Your patients, when not in your clinic, are basically consumers. These are the same people ordering from Amazon and other online stores. The same people ordering groceries online on Instacart, and ordering a burrito for lunch from their smartphone.
Patients are increasingly showing consumer-like behavior and healthcare practices need to modernize to meet their demands.
If you are looking to create the best digital experience for your patients, this post is for you.
Digital technology has always been around, but in the past year during the pandemic, the need for social distancing and contactless transactions has fueled its growth and adoption exponentially. It is normal to go to a restaurant today and scan a QR code to see the menu. As a matter of fact, some restaurants like Chipotle have gone to an extent where they only accept digital orders. So things have changed.
And we have seen changes in healthcare too. Telemedicine technology, which has been around for years, really took off during the pandemic both in terms of the number of telemedicine solutions providers and also in terms of the adoption rates by patients and doctors. To meet the new demand, health insurance providers have expanded insurance coverage for telemedicine or e-visits.
Many practices, if not all, have gone digital and have changed their process for patient in-take and patient check-ins. Practices are now sending out patient forms electronically either by email or as a link to the online versions of the same. Curb-side check-ins are now the norm where patients are required to call the office from the parking lot before walking in for their appointments.
Let’s look at some of these trends that are changing how healthcare is received today.
Trend #1: Book appointments online
People are looking for the convenience of booking appointments online with your clinic. It’s just easy to go to your website any time of the day to book an appointment.
For clinics with multiple locations, patients can begin with first choosing a location that is either closer or more convenient to them.
Or if you are a group practice, you may want to give them an option to select a specific provider. They can then pick a date and time, select a service, treatment, or the reason for the appointment, and confirm the appointment.
Your office can also accept a deposit for the appointment or the co-pays for the visit from your patients via online payment options such as Paypal, Venmo, Google Pay, Apple Pay, or the traditional credit and debit card payments.
Trend #2: Patient in-