From pharmaceutical companies scrambling to develop a vaccine, hospitals treating Coronavirus patients in specialized wards often at full-capacity, and insurance providers dealing with customers facing financial hardships, the entire healthcare industry has been working overtime to help their communities and customers overcome the global pandemic.
In order to combat the spread of COVID-19 while keeping healthcare facilities safe, many in the industry have turned to telehealth options that mitigate the need for physical interactions. For example, many physicians have opted to defer elective and preventive visits to their practice and, where possible, convert in-person visits into telemedicine visits. And research shows that this shift toward technology is paying off. In fact, an Accenture survey reports that 9 out of 10 patients feel the care they received from their healthcare provider was as good or better than before COVID-19. Meanwhile, researchers at Harvard University found that telemedicine visits rose 14% between the beginning of March and the end of April.
Today, telehealth tools are taking their proven success in doctor/patient interactions to the broader healthcare ecosystem for their ability to facilitate real-time, contactless experiences. With Medallia Zingle recently receiving HIPAA compliance, here are a few ways that organizations across the healthcare ecosystem can leverage the power of messaging to create high-quality and low-touch experiences for customers, patients and staff.
Minimize Patient Friction with Real-Time and Contactless Communication
The crisis has resulted in increased anxiety amongst members of the general public and, consequently, greater workloads for healthcare professionals. But amidst the pressures of working longer hours and the stress that comes with being a healthcare professional today, is a need to meet patients’ expectations for quick, contactless communication.
When we surveyed 1,000+ American consumers to study how their behaviors, views and interactions have been altered by the crisis, 77% said that in the future, the amount of in-person interaction required at a business will factor into their decision of whether or not they visit it. When you consider how quickly these same consumers opted for virtual appointments with their doctor as opposed to in-person visits that increased their risk of contracting the virus, it’s clear that the healthcare industry faces the same challenges as the likes of retail and hospitality: Facilitate fast, easy and contactless communication or risk losing valuable customers to physicians and businesses that do.
With this realization, more and more providers are leveraging messaging to help communicate important updates to their patients, whether it be to schedule virtual visits, forward appointment reminders or send checkup results via text. For pharmaceutical companies, text can allow them to more easily communicate with individual patients about their prescriptions, or quickly reach segments of their customers with important information.
A recent survey conducted by The Beryl Institute found that 91% of consumers consider the patient experience to be extremely important to them and significant to the healthcare decisions they make. And with these respondents offering that being listened to, communicated to in a way they can understand, and being treated with dignity and respect are the three most important factors that influence their patient experiences, it’s clear that communication is key. And today, this means real-time, contactless communication.
Simplify Employee Workflows With Automated Outreach
For an industry that has been silently battling the physical and emotional burnout of working long hours, COVID-19 has truly thrust the selflessness of healthcare workers into the spotlight. In fact, 2018 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the average weekly hours worked in all of healthcare and in hospitals reached record highs that year, highlighting the severe strain this places on workers. Meanwhile, employees at healthcare payers and healthcare provider administrators are experiencing unprecedented call volumes and queries from customers about things like patient eligibility, insurance, and payment.
As a result, the ability to leverage real-time, contactless communication telehealth tools to help answer urgent billing and prescription questions, diagnose symptoms, and manage appointments and hospital check-ins is invaluable. And for teams that are short-staffed or don’t think they have the bandwidth to execute a two-way communication strategy that meets their customers’ expectations, automated messaging can be transformational.
Both payers and providers, for instance, can automate replies to commonly asked questions via SMS texting as well as popular messaging apps instead of more costly channels. Sophisticated technology can enable them to easily route inquiries in a way that helps them handle the massive spikes in volume, without sacrificing personalization. In addition, utilizing an intelligent messaging platform enables teams to manage proactive and personal outreach and responses at scale — something that’s especially beneficial for small teams dispersed across different locations.
Scaling the Employee and Patient Experience
Apart from a more efficient communication strategy, what the above also helps achieve is a better — and safer — employee and patient experience. Internally, for instance, today’s contactless communication tools are replacing often unread emails and helping staff improve things like the recruitment process, employee onboarding, and other important organizational information. And when it comes to customer communication, payers and providers can engage with their patients directly to ensure that their needs are being met. Pharmaceutical and medical device companies for example can proactively reach out to healthcare providers and patients to increase access to important therapies.
As patients worry about potential COVID-19 exposure, virtual technologies and contactless communication tools help enable seamless scheduling, coordination and execution. Patients can rest assured knowing that their healthcare providers and payers are placing their health and safety first, and are just one text away at all times.
COVID-19 has had a catalytic impact on the acceleration of telehealth technologies. From video-based diagnoses technology to medical robots, innovation is creating efficiencies and removing risk from the equation. And while many of these innovations are at the bleeding-edge, some of the most impactful and effective are already in the palm of our hand. With messaging, organizations across the entire healthcare ecosystem can now leverage real-time, contactless communication to serve their customers, patients and communities in smarter and safer ways.