11 Smart Strategies to Enrich the Patient Experience
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Customers have gotten used to highly personalized offers from restaurants, banks, and online shops. Now they expect the same convenience and responsiveness from medical institutions. Patient satisfaction in healthcare depends directly on the experiences that patients have. Fifty-three percent of US patients value a great customer experience with a healthcare provider, while 88 percent will change a healthcare provider if they aren’t completely satisfied.
If you want to win the loyalty of your patients, you need to provide excellent customer service in your healthcare center. But how can you do this?
Technology is what you need to invest in most. Ninety-four percent of healthcare executives are planning to implement smart technology in their organizations in the coming year.
Want to know more? We’ve investigated the healthcare market and identified the main pain points of patients. We’ve also selected the best strategies to improve patient satisfaction via technology. Here they are.
#1 Pain point: lack of access to convenient care
Over a billion people worldwide have some form of disability that impairs basic physical activities like walking, climbing stairs, or carrying things. Individuals with mobility challenges are less likely to get routine preventive medical care. Among other reasons, physical barriers within medical buildings discourage them from visiting their family doctors.
Elderly people face mobility problems as well. Muscle weakness can result in unsteadiness while walking and falls. Falls, in turn, lead to broken bones, bruises, and fear of falling. So it’s important to provide seniors with care at home.
Another group of people requiring immediate access to care are people with chronic conditions. Chronic diseases affect about 133 million Americans. About two-thirds of patients with chronic illnesses agree that US healthcare systems provide insufficient care. Many individuals with chronic diseases visit walk-in clinics where the quality of care is insufficient. To get a referral to a specialist, some patients must see doctors at walk-in clinics three separate times.
When chronic conditions worsen, patients need urgent care. Yet they often get referred to a family physician, who can’t see them immediately. These obstacles may have serious implications for a patient’s health.
There are also issues related to postoperative care. The rare individual has no complications after surgery. To ensure fast and comfortable recovery for post-surgery patients, healthcare centers must have effective communication tools. Patients should be able to contact physicians whenever they have questions about their recovery or experience complications like fever or increased pain. These patients need 24-hour access to medical care. You may now be wondering how to tackle these problems and improve the patient experience.
Strategy 1: Virtual visits with telemedicine apps
Telemedicine is one of the technologies improving patient satisfaction in healthcare. Using telemedicine apps, patients can access care from anywhere, at any time, and using whatever device they want: a computer, laptop, mobile phone, or tablet. They can even contact their family doctors via stand-alone kiosks in retail clinics.
Telemedicine enables virtual follow-up appointments for post-surgery patients and those with chronic ailments. As a result, patients and caregivers miss fewer appointments. Moreover, patients can request information about medication adherence in real time.
Telemedicine apps are also helpful for individuals
- who have moved to a new place but don’t want to change their physician;
- who have a minor symptom such as a rash;
- who need healthcare services when traveling.
Telemedicine helps overcome distance barriers, reduces time spent travelling to healthcare providers, and saves lives in critical care and emergency situations.
Even though there’s a huge demand for telemedicine apps ‒ almost 74 percent of US patients want to try telehealth services ‒ just 23 percent of healthcare providers offer sufficient access to care via virtual visits.
KRY is a telehealth solution that connects patients with qualified doctors online. The process is simple. A patient signs up with their BankID, describes their symptoms, and answers some questions related to these symptoms. They can also upload an image showing their symptoms.
A doctor then examines the patient and recommends treatment along with prescriptions and lab referrals. In the end, the patient rates and reviews the doctor so other users can know the doctor’s professional background.
eVisit also provides telemedicine solutions for improving customer service in healthcare. eVisit offers telehealth platforms for both private practices and hospital systems. In the eVisit exam room, caregivers can chart, prescribe, and take notes without taking their eyes off their patients. Patients can pay for services via cash, credit card, or insurance.
What’s more, this platform can integrate with electronic health records to equip doctors with all necessary information about a patient during the consultation. eVisit clients have an average patient satisfaction rate of 96.4 percent.
Strategy 2: Remote monitoring with sensors
Sensors have great potential in the medical sphere. Experts predict that global remote monitoring systems will reach $46 billion in value by 2020. Sensors keep track of a patient’s safety and health conditions around the clock. They can measure a variety of vital signs including blood pressure, temperature, and pulse.
Sensors are mostly used to:
- detect falls and notify caregivers;
- monitor chronic disease and inform doctors about current conditions;
- detect early signs of worsening of chronic conditions;
- warn when patients are at risk of a heart attack or stroke;
- examine hip or knee replacement devices and alert doctors when they aren’t working properly.
