Vice President of Marketing, TeleVox Solutions, West Corporation, Mobile, AL
Using Technology-Enabled Communications to Drive Better Healthcare Experiences
Satisfying patients can sometimes seem like one of the most difficult aspects of patient care. Medical training teaches providers how to treat patients’ ailments, but learning the science behind patient satisfaction can be challenging. Oftentimes, healthcare teams are unclear on what specifically drives satisfaction. As the financial impact of patient experience increases due to the convergence of consumerization and value-based payment programs, providers and healthcare organizations need to explore new ways of measuring and improving satisfaction.
The Financial Side of Satisfaction
Business-savvy healthcare providers and organizations are recognizing that the financial health of their organization depends on satisfaction, particularly now that patients are demanding better healthcare experiences. The West report, Prioritizing the Patient Experience, shares survey findings that suggest healthcare consumer trends are being impacted by patients’ feelings about satisfaction. For example, according to West’s research:
- 94 percent of patients say it is important to feel satisfied with their healthcare provider.
- 91 percent of patients are likely to investigate other options if they are not completely satisfied with their current healthcare provider.
- 88 percent of patients would actually switch providers if dissatisfied.
- 94 percent of providers say they have noticed patients are shopping around more today than in the past for healthcare services.
Ultimately, for the majority of adults in the U.S., being satisfied with their provider is so crucial that most would diligently research and seek treatment elsewhere if their current healthcare team was not meeting their expectations. On top of that, evolving payment models are now tying patient satisfaction to reimbursements. Therefore, providers will need to focus on satisfaction in order to optimize payments and maintain and increase revenue.
Satisfaction Drivers Providers Should Know
Depending on who you ask, the factors that impact satisfaction are different. For example, when patients were asked what healthcare providers can do to improve satisfaction, the most common responses given were:
- Shorten wait times (50 percent)
- Provide advance knowledge of care costs (49 percent)
- Ensure patients do not feel rushed during appointments (47 percent)
- Demonstrate a high level of expertise in treating their specific illness (44 percent)
- Make it easier to schedule appointments (41 percent)
However, when healthcare providers were asked what steps they are taking to improve satisfaction, their responses showed some misalignment with what patients desire. Only two of the top five efforts providers are prioritizing directly address patients’ wishes. According to healthcare providers, the top activities they are prioritizing as they attempt to improve satisfaction are:
- Ensuring staff is friendly and accommodating (73 percent)
- Making it easier to schedule appointments (68 percent)
- Keeping patient wait times short (62 percent)
- Improving communication with patients (54 percent)
- Providing a clean and modern facility (48 percent)
This shows that there is a disconnect between what patients want most and where providers are focusing their efforts. In order for healthcare teams to improve satisfaction, they need to better understand what actually drives satisfaction in the first place. Then, once providers are clear on what patients want out of their healthcare experiences, medical teams can explore options for making improvements.
Technology-Enabled Communications: A Patient Satisfaction Secret Weapon
Making real improvements to deliver more satisfying healthcare experiences is not difficult once you know where to focus. In fact, most healthcare providers and organizations have a tool at their disposal that will enable them to deliver a variety of technology-enabled engagement communications that will effectively boost patient satisfaction. That tool is their appointment reminder technology.
At first glance, the appointment reminder medical teams already use to send patient reminder notifications prior to appointments might not seem like a secret weapon in the patient satisfaction game. However, when you consider some of the different capabilities this technology offers, it becomes obvious that there are many benefits to taking advantage of this tool that is already in use in a majority of hospitals and clinics.
Here are a few of the ways healthcare providers can leverage their existing appointment reminder system to deliver technology-enabled engagement communications that improve patient experiences in the areas that matter most to patients.
Shorter Wait Times
Healthcare teams can send patients messages when providers are running behind to reduce the amount of time patients spend waiting in the office. Just as airlines use text messages and emails to notify customers when flights are delayed, staff can utilize appointment reminder technology to send messages to patients when a doctor is delayed.
Advance Knowledge of Costs
The cost of healthcare can be a huge burden for patients, especially when patients are not anticipating having to cover medical expenses. By sending automated pre-appointment messages to alert patients of potential copay obligations, healthcare teams can help eliminate surprise costs and frustrations so that appointments don’t begin on a negative note.
Patients want to know they are valued and they also want the limited time they have with their doctor to be meaningful. Providers can use appointment reminder technology to send messages that encourage patients to be prompt so they won’t miss out on time with their provider. These same messages can also let patients know that they are welcome to ask questions throughout the appointment. Pre-appointment communications like this can be used to set expectations and let patients know their doctor cares about making each appointment productive.
Sending patients between-visit communications, like newsletters or relevant health management resources, demonstrates that providers are engaged and committed to providing ongoing support. A text message with a link to a video on the preventive benefits of a balanced diet, or an email with patient-specific chronic care information are examples of engagement communications that can easily be sent to reinforce a provider’s expertise and dedication.
Easy Appointment Scheduling
Providers can use their appointment reminder technology to send automated emails, voicemails or text messages that notify patients that they are due for an exam and need to schedule an appointment. These messages can be set up to allow patients to easily connect to a staff member who can help them set up an appointment. Letting patients know when it is time to schedule routine healthcare exams, and making it simple to do so, is something patients have said they appreciate.
These are just a few examples of ways healthcare teams can maximize technology-enabled engagement communications to improve healthcare experiences. When providers have a clear understanding of what drives satisfaction, and they are willing to implement new technology-enabled engagement strategies, a door opens to a whole new set of opportunities for improving the patient experience in ways that benefit both patients and providers.