients to do so by seeing and accessing their own charts, often through a patient portal. This allows patients to see their health history, previous appointments, and medications, which can inspire greater patient engagement and better outcomes.
Asking questions of their healthcare provider: When we asked patients what they want most from their doctors, nearly 70 percent said they want “a good listener.” At the same time, just over half told us they prefer a Q&A with their healthcare provider to take place digitally. This is the perfect example of that demand for focus and attention within the exam room combined with an ease of communication afterward. By streamlining patient communication through email, text messaging, and even telehealth, practices not only serve patient demand, but make it easy for their providers to listen to and answer patients’ questions in a timely manner.
Online bill pay: In 2021, there are few instances in which people cannot pay a bill online. Even years ago, this was in the works: the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta said consumers paid more than 40 percent of their bills online in 2018. Yet, patients encounter far too many practices that aren’t following this trend. Offering online bill pay to patients presents them with an added convenience while helping healthcare practices improve self-pay performance, a metric that impacts the overall revenue cycle.
Text messaging: The most in-demand communication method
Our PatientPop survey data also provides insight into which communications channels patients most prefer. At the top of the list is text messaging, which was the clear choice over other methods such as email, phone, patient portal, and snail mail. In fact, 66 percent of patients prefer text message reminders for an upcoming appointment; 59 percent prefer a text message to remind them to book their next appointment. Even when asking a question to their healthcare practice or provider, 1 in 4 patients prefer the immediacy and accessibility of text messaging.
By using the right text messaging platform, healthcare practices can improve patient satisfaction and reduce appointment no-shows — all while maintaining communication in one central location, making for an easier and enhanced workflow.
When using text messaging, it’s important to stay on top of HIPAA compliance rules and be aware of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act — both are designed to protect patients and consumers. These regulations set forth important guidelines that restrict how and when text messaging can be used.
PatientPop has a clear understanding of these considerations and can help practices navigate how to safely integrate text messaging into any practice or medical group’s communications arsenal.
The key to satisfaction: Match patient preferences with communications outreach
It’s important to ask patients which communications channels they prefer, and to tailor your outreach based on patient preference whenever possible. The more tools you have in your communications toolbox, the better chance you’ll have of meeting your patients’ unique needs.
Patient survey: Tracking patient behavior, preferences, and habits in healthcare in 2021
Best practices when using text messages for patient care reminders