There are different types of sensors. Fall detection sensors and other similar sensors can be worn on the patient’s body. Sensors for monitoring knee replacements are placed inside the patient’s body. Sensors for tracking triggers of asthma patient put into another gadget.
Sensors send information about health conditions to a patient’s mobile phone or tablet via Bluetooth. Some of them are connected to patient management platforms that automatically transmit data to the medical servers of healthcare providers. This data helps caregivers make more informed decisions about treatment and develop individual care plans.
The Propeller Health sensor helps patients with respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This sensor is attached to a patient’s inhaler, tracking the time and location of inhaler use and sending this data to the Propeller mobile app. The Propeller app generates daily asthma forecasts and schedules for medications and reminds patients to take them on time.
The Propeller sensor also tracks symptoms and helps patients understand their triggers. It reduces asthma attacks by up to 79 percent.
Wearables like smart watches are great helpers as well. The Apple Watch Series 4 lets patients manage everything from everyday stress to calories burned. The ECG (electrocardiography) feature can monitor a patient’s heart rate throughout the day and alert a patient in case of irregularities. The American Heart Association (AHA) and US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved this functionality.
Strategy 3: Robots for assisting elderly people
International research firm Toluna conducted a study and found that most seniors in the US are anxious about the future of their healthcare:
- 71 percent want to manage their health while staying at home
- About 30 percent never expect to get help from a caregiver
- Only 1 percent say they get help from their adult children
Technology solutions can change this situation and address the challenges faced by seniors daily. Eighty percent of elderly people think technology will improve the customer experience in healthcare in the next five years. Drones and robots can assist senior patients at their homes with household cleaning, bringing medications from another room, and other tasks. Robots can lower the risk of falls and make seniors’ lives safer.
The Robear is designed to help people get out of bed and get into a wheelchair. Scientists equipped the robot with a wide range of feedback sensors to move quickly yet gently. Sensors also let Robear adjust its movements based on whether it should help a patient to shift or slip.
SoftBank Robotics has developed a humanoid robot companion called Pepper. Beyond providing care for the elderly, Pepper can detect human facial expressions and communicate with people. Pepper is able to determine a patient’s mood and adapt its behavior in response. Additionally, the robot can entertain seniors by dancing and playing music.
Pepper addresses the loneliness and isolation that many older people experience and makes them happier.
Strategy 4: Secure communication platforms
Thirty-nine percent of patients want better communication with their doctors. Online messaging services can enable instant communication between patients and healthcare providers. Using these services, patients can receive information about their health conditions and medications in real time.
Yet messaging between patients and providers has long been restricted by HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This act contains a set of rules to secure sensitive medical data. According to HIPAA, healthcare providers can’t use SMS or even encrypted texting apps like Whatsapp and Telegram.
Modern technology vendors such as Doc Halo, DocsInk, and OhMD have developed a new generation of messaging tools that are HIPAA compliant. These communication platforms protect sensitive patient data via bank-grade encryption and centralized account management. Patient data isn’t stored on user devices but is securely placed in an encrypted database. This way, providers can use such communication platforms to discuss even protected health information (PHI).
Online communication tools let doctors proactively address patients’ health concerns before they become serious.
Strategy 5: Online patient portals to access health data
A patient portal is a website connected to electronic health records (EHRs). An EHR is a digital version of all medical and treatment history for a patient.
Online portals give patients convenient 24/7 access to health data including:
- Physician notes
- Laboratory results
- Discharge summaries
- Immunization and vaccination history
- Allergy lists
- … and so on
Patients can view, download, and share this data with other health providers when they need it.
Mark Gilbert, a research director at Gartner Inc., claims that soon we’ll see highly personalized portals that collect data from dozens of sources. These portals will be able to contextualize and analyze this data to provide patients with complete pictures of their health conditions and future predictions about their health.
#2 Pain point: long wait times for appointments
Long wait times can dramatically affect patient satisfaction with your healthcare center. No one wants to sit for hours in the reception area. Half of patients in the US admit that shorter wait times would improve their satisfaction.
A short wait is vital for patients with worsening conditions. Ninety-two percent of healthcare providers say that lengthy prior authorization forms can impair patient clinical outcomes. As a result, a patient may require more complex care and higher healthcare costs.
Beyond long wait times in reception areas, some patients need to wait ages for an appointment. Patients in the US have to wait on average 24 days to get an appointment with a physician. So it comes as no surprise that 61 percent of patients would immediately switch to a medical institution that provided appointments quickly when needed.
