By Noel Felipe, revenue cycle practice leader, Firstsource.
The pandemic has created a sense of urgency around improving patient engagement. Consumers accustomed to Amazon-like retail experiences are now embracing digital across personal transactions, including healthcare. Telehealth and remote monitoring have gained rapid traction, especially for non-emergent conditions and follow-up. At the same time, outpatient visits are rapidly outpacing inpatient. Together, these two trends are resulting in patients spending very little time at hospitals receiving care and paying bills.
With more care delivered through outpatient and virtual settings, healthcare leaders are asking: how do we effectively engage patients to optimize the patient financial experience and enhance recovery?
The answer lies in understanding shifting consumer expectations and designing a patient engagement solution that best fits their evolving needs.
What do modern consumers expect?
As robo calls continue to rise, Americans are using their smartphones to screen calls, making it harder for providers to connect with patients after service. Studies show that the chance of collecting goes down by 58% once patients leave the facility, as they are less motivated to pay once the services have been rendered. This means providers must begin the patient engagement process early in the revenue cycle at the pre-service stage and maintain high levels of engagement during and after service to improve their net revenue.
The good news is consumers increasingly prefer digital channels of communication that offer the flexibility to engage with providers outside traditional business hours and in the privacy of their homes. They also want to get things done quickly and easily. Whether they are shopping for a provider or checking their health insurance coverage, they want to get the information they need, when they need it – and they are willing to use self-service to achieve this.
Primarily, hospitals are used to guiding and supporting patients by making personal phone calls, sending letters or text messaging. However, many hospitals report that reaching patients, especially the patients at working age, can be difficult as patients are hesitant to pick up unknown numbers or are occupied during the regular hospital working hours.
Also, when posting letters, hospitals won’t get notified if a patient has actually received, opened, and understood the content.
However, it’s now 2020 and things are starting to change. An increasing number of patients use smartphones and the internet several times a day. As a matter of fact, Statista, has reported that the smartphone penetration rate in the United States has continuously risen over the past ten to fifteen years to more than 80% today.
Patients are looking for more and more medical information online and they are willing to participate more in their own care than in the past. Patients also want transparency of their care processes. Telemedicine and digital patient engagement platforms not only offer improvement to a patient’s communication but it also enables vast opportunities for hospitals to streamline care processes, interact with patients remotely, and automate care coordination or data collection.
Digital patient engagement enables automated care processes
Digital patient engagement has already increased the reach and type of interactions patients and nurses have with their patients now, but it will be even more prominent in the future. Hospitals can use, for example, mobile telemedicine applications, portals, care coordination or patient engagement software, video meeting software, or remote patient monitoring tools to connect with patients. New technological tools can offer transparent care pathways to patients and help hospitals and clinics engage, educate, and collect data from the patients.
Automated education keeps patients on track
With digital tools and platforms, patients can be educated and supported through mobile phones, tablets, and computers. Patients can access and read care-related information or instructions and submit forms or questionnaires when it is most convenient to them. Care teams can also determine when they want patients with specific procedures or treatments to receive education and task reminders, and digital tools will send the information automatically at the most optimal time.