It’s fair to say that care delivery isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach. However, how well healthcare providers engage with their patients at every stage of the patient experience cycle is vital for them to feel safe, confident, and satisfied that they’re receiving the best care possible. And this involves engaging with them before, during, and after their appointment so that providers can gain true visibility into the patient journey they are providing and seamlessly address issues as soon as they arise.
The barriers that hinder patient/provider communication have impacted the healthcare space long before COVID-19. Primarily reliant on busy phone lines and emails that get buried and lost all too often, it’s fair to say that optimizing the patient experience cycle has been a significant challenge for health professions across the country.
In fact, according to a study conducted by Brown University, today’s healthcare patients only retain 49% of the information that their doctors give them. Of course, given the complexity of the information they may be receiving, this is entirely understandable. But it’s worth noting that since the onset of COVID-19, when most healthcare providers increased investment in technologies like telehealth and other forms of contactless communication, 9 out of 10 patients say that the care they receive from their healthcare provider now is as good or better than it was pre-pandemic.
So, as it seems, the healthcare industry is finally meeting their patients’ demands for technology tools that allow them to communicate more efficiently and ultimately, deliver a better patient experience. With ongoing uncertainty and fluctuating patient expectations, two-way communication is the key to driving long-term patient loyalty and enhancing each phase of the patient experience cycle. With that said, we compiled a few ways two-way messaging can optimize each phase of the patient experience cycle.
(Before) Engage Patients on Their Terms
As digital health experiences become more prevalent, it’s likely that switching providers will become a much more seamless experience than it is today. Therefore, in order to boost loyalty, it’s imperative that health practitioners engage with their patients on their terms. And in today’s environment that prioritizes digitization and convenience — and also places greater emphasis on the value of easy access to information such as what health and safety protocols are in place at a business — SMS is playing a substantial role in enabling healthcare professionals to communicate early and efficiently.
For example, recent research conducted by Zingle found that 84% of Americans say they’re concerned about their health and safety when visiting a healthcare facility in person. Of course, as COVID-19 cases continue to surge globally, it’s easy to understand their concerns. But for healthcare providers with stringent procedures in place that safeguard the safety of both their patients and their employees, it highlights the growing importance of engaging with them at the early stages of their patient experience cycle. And with 79% of consumers saying that going forward they will seek out information on the type of health and safety standards and processes a business has in place before visiting it, this means engaging before they even schedule an appointment.
The toll that COVID-19 has taken on healthcare providers is unmissable. But to boost their chances of getting patients through their doors, early communication is key. And by streamlining the patient journey through proactive, two-way messaging, patients can use those same channels to communicate their experience and feedback.
(During) Prioritize Service Recovery
Of course, this crisis has brought with it rising anxiety levels amongst Americans and greater workloads for healthcare professionals in particular. As a result, there’s a stronger probability that providers will have to deploy their service recovery strategies in order to correct operational inefficiencies or address other patient issues.
The good news is that these service failures are often easily rectified. For instance, a recent study of nearly 35,000 online reviews of U.S. physicians found that 19 of 20 unhappy patients blamed inadequate communications and disorganized operations as the reason for their negative review. For contrast, just 1 in 20 cited diagnosis and treatments.
The even better news, however, is that poor experiences can actually have substantial bottom line benefits when they’re turned into positive ones. Why? Humans are far more likely to remember the times when a business resolved an issue and resultantly created a better customer experience. But just as communication was often the root of the problem, it’s the driver of the solution too.
With good communication underpinning the patient experience cycle, providers can fulfill much more than their patients’ needs. They can actually facilitate better relationships with them by creating more visibility into the end-to-end patient experience and thus, possess the ability to quickly resolve issues that threaten customer loyalty and brand reputation.
Additionally, by automating this process, healthcare teams can be alerted to negative feedback messages in real-time thus assuring a personalized and efficient patient experience that doesn’t take teams away from more patient-centric duties.
(After) Ensure Your Patients Feel Heard
Having a system in place where healthcare staff can be alerted to negative patient experiences in real-time is important, but it’s crucial that providers react to them in an efficient and timely manner. It’s not enough to provide patients with a voice. It’s important for providers to prove that they actually hear it.
As mentioned above, patients who feel as if their concerns are falling on deaf ears may air their frustrations through a negative review of a particular practice, while others might even just seek a new provider. With 75% of consumers admitting they don’t report all issues that affect their experience, finding a way to get this information is especially crucial today.
Although unsatisfied consumers (or in this case, patients) are more likely to post a negative review than a positive one, even patients who are more or less satisfied may have a few pointers for where practices can seek improvement. By streamlining the feedback process, it becomes easier for patients to leave reviews which should bring the more satisfied patients out of the woodwork.
As such, hospitals and health systems would be wise to ditch the email satisfaction survey and instead request feedback through SMS text messaging. Research shows that SMS open rates are as high as 98%, compared to just 20% of all emails. Additionally, it takes 90 seconds for someone to respond to a text as opposed to 90 minutes to respond to an email.
Healthcare organizations would also be wise to look beyond individual patients and identify trends in the patient journey. By analyzing post-treatment data, in real-time no less, practices can engage in data-driven decision making that will ultimately impact other patients going forward. By identifying which patients are similar and how experiences compare by segments, it becomes easier to understand where poor experiences stem from.
Communicating directly with a patient via mobile messaging before, during and after an appointment is far more beneficial than waiting until the patient has left and there’s no way to address any issues along the way.
Healthcare facilities have the potential to become hectic and don’t always have the time to follow up on patient feedback. But considering that in the past year, over half of consumers stated that a negative experience they had could’ve been improved if they had the opportunity to give real-time feedback and had the company taken immediate action, making patients feel unheard can have devastating consequences for patient loyalty.
However, as providers continue to adapt, one thing has become clear. With the right plan and technology in place, this new model for communicating with patients really works.
For more information, read the new guide 5 Ways Healthcare Providers Can Improve Communication and Boost Patient Engagement.