Strategy 1: Appointment booking and queue management systems
Online booking and queue management tools are a smart way to shorten wait times and thus improve the patient experience. Seventy-seven percent of patients in the US want to book, change, and cancel appointments online.
Apps like Qless let patients schedule appointments online or join virtual queues. Patients can use this functionality via their smartphones, a website, or a touchscreen kiosk located in a clinic lobby. Qless calculates the estimated wait time and shows the number of people that are ahead in the queue. The app also sends updates on a patient’s position in line. Meanwhile, patients can grab lunch or enjoy a cup of coffee in a nearby cafe.
ZocDoc connects patients with a wide network of caregivers including chiropractors, surgeons, therapists, and midwives. Patients only need to enter their conditions, a zip code, and their insurance information. The system will then display all providers in the chosen area who are covered by the patient’s insurance.
Under each doctor’s name is a link to their ZocDoc profile. Usually, a doctor’s profile contains their background information and patient reviews. This information is valuable when shortlisting care providers. Once a patient has chosen a provider, they can book an appointment and fill in check-in forms.
At ZocDoc, 11 percent of patients get appointments within the same day and 39 percent of patients book appointments within the next two calendar days. That’s a huge win compared to the average of 24 days.
Strategy 2: Digital patient consent forms
Digital patient consent forms are an easy and fast way to complete documentation. Patients can fill out these forms online before an appointment or via iPad upon arrival. The forms are then automatically loaded into a patient’s charts.
AdvancedMD and Formstack are two of the companies offering digital consent forms for medical facilities. These companies deliver a complete range of medical forms: acknowledgement of receipt of the notice of privacy practices, family planning general consent for services, and more.
Patagonia Health also provides electronic patient consent forms as part of its EHR system. Patagonia Health’s consent forms can be connected to a Topaz signature pad or touch screen so that patients and providers can directly sign them.
Online forms save time and release patients from tedious paperwork.
Strategy 3: Alerts about provider delays
Healthcare providers can create notification systems integrated with their electronic health records. These systems can send a text message to a patient in case their doctor is behind schedule. ABC Health Center is using this type of notification system.
Alert messages allow patients to adjust their arrival times and spend less time sitting in the waiting room.
Strategy 4: Equipping reception areas
Apart from online bookings and virtual queues, medical centers should provide maximum comfort in their waiting areas. It’s a great idea to equip reception areas with tablets. Patients can use tablets to:
- Complete satisfaction surveys
- Provide feedback
- Access online portals
- Update contact information and notes from their last visit
- Watch video messages from providers
- View other healthcare content
Healthcare providers can also use tablets to offer patients educational materials. For example, many patients have limited knowledge of preventive services like childhood immunizations or well-woman exams. A study published in the Journal of the Medical Library Association found that most patients using tablets in waiting rooms found them useful. Moreover, patients using tablets are more likely to look for follow-up care, book future appointments, and follow treatment plans.
#3 Pain point: confusing bills
A huge medical bill is stressful for any patient. Patients become even more strung up when the amount of the bill far exceeds what they expected. Fifty-seven percent of Americans want to know the prices of healthcare services beforehand. Medical providers should spell out how much patients might pay out of pocket.
Strategy 1: Pre-appointment messages
Automated pre-appointment messages can remind patients to be on time and to bring their insurance cards. These messages can also inform patients if their insurance plan requires a copay. This way patients will know their copay obligations in advance. Pre-appointment messages bring a smooth check-in process and more satisfied clients.
Strategy 2: Online cost estimators
Thirty-five percent of healthcare providers in the US offer an online estimation tool that gives patients reliable information about procedures and typical costs.
HCF has launched an online estimation tool that calculates the average cost of a procedure in private hospitals. The cost estimator breaks down each specialist involved in the procedure so that a patient understands where the total service cost comes from. Patients can also see what part of the cost will be covered by HCF and Medicare. In the example below, a patient will pay 17 percent for a knee arthroscopy, which comes out to $873.
Experian Health has developed Patient Estimates, a web-based price estimation tool for physicians, hospitals, and medical institutions. Patient Estimates integrates with a database and billing history of a healthcare provider. This tool estimates the costs of procedures for patients before or at the point of service. Patient Estimates can even calculate the costs of multi-component procedures.
On a global scale, online estimation tools help patients avoid stress associated with unforeseen medical expenses.
Re-engineer your healthcare business
Improving patient satisfaction in your healthcare centers helps foster loyalty and establish long-lasting relationships with your patients. Ultimately, improved patient satisfaction will lead to increased revenue. Use these strategies to win your patients’ hearts and outperform your competitors!
If you have an idea for a medical app, drop us a line. We’ll help you deliver a functional and technologically advanced product.
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