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Maximizing patient satisfaction through digital innovation: A guide for healthcare providers | Viewpoint

Article

Offering digital services puts consumers in the driver’s seat of their healthcare, where they want to be.

Patients want more digital options such as online scheduling and telehealth, Andrea Kowalski writes. (Image credit: ©Tippapatt - stock.adobe.com)

Patients want more digital options such as online scheduling and telehealth, Andrea Kowalski writes. (Image credit: ©Tippapatt - stock.adobe.com)

Now, more than ever, healthcare consumers want digital experiences; we are, after all, living in a digital age.

There are three essential digital experiences that healthcare consumers are seeking from their medical practitioners: online appointment scheduling, communication with their provider between visits through a patient portal, and telehealth.

Offering these services puts consumers in the driver’s seat of their healthcare, where they want to be. It also makes your practice more attractive to potential patients looking for a medical home.

1. Offer online scheduling options

How long is too long to wait on hold?

For 60% of consumers, one minute is the max time they’ll wait on hold — any longer, and they’ll simply hang up. In fact, 30% think there should never be any hold time at all. If a potential patient calls to schedule an appointment and is put on hold, they might simply move on to another practice. You’ll never even know that you lost them.

Patients expect to book appointments when it’s convenient for them, and they expect to do it easily, with no wait time.

Of course, your staff can’t drop everything to take every phone call, and they aren’t available 24 hours a day. You can solve this dilemma in a few different ways:

Choose a digital phone solution with a virtual waiting room that lets patients choose whether they want to remain on hold or keep their place in line, hang up, and wait to be called back. This reduces hold times and gives patients more control.

Add an online booking option to your website. Many patients prefer to schedule appointments after traditional working hours, especially since calling a provider (and potentially waiting on hold) takes time away from their own workday. Online booking allows patients to book appointments when they are available to do so and can also reduce miscommunications about available dates and times.

Use booking software that syncs with your in-office scheduling system. By taking the task of scheduling appointments completely off your front desk, you free staff up to attend to other important tasks. Plus, the software offers the opportunity to collect data so you can track important metrics — like your no-show rates.

2. Offer digital options for communication between visits

When patients have questions, they want and expect answers immediately. In a recent survey, 37% of patients said they wanted to be able to reach out and quickly receive answers to their questions, 34% said they wanted more communication with their physicians between visits, and 23% said they would prefer more frequent check-ins.

A digital patient portal with two-way messaging offers opportunities for communication to flow between patients and providers. Patients can reach out when they have questions or concerns about their treatment plans or prescriptions, and providers can check in on patients to see whether they are following their care plan, taking their medications correctly, or experiencing any pain or other concerning symptoms. This both empowers patients to manage their own conditions and frees up providers for appointments that require more bandwidth.

With patient education on using the service appropriately and a well-designed messaging system, you can minimize additional workload while improving patient outcomes.

3. Offer telehealth as an option

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, only about 5% of patients accessed care remotely via telehealth. In 2022, however, 25% of patients used telehealth. And according to Tebra’s patient perspective survey, 15% of respondents preferred a telehealth option.

Why telehealth? In a word: access. Telehealth offers patients access to care in a way that wasn’t possible before, eliminating barriers to care like transportation, childcare, or concerns about exposure to other people’s illnesses in the waiting room.

While telehealth can’t, and shouldn’t, fully replace in-person care, it does offer a useful alternative for addressing a range of health concerns, including:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Cold, flu, and COVID-19 symptoms
  • Routine diabetes care and check-ins
  • Migraines
  • Certain skin conditions

The digital future is today

The future is here, and it’s digital. Transforming these three areas of your practice will not only promote better health and outcomes for your better engaged and satisfied patients, but it will also help keep your practice healthy in this new era of digital patient care.

About the author

Andrea Kowalski is senior vice president of products at Tebra.

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