Guest Column | May 7, 2018

Using Technology To Build Personal Patient Relationships

By Jim Higgins, Solutionreach

rare disease, patient voice

Technology is becoming an integral part of every interaction people have, and they are coming to expect it. Just like in other aspects of their lives, patients want their healthcare providers to keep up with the changing times, and implement technology in their practices. No longer do patients want the inconvenience of a phone call or a post card reminding them of an upcoming appointment. They are looking for convenient digital options.

At first glance, using technology to create a personal relationship may seem counter-intuitive. Personal relationships can’t be nurtured through automated communication, can they? Actually, they can. With the right patient relationship management (PRM) tools, technology can not only facilitate more personal relationships with patients, but it can make those relationships more convenient for both providers and their patients.

Technology can improve patient relationships by allowing providers to communicate in the way patients prefer. Patient communication software can store each patients’ preference of text message, email, or phone call, so the provider will always know how a patient would like to be contacted. The majority of patients feel like a phone call is intrusive, and would rather receive a text message from their provider. This type of software will ensure the practice texts those patients, while those who prefer to receive a phone call or email are reached in those ways. Sending messages through the channel each patient prefers increases the liklihood they will see and read the message. A software solution can also include personal details, like the patient’s name, appointment time, practice location, or the provider’s name in each of the messages. So even if a message is automated through the software, it will still have a personal feel to it.

In addition to sending messages to patients through their preferred method, practices should also give patients a variety of options to contact them too. Almost three-quarters of patients want the ability to text their provider. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as nearly all smartphone owners use their phones to text, and do so to communicate with almost everyone else in their lives. With PRM software, a practice can text-enable their exisiting landline, and they will receive a notification on their desktop when a text is received. Any member of the practice can look through the message history for needed context, and respond to the text. Not only is this a quick way to communicate with patients, it’s also a great way to nurture patient relationships. The patient who is texting will appreciate the ability to communicate when it’s convenient for them and receive a quick answer, but patients in the office will appreciate the conveninece too. Instead of being interrupted by an incoming phone call, the practice staff can finish the conversation with the patient in the office before responding to the text. This increases the engagement with the patients in the office without ignoring other patients who may be trying to contact the practice.

Nurturing patient relationships can extend beyond the time a patient is in the office in other ways as well, and PRM technology can be used to do this. Newsletters and educational emails can be an effective way to keep a practice at the front of patients’ minds. Newsletters can be created in the software and scheduled to be sent at specific times or to specific groups of patients. Just like the automated appointment reminders, these newsletters can contain personalized information for each patient, so it won’t feel like an automated or spam message. The best way to personalize a newsletter is to segment the patient population and only send the newsletter to the patients who will find it relevant. Divisions can be based on patients’ age, gender, diagnosis, or any other information the practice has. This allows practices to create a variety of different newsletters, and schedule them to be delivered to only those patients who will benefit from the information. Not only does this build a connection with patients, but it also prevents patients from becoming irritated because they receive too many irrelevant emails from their provider.

Patient communication software can also help providers build patient relationships online. Providers should expect to meet their patients where they are. The average person spends about two hours every day on social media, making it a great place for providers to connect and strengthen relationships. Just like appointment reminders and newsletters can be created and scheduled in advance, software can do the same for social media posts. Providers can schedule posts aimed at engaging patients online. Settings can be configured so practice staff receive a notification every time someone comments on a post or leaves a message on the practice’s social media pages. When a notification is received, the practice staff can respond to the post or comment, continuing to build personal relationships with patients.

Technology is prevelent in every other aspect of life, and it should be part of interactions with healthcare providers. With the right tools, practice’s can utilize technology to nurture strong and personal patient relationships.