By Josh Weiner, CEO of SR Health by Solutionreach
Feeling much like an Olympic gymnast’s acrobatic routine, patients’ healthcare experience over the past 18 months has endured a dizzying series of twists, turns, and somersaults—albeit without the benefit of Dramamine. Patients found themselves caught up in COVID-induced disruptions and often didn’t know if or when they could safely access care. Thankfully now, things are returning to some semblance of normalcy as the vaccine proliferates and cases plunge.
However, urgencies born from the pandemic have drastically altered the patient experience, introducing better ways to receive care and interact with healthcare organizations. In response to the emerging threat, society adapted by physically isolating, masking up, and communicating from a distance. This new reality forced us to migrate toward modern technology to live, work, and get medical care. The value of tools like Zoom, social media, and text messaging was immeasurable. Simply put, we learned to live remotely.
But our reliance on the technology necessary to weather COVID-19 has had an unintended outcome. The pandemic effectively accelerated the pace of digital transformation in the healthcare industry, speeding up many providers’ adoption of digital technologies by several years. Though healthcare typically lags behind other industries in embracing new tech, 93 percent of healthcare executives said their organizations are urgently innovating this year. This is encouraging news given another growing trend coming to a physicians practice near you—pickier patients.
A fundamental shift is taking place in healthcare as consumerism permeates patients’ notions and expectations of what their care experience should be like. Patients no longer are satisfied with a traditional, pre-pandemic “provider-centric” experience filled with bothersome calls and voicemails, tomes of paperwork to fill out, and long wait times at the provider’s office. Today’s patients expect practices to offer the same easily accessible, connective technologies used by their local supermarket, their gym, or their go-to online retailer. These include feature-filled websites, mobile apps, social media—and most importantly—text message communication.
As the world reopens and patients return in numbers to healthcare, we’re finding that these “patient-consumers” have become more discerning when selecting a provider. Loyalty is less of a factor as patients are more willing than ever to trade their current provider for one that can integrate a better patient experience via modern digital communication. In a recent survey of patient communication preferences, 64 percent of patients 50 and younger said they would be willing to switch providers to get more modern communication. And it’s not just younger generations who are now more prone to shop around. Thirty-three percent of patients 50 and up agreed with their younger counterparts, showing age is not a barrier to wanting things like faster, more convenient texting.
Consumerism and convenience are driving the demand for providers to step up their communication game and give those they serve a more streamlined patient-centric experience. And patient engagement software is a huge part of that. What patients want is more meaningful and less intrusive interactions with hospitals and health systems during their care journey. A text-first approach supports a more flexible and refined appointment workflow so that providers can more seamlessly connect with patients before, during, and after the visit, whether it’s virtual or in-person.
Texting and a vastly enhanced appointment process allow providers to get more replies and confirmations for critical messages like automated patient appointment reminders, pre-visit instructions, and post-care follow-up notifications. Your patients likely won’t pick up the phone when you call, but they’d happily take a second to reply to a text reminder at their leisure. Other modern technology features that patients expect to be able to access include:
- Provider website: An updated, information-filled website gives patients a great first impression of your organization and the services and amenities you provide.
- Patient portal: Make sure your patient portal is easily accessible and navigable so that patients can sign in to get lab results and other patient health data.
- Digital intake: Patients can complete digital intake on their own time before a visit, making the forms process simple and hassle-free.
- Two-way texting: Seventy-three percent of patients want to be able to send texts to providers. Ensure patients can text you questions, reschedule, or have an ongoing dialogue with you without ever calling in.
- Patient surveys: Don’t miss out on opportunities to text patient’s digital surveys to gauge how well patient expectations and needs are being met.
Today’s patients, heavily influenced by consumerism and the digital transformation, have heightened expectations and standards when it comes to digital communication in the healthcare industry. Your successful retention and acquisition efforts will hinge on your ability to create a more appealing digital, patient-centric experience that improves outcomes and gives you a competitive edge.
About The Author
Josh Weiner is the CEO of SR Health by Solutionreach. He joined Solutionreach from Summit Partners, a leading global growth equity firm. Through his work with Summit Partners, Josh served on the Solutionreach board of directors for three years. Before Summit Partners, he was a consultant with McKinsey & Company. Josh is a graduate of Stanford University and resides in Salt Lake City with his wife and two children. Josh and his family spend as much time as possible exploring the natural wonders of Utah's mountains and deserts. Connect with him on LinkedIn @joshfweiner.