Healthcare administrators, physicians, and healthcare marketing agencies may know that patient engagement is important to their businesses, but defining it and understanding how to achieve it is not as obvious. Adding in patients’ desire for digital-first experience and journeys that were put on the fast track in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic prevented many people from seeking medical care in person, and there is a new need for a digital front door in healthcare.
Fortunately, there are some ideas and tools that can automate outreach and drive patient engagement for healthcare companies and providers, leading to positive outcomes in overall patient satisfaction, health outcomes, compliance, efficiency, and revenue.
Why Do Healthcare Companies Need Digital-First Engagement Strategies?
Until quite recently, healthcare engagement was driven by location. From choosing providers to receiving medical care to making payments, the patient journey was completed in person because patients went to the provider, making engagement simple. However, the worldwide pandemic and advancing technologies have turned this model upside down.
Today, patients no longer have to make the trek to their healthcare providers’ locations. Instead, healthcare consumers have 24/7 access to healthcare services and products via the internet, using computers, laptops, and mobile devices like smartphones. For patients, this new digital-first model means less hassle, more convenience, and a wider range of options for medical care. For healthcare organizations and providers, it means paying closer attention to patient engagement and expectations and finding scalable ways to deliver them successfully.
Digital-First Patient Experience is Here to Stay
While digital health, telemedicine, and other modern patient engagement technologies may have been in use before the pandemic, patients and providers alike used them sparingly. Now, even when the pandemic is over, these effective technologies are here to stay.
Some healthcare companies have generally stuck with just one part of the digital transformation in the industry – patient access points. Patient access points could refer to digital provider directories, online appointment scheduling, digital patient intake kiosks, patient portals, and the like. However, those healthcare organizations that are embracing digital technology in more ways are transforming how they interact with patients.
This transformation supports the move toward a digital-first approach in which patients can access support, advice, and treatment using digital tools. The tools are integrated to provide patients with a streamlined experience that will direct them to the most effective digital or in-person resource or service.
Practically, this means that patients should have access to digital tools that allow them to schedule and cancel appointments, have consultations with doctors, receive referrals, and obtain prescriptions online.
Benefits of Digital Patient Engagement
Healthcare providers and organizational leaders must realize that the digital patient experience is not just a marketing concern now; it’s a strategic imperative. As a result, leaders have to make technology decisions through the lens of the patient experience. When that is done correctly, they will enjoy increased patient satisfaction, engagement, and loyalty. It also delivers positive results, including:
- Reducing patient no-shows for appointments
- Improving patient compliance
- Increasing patient access
- Acquiring new patients
- Driving revenue and growth
Tips to Start Building a Digital-First Strategy
Most healthcare organizations have already implemented some digital aspects into their daily operations. Whether that is the case, or you’re starting from scratch, here is some useful advice to consider as you move forward:
- Make sure that you have the right people involved in the changes you are making. That may include current staff, as well as vendors, technology solutions providers, etc.
- If it’s at all possible, work with a project manager who will champion the efforts and drive adoption company-wide
- Assess the current methods of interaction for patients with your company and what needs to be changed and improved
- Determine which patient touchpoints can be digitalized
- Determine how success will be measured
Empower Patients with Digital-First Experience
Of course, the single most important thing to do is empower your patients with digital-first experiences. The main goal is to leverage the patient experience to improve patient outcomes. Success means that you are meeting patients where they are while increasing satisfaction, morale, and brand reputation through both active in-person care and digital technologies. In other words, what used to be a one-way path of communication (from doctor to patient) becomes a conversation between them, benefiting both parties.
Many other industries have become more digitally accessible to consumers, and those consumers want to have the same ease of access when it comes to their medical care. Ideally, that means 24/7 access to non-emergency medical services, but when that level of digital engagement isn’t available, it still means access to registration paperwork, scheduling, payments, and such, at times that are convenient for their schedules.
Digital patient engagement tools allow access to patients around the clock, providing them with the ability to complete some medical care-related tasks when they have time, using technology that they already have.
Digital technology allows healthcare providers to access areas they probably haven’t been able to before. As a result, patients for whom visiting the office is challenging will be able to receive care, and those who have chronic illnesses or conditions can be monitored more closely. Digital technology allows the medical industry to go beyond simply treating patients’ symptoms. It allows healthcare professionals to provide better care more effectively, with a focus on overall wellness using technology.
The daily grind in medical offices of scheduling appointments, communication, outreach, follow-up with patients, and consultations doesn’t have to be so difficult. Healthcare providers have spent countless hours and resources optimizing the short amount of time that they actually spend with patients (usually only seven to ten minutes per appointment), but there’s a lot more that happens between appointments that can be, and should be, automated with digital engagement tools and solutions.
Today’s patients are consumers who use technology every day in various other industries, and they want to have that same accessibility to their healthcare providers. Patients do not want to wait for a doctor’s call or play phone tag when there is important information to be communicated. Likewise, the medical staff wants tools that reduce their workload. They want systems that integrate, so they don’t have to have to access various systems to answer questions or perform routine tasks. Doing the work to improve patient engagement is important, but there’s no longer any reason for it to be manual. Driving patient engagement with the proper methods and tools helps connect patients to providers, allowing medical professionals to focus on what is really important – the delivery of comprehensive and effective medical care.