What’s the secret to keeping patients engaged with your healthcare clinic and practice and coming back for future treatment? Heading into 2020, the answer to successful patient engagement is simple:
According to a survey by NRC Health’s Market Insights, more than half (51%) of patients say convenience and access to care are the most important factors they consider when choosing a healthcare provider. That places convenience ahead of insurance coverage (46%), doctor and nurse conduct (44%), brand reputation (40%), and quality of care (35%).
And what does convenience look like for patients? It involves things like:
- Fast treatment (e.g., low wait times).
- Flexible treatment hours (e.g., after-hours care).
- Easy access to their healthcare information (e.g., electronic health records).
- The ability to be treated by a doctor without having to come into their office or clinic (e.g., telemedicine).
But one critical aspect of convenience in healthcare cannot be overlooked is…
Convenient patient communication.
Healthcare providers today need to realize that the modern-day patient is digitally driven. Consider the fact that the average American spends over 6.5 hours a day, with the majority of that time being spent on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Furthermore, Americans check their phones 80 times a day.
So, what does this mean for healthcare providers?
It means healthcare providers rethink the way they’re communicating with patients. They need to find ways to reach out to patients using the channels they most prefer–which, for many patients, are text or email.
When physicians and other healthcare providers use a variety of methods and channels for reaching out to their patients, they not only provide a higher level of convenience and smoother patient experience, but they also set up their clinics and practices for greater success.
That’s because by being on the digital platforms patients prefer, healthcare providers are able to stay visible and top-of-mind to their patients–keeping them aware of and engaged with the healthcare clinic or practice, which helps to keep patients coming back for care in the future.
As a result, healthcare providers who want to boost their patient engagement and retention rates should consider using automated communications that allow them to share the following with patients via email and SMS messaging:
- Appointment reminders and confirmation requests that help reduce no-shows.
- Coupons and promotions that keep patients interested in scheduling future appointments.
- Personalized messages that help the patient feel a closer connection with the clinic or practice.
- Digital newsletters that provide patients with important announcements and information to help them better manage their health.
Physicians and healthcare organizations that effectively leverage these forms of automated patient outreach are able to benefit in the following four ways:
Every time a patient misses an appointment, it typically costs a physician an average of $200–and looking at the impact on the industry as a whole, appointment no-shows cost the U.S. healthcare system more than $150 billion a year.
Automated appointment reminders and confirmation requests help to fill this gap. Research shows that sending patients appointment reminders can reduce no-shows by a whopping 80%. Therefore, by being proactive and reminding patients about scheduled appointments, healthcare providers have significant potential to maximize their revenue and increase patient engagement.
While many medical offices and clinics already engage in the practice of calling patients to remind them of their appointments, the reality is that this is no longer good enough to meet the demands of today’s digitally-savvy patients.
With the increased use of the Internet and mobile devices, more and more patients today now prefer to be contacted via text or email rather than just by phone (especially Millennials and members of Generation Z)–and they expect their healthcare providers to accommodate to those preferences.
As a result, automated appointment reminders sent to patients’ digital devices are an incredibly powerful tactic for keeping the attention of patients and bringing them through the door more consistently, which helps to maximize revenue.
In addition to securing and adding revenue to a healthcare provider, automated patient outreach solutions can save time and workflow efficiency for a clinic’s or practice’s office staff–which ultimately results in reduced costs.
Calling patients takes a considerable amount of time. As a result, when some of those communications are moved to a platform that automatically pushes out appointment reminders, appointment confirmations, and patient updates, medical professionals and their support personnel have more time in their day to focus on other important tasks, such as engaging with patients face-to-face.
This gives healthcare providers the ability to ensure they’ve delivered an excellent experience that leaves the right impression and builds stronger patient relationships. It also allows them to better utilize their existing staff and avoid making unnecessary hires for tasks that can be handled through technological automation.
When it comes to patient communications, every single touchpoint is an opportunity to promote the healthcare clinic, practice, or organization. Even when someone is an existing patient, they always have the ability to go elsewhere for care. Therefore, it’s important for healthcare providers to keep their brand name, image, and message in front of their patients, which is critical for any healthcare provider’s marketing efforts.
The more familiar and engaged a patient is with a healthcare provider and their brand, the more likely they are to continue their relationship with that provider–which leads to the next benefit of automated patient outreach.
Increased patient loyalty and engagement
Patients today hold the healthcare industry to a higher standard. They don’t just want doctors and clinicians who see them for 30 minutes and then send them on their way–they want healthcare providers who are more involved in helping them manage their health.
That’s why they value healthcare providers who are active in educating them about best practices for healthier living, whether that’s tips about how to avoid getting the flu or information about the latest treatments available for people with certain conditions.
Automated patient outreach makes it easier for healthcare providers to share this type of information with patients, which helps both the patient and the healthcare provider (allowing them to build more brand awareness and patient trust).