From spending hours between calling insurance providers to scheduling appointments to sitting in waiting rooms to spending time at the pharmacy, the patient journey has traditionally been fragmented and frustrating.
Patients are now demanding instant response and feedback and expecting convenience and ease of use. Even more, their full experience is just as important as the quality of care received. The rise of social media, online reviews, and digital technology have completely changed the healthcare landscape and new patient experience trends have emerged. As the number of healthcare organizations using digital technology and mobile devices for patient care continues to increase, it’s important to continue adopting practices and solutions that enhance patient experience.
So, how will healthcare evolve in 2019? Here are five patient experience trends that will continue this year and what you can do to capitalize on each trend.
1. Patient Journey Starts Online
The wealth of information online makes it increasingly simple for patients to find answers to their questions about healthcare providers. From simple questions like, “How far is my provider from me?” to more complex questions like, “Does my provider meet my personal care standards?”, patients can use online resources to make healthcare decisions for themselves and their families. Because of the this, the provider-patient relationship now begins well before the first face-to-face meeting.
Searching for healthcare providers online is becoming more commonplace. 80% of patients have used the internet to make a healthcare-related search in the past year, and 76% of patients over 60 years old have made a healthcare-related search online in the past year. With the patient journey now starting online, it’s important to keep your organization’s online presence accurate and active.
What You Can Do
Meet your patients where they are: online. Make sure your digital presence, from Facebook to Google Business to insurance provider websites, is updated and active. That includes having accurate descriptions, imagery, and posting valuable content updates.
2. Online Reputation Matters… and Pulls a Lot of Weight
The availability of healthcare provider information online and access to reviews and ratings have made patients more informed and empowered. This is why your online reputation matters. Even if your healthcare organization has been referred to a prospective patient by a trusted individual, the likelihood of the prospective patient researching your organization before making a decision is high.
There are many reasons why patient experience matters now more than ever, and your online reputation is a direct reflection of your patient experience. 81% of patients read reviews about a referred provider occasionally, frequently, or always – and that’s after being referred. Additionally, 53% of patients will occasionally, frequently, or always change their mind about a provider with a rating of less than three stars.
Still not convinced that online reputation pulls that much weight in the patient decision-making process? 90% of patients will frequently or always change their mind about a referral due to the provider’s poor or weak online reputation, or a rating of less than three out of five stars.
But there is some good news. A recent analysis of nearly 7 million online healthcare reviews found that close to 70% of provider ratings receive five stars, and just 22% get one star. The most common mentioned quality across all reviews? The patient’s interaction with their doctor’s staff.
What You Can Do
Encourage all patients to leave online reviews. Generally, people will only leave reviews if they have a really bad experience or a really good experience. If you’re currently dealing with a lot of negative reviews, encouraging patients that have great experiences to leave online reviews will help raise your rating. Don’t forget about your returning patients that might not be raving fans of your organization. They can still offer valuable (and positive) online reviews.
It’s best to have someone dedicated to monitoring and responding to online reviews – both positive and negative. If done correctly, responding to negative reviews in a truthful and helpful way shows that you care about your patients and want to make their experience better. And, it may also keep a potential patients from completely writing your organization off.
Click on the infographic below to enlarge.
3. Online Appointment Booking Will Be the Norm
With the shift to an “I need it now” society, you can expect that patients won’t wait weeks to get an appointment at your office. This translates into the need for online appointment booking capabilities. In fact, 45% of patients prefer to use digital methods to request an appointment (i.e. non-voice interaction including online tools, mobile apps, or email). Third-party scheduling through Yelp, Google, and other platforms seamlessly integrates with your organization’s calendar, making it simple for your front office staff to manage.
Even more, patients prefer healthcare providers that offer online appointment booking. 42% of patients will choose a healthcare provider because of the ability to use online scheduling. Online appointment booking will soon be the norm. This capability will play a role in keeping patients returning and attracting new patients to your organization.
What You Can Do
If you haven’t already implemented online appointment booking, it’s definitely one of the patient experience trends to implement in 2019. Accenture predicts that by the end of 2019, 66% of U.S. health systems will offer digital self-scheduling and 64% of patients will book appointments digitally, delivering $3.2 billion in value and a competitive boost for health systems.
While Yelp or Google may be quick, easy online appointment booking solutions, that doesn’t mean they are the best. Research your software options. Implementing the best appointment booking software for your practice will ensure that you have the right software that maximizes productivity and isn’t a burden on your staff.
4. Text is the Patient’s Preferred Method of Communication
So, what happens after your patient books an appointment online? They expect a text message confirming their appointment. With 71% of patients preferring appointment reminders via digital means (i.e. email and text) and 53% of patients preferring reminders via text, it’s important that your organization integrates text communications in 2019.
Keeping patients updated about their individual health and pushing out large-scale communications are the primary uses of text messaging in healthcare. Text messages can be used for things like:
- Reminding patients about appointments and annual checkups
- Notifying patients when prescriptions are ready or need refilled
- Alerting patients of test results
- Reminding patients to get their annual flu shots
- Raising awareness about dangerous diseases
Texts are a low-cost and low-effort way to provide patients with a personalized experience. And, as an added bonus, 42% of patients report that text and email appointment reminders also influence their loyalty and likelihood of returning to a provider multiple times.
What You Can Do
If you haven’t already made the move to using text messaging to communicate with patients, this is something you’ll want to push to implement this in 2019. Obviously, things like patient privacy and HIPAA compliance are issues that need to be addressed. The good news is that, if done correctly, text messaging is HIPAA compliant. Using a SMS provider that has experience with healthcare providers will help ensure you remain HIPAA compliant.
There are a lot of companies that provide both online appointment booking and SMS messaging capabilities, so make sure you are looking for companies that provide all-in-one solutions. With one vendor, you can capitalize on two of the patient experience trends. This will also reduce vendor management, eliminate the need for two separate systems, and cut costs.
5. Rockstar Customer Service Will Make or Break Your Organization
Today, there are so many more choices in healthcare providers and patients are no longer tied to local practices or health systems. Quality and cost of care remain important to patients. However, customer service is extremely important to patients. 82% of patients agree that when it comes to patient loyalty, quality customer service ranks as the most important factor, assuming quality care and treatment is received.
When it comes to providing rockstar customer service, remember that it encompasses everything and everyone within your organization, including:
- Attitudes and helpfulness of your staff
- State, comfort, and amenities of your waiting room
- Physician disposition, attentiveness, and interest
Even more, your patient’s experience extends outside of the exam room. The full patient experience is what moves your patients to either decide not to return to your organization for care or convert into brand promoters.
When you lead with a patient-first mentality and provide rockstar customer service, you’ll differentiate your healthcare system from your competitors and rock it on patient experience. This all leads to more five-star ratings and reviews, attracting new patients, and achieving profitability goals.
What You Can Do
Focus on hiring staff that have shared values. Make sure that your team is properly trained and expectations for patient treatment is communicated well and often. Evaluate your waiting room to see if any improvements can be made that make it more comfortable. Identify amenities that can be added to enhance patient experience. If you’re not sure what changes you can make to your waiting area, consider surveying patients to find out what is most important to them.
To stay relevant and thrive in 2019 and beyond, your healthcare system will need to stay ahead of patient needs and patient experience trends. You must meet your patients’ needs throughout the entire patient journey which means everything you do must be done with a patient-first mentality. The healthcare landscape continues to change as patients’ preferences and expectations increasingly mirror consumers in general. Integrating digital technology into your organization will keep patients engaged and loyal. Capitalizing on these patient experience trends and finding new ways to improve patient experience will help keep your organization ahead of the competition, keep your patients returning, attract new patients, and help meet your profitability goals.