The COVID-19 pandemic forced patients and healthcare providers alike to accept new ways to stay in touch, communicate, and to ask and give advice – which, in turn, catalyzed adoption of digital tools.
Although patients might not have thought to request them, the vast majority appreciated the convenience of digital tools, with one survey finding that 90% of people who used digital health tools during the pandemic rated their experience as good. Another poll found that 77% of Americans have been very or completely satisfied with their virtual health visits.
A big part of the shift speaks to the meta-trend of the digitized customer experience. Today’s healthcare patients are used to ordering pizza through a website, checking their bank accounts with a native smartphone app, and interfacing with a touchscreen kiosk to pay for the bus. We receive personalized marketing, customized discounts, and even our massage therapists send us automated texts when it’s been a while since we’ve booked a session.
In this context, having to arrive at a clinic in person to receive blood test results seems ridiculously outdated.
“Consumers expect to engage and transact online,” says Jack Brock, Head of Healthcare Provider Practice at Cognizant. “They are used to frictionless, intelligent, and digitally enabled experiences, such as seeing recommendations based on purchase histories or securely moving funds on a mobile app. That’s the standard healthcare providers must match.”
It’s beyond time for healthcare to join the 21st century. Today, patients say they appreciate digital tools – but it won’t be long before they expect it and get irritated at providers who don’t embrace the tech. Some 60% said that using digital health tools increased their trust in healthcare providers, so those providers who stay ahead of the curve and use tech to maximize engagement will reap the benefits, while those who lag behind will feel the consequences.
If you’re still trying to get with the digital program, here are five ways that tech can help you supercharge your patient engagement.
1. Track patient needs
Digital healthcare platforms store each patient’s full records in the same place, including test results, hospital visits, allergy information, etc. so that healthcare providers can deliver care that is more relevant and more timely. Integrate all your data from different touchpoints and channels, so that the doctor carrying out an in-person or telehealth appointment, or triaging urgent care calls, has all the information they need to make the right medical decisions.
Digital records can be more secure than paper ones, which might be explored by any worker in the building — as long as you choose trustworthy platforms with a high level of security.
“Beyond the actual legal requirement to be HIPAA-compliant, today’s patients read about data breaches almost every day, so they’re hyper-aware of the risks,” says vcita CEO Itzik Levy. “That’s the real reason why no matter what healthcare business management platform you use, it needs to have HIPAA compliance baked in as part of its cybersecurity defenses. It simply gives the people you care for that extra peace of mind.”
2. Hassle-free scheduling
The hassle of booking a physical therapy appointment, finding a slot with your favorite pediatrician, or arranging a well checkup is one of the most frequent complaints among healthcare customers.
Ain’t nobody got time to call the medical center on the stroke of 8 a.m. to get one of the few emergency appointments available that day.
Online appointment scheduling, cancelling, and rescheduling removes the friction, saving patients from waiting for the phone to be answered or playing email ping pong to arrange a mutually convenient time.
3. Integrated reminders
Clinics can use digital, integrated reminders to send an email, push notification, or text message to remind patients that it’s been a year since their last pap scan, six months since they saw the hygienist, or that Tommy’s tetanus booster shot is due next week.
The entire process is automated, so you aren’t reliant on your own staff’s memory. Automated reminders help reduce no-shows and late arrivals, making life easier for your employees and your patients.
Everybody’s living busy lives, so it’s easy to forget an appointment that you made two months ago. Patients appreciate a polite reminder that appears on their screen or in their inbox.
4. Personalized content
It’s not just the tools, but what you do with them that counts. Use them to stay in touch with patients between appointments, build engagement, and create a personal relationship.
Send automated, personalized healthcare advice like keeping safe during a cold snap, caring for a baby during a heatwave, or alerts about Zika in your community. You can also share customized promotions like a discount intro offer, bundled therapy packages, and more.
“Companies need to invest people, time and money now to build on this momentum to expand and enhance the tools and platforms they use to communicate with and provide care for patients,” says Stuart Henderson, global life sciences lead for Accenture. “But technology is not enough, as companies must also continue to engage patients directly to deliver on expectations.”
5. Self-service portal
Patients want to be empowered to make their own decisions and direct their own healthcare. They can check their bank balance in the middle of the night, so why can’t they check their scan results too?
That’s why you need to offer a self-service portal for users to review test results, request repeat prescriptions, check on the progress of referrals, and more.
Self-serve also enables patients to access after-hours care through chatbots and widgets, so they can self-diagnose, decide on the urgency of their issue, and get advice about health situations such as wound care or dealing with a mild sore throat.
Better patient engagement begins with the right tools
Today’s patients are consumers as well as receivers of care. They are used to choice, and choose their provider according to the services you offer.
Tech advances like online scheduling and automated reminders, self-service portals for patients to manage their care, relevant and useful content, and an integrated platform that unites patient data across channels and touchpoints is the path to increasing patient engagement and retaining loyalty.