Hybrid approach to patient communications attracts new customers

May 31, 2019

What patients want is a single and rewarding patient experience across all touchpoints, which can be best achieved by following these hybrid communication best practices. 

Today’s tech-savvy patients are using digital channels to seek health information and services, but human interaction still remains an essential element of the customer experience. The challenge for healthcare organizations is striking the right balance between technology and the human touch.

While traditional telephone services will remain a preferred contact method for some individuals, they often hinder an organization’s ability to provide high-quality service. Unpredictable spikes in patient call volumes make staffing and scaling call centers financially inefficient much of the time. And patients are quickly confused and agitated when they must navigate layers of menus and choices, only to reach a human who doesn’t have access to the information they need. To further complicate matters, America’s increasing diversity requires more multilingual expertise in call centers.  

In the end, what patients want is a single and rewarding patient experience across all touchpoints, which can be best achieved with effective hybrid communication. To achieve maximum revenue growth and reduce patient churn, consider these best practices: 

Send strategic communications

While patients want to be communicated with on their terms, they also want meaningful and customized communication. Research from Salesforce found that 52 percent of consumers said they are more likely to switch brands if a company doesn’t make an effort to personalize communications to them. 

This is where the human component comes into play, even if the delivered communication is in digital form. Each appointment type should have its own messaging that is specific to preparation, including what to bring and when to arrive. Providing confirmation or rescheduling options within a customized appointment reminder makes the communication interactive, more valuable to the patient, and can reduce no-show rates by up to 80 percent. 

Connecting with patients through multiple channels of communication (email, voice, text, etc.) will result in measurable, positive change in patient behavior, improving appointment reliability, patient loyalty, and more revenue growth. Providing choices is a key virtue in consumerism, allowing the patient to interact in the channel that is easier for them will result in more interactions, and greater long-term loyalty. Allowing them to switch between channels on demand when the situation changes enhances the experience even further. For example, if a patient trying to schedule an appointment online can’t find a date early enough, giving her an option to instantly talk with a human agent to meet her needs keeps her happy and loyal. 

Today’s patients want more involvement and knowledge about their health. One in six use wearables and health apps to track everyday health, for instance. While this is a positive trend, wearables and apps are missing a key component-they don’t encourage patients to schedule appointments and visit their doctor. 

Going beyond standard automated appointment reminders not only improves patient behavior and satisfaction, it can help grow revenue significantly. Patients crave a personal healthcare experience. Using a patient engagement solution can help achieve this with a diversity of communications, such as: 

  • Follow-up communication – patients retain just 20-60 percent of information shared with them during an appointment. Sending text or email with relevant follow-up information increases patient satisfaction and decreases readmissions. 

  • Program promotion – Providers who hold health-related workshops or encourage patients to come in for flu shots can better meet their program goals by sending messages to patients about these initiatives. 

  • Message broadcast – Closing a facility due to weather or when a doctor needs to reschedule will frustrate both patients and staff. A message broadcast system solves this problem by giving providers the ability to notify all patients en masse via email, voice, or text with a single button push. 

  • Billing reminders – Patient no-shows cost the healthcare industry $150 billion annually on average. Appointment reminders help get them in the door, but many patients have unpaid bills or outstanding balances once they leave the office. Sending gentle billing reminders via email, voice, and, text helps keep patients up to date on their payments. 

Engage through multiple channels

The best way to reach people is where they spend most of their time, which for most patients today are on their phones, tablets and computers. We have found that sending a text message-based appointment reminder reduces no-show rates to less than 10 percent. A recent survey from Doctors.com found that 45 percent of patients prefer using online tools to book their appointments and 71 percent of patients said they prefer digital appointment reminders via text message or email, as opposed to receiving a phone call reminder.

Patients expect to be communicated with where they are at any given moment, which often means their smart phone. Digital advances have led patients to seek more convenience in the forms of receiving text messages, email reminders, appointment reminders, physician referrals, and other self-services through digital devices. 

For example, if you’re engaging with a millennial patient, research reveals that millennials overwhelmingly prefer text messages above emails and phone calls. 

The most efficient way to get patients into the office is to engage with them often and empower them with information on when to come in. It’s why appointment reminders are necessary. But what about communicating to patients about other actions, like when to schedule a preventative care appointment?

An effective patient engagement solution eliminates costly manual efforts by integrating with EHR and Practice Management Systems. It enables providers to communicate with patients at the opportune times, ensuring they know when they are due for preventative care appointments. Integration also ensures that the information presented to the patient is directly from the source of truth, and therefore as accurate as possible. This proactivity reduces readmissions and increases a provider’s daily number of appointments. 

Blending digital tools with the human touch is the best way to implement a patient engagement strategy that creates loyalty and generates revenue growth. The hybrid approach connects with patients where it’s convenient for them, while customization empowers them with the all the information they need to stay continually and positively engaged with their provider.  

Sarah Bennight, Marketing Strategist, Healthcare, Stericycle Communication Solutions, and her team handle all product marketing and client marketing functions across all target market and segments. Sarah places a large emphasis on improving the patient experience through Health IT and driving a greater understanding of all things related to HIT throughout the organization via internal communications, newsletters, organized training, and social media. 

 

 

 

 

x