How to digitally engage with patients

Medical Economics Journal, Medical Economics November 2021, Volume 98, Issue 11

Now that patients have seen how technology can change their health care experience for the better, practices must adapt by using the latest tools or risk losing their patients to competitors.

Click here to access the full session video and slide deck (registration required).

Introduction:

Today’s patient is a true consumer of health care who expects convenience and efficiency. COVID-19 rapidly accelerated the expectations of patients, thanks to the proliferation of telehealth and the implementation of online tools. Now that patients have seen how technology can change their health care experience for the better, practices must adapt by using the latest tools or risk losing their patients to competitors. A patient survey showed 66% prefer a telehealth appointment over a traditional in-office visit. These same patients do not want to waste time in waiting rooms of filling out paper forms; they want the convenience of online notifications about scheduling and the availability of online forms to make their visit quick and easy. By looking at successful practices, it’s possible to determine a winning strategy that works with the modern consumer of health care.

Learning objectives:

How to engage patients digitally: secure texting, seamless payments and more.

How practices should market themselves.

How to compete with care models such as convenient care clinics.

Meet the panelists:

Norm Schrager Head of Content Strategy, PatientPop

Luke Kervin Entrepreneur,
Co-founder and Co-CEO, PatientPop

Engaging patients digitally is a practice’s best pathway to success

Patients are frustrated with the lack of consistency in how they connect with their physicians outside the exam room and don’t understand the best way to communicate with them. This can lead to breakdowns in care or to the patient seeking out a different doctor. The most successful practices find a way to engage with the patient at every opportunity, making it easier for them to do everything from scheduling an appointment to asking a question about their treatment.

“Health care is one of the last major industries to be transformed by technology,” says Luke Kervin, co-founder and co-CEO of PatientPop. While electronic health records are well known to practices, they are relatively invisible

To patients and provide none of the consumer-oriented conveniences patients want from their doctors.

Today’s patients want to schedule their own appointments online and have an open line of communication with the doctor’s office via text message or email. Practices that fail to provide these conveniences risk being left behind in health care’s competitive landscape.

“The patient experience has changed for good,” says Norm Schrager, head of content strategy, PatientPop. The pandemic and the resulting shutdowns forced practices to adopt new technology like telehealth at a rapid rate, and now that patients have seen something like telehealth improved their overall health care experience, there’s no going back. “By the end of 2020, two-thirds of patients said they would prefer a telehealth visit in the future. The positive patient experience rating was going up for telehealth the more people said they had virtual visits. I think this is a clear sign of the comfort that people have with any online or digital environment.”

Schrager says patients prefer self-service and practices need it for tasks like scheduling appointments. A bonus to practices is that patients who self-schedule are less likely to no-show, be late, or cancel and are also more likely to be engaged with their own health and their physician.

Preregistration intake forms need to be provided digitally and in advance. Automated appointment reminders need to be sent via text message or email, whatever the patient’s preference is. Practices need to set up an ongoing loop of activity and communication with each patient that starts the moment they land on your website and continues through every aspect of their care. Two-thirds of patients prefer text reminders, with another 15% opting for email. “This is an open book for patient retention, for follow-up visits. They are actually telling you, ‘Please send me a note when it’s time for me to book my next appointment,’ and they’re telling you how to send it to them,” says Kervin.

The technology benefits aren’t limited to existing patients. By adding online scheduling to its website, a practice can capture more business. According to PatientPop, when a patient lands on a website that offers online scheduling, 51% book online versus calling the practice, 66% of these appointments are with new patients and 36% of the time they are scheduled after hours when the practice is closed.

“If you use online scheduling, last-minute cancellations create open slots that become available immediately for other patients to schedule at the last minute,” says Kervin. As a result, no-show rates in the 15% range can drop to 4% to 5%.

Kervin adds that online scheduling has become a major differentiator among practices because 63% of patients are more likely to choose a provider who offers it over one who does not.

When you add a well-designed website that highlights a practice’s strengths and manage your online reputation by asking for feedback, you can not only get more digital exposure but also convert that traffic into a scheduled appointment.

By providing these technology conveniences, patients can be engaged in a way that helps them stay healthy and boosts a practice’s bottom line. “Just be consistent,” says Schrager. “Provide the patient a good, consistent experience that you know that they will respond to.”

Solutions and takeaways:

  • Optimize your website by focusing on services and relevant search terms.
  • Take advantage of online profiles by impressing patients via Google, Yelp and WebMD.
  • Offer multiple digital access points by capitalizing on texting and online functionality.
  • Ask patients for feedback and monitor patient responses and online reviews.
  • Send out text reminders and email campaigns that meet patient expectations and build long-term connections.

Click here to access the full session video and slide deck (registration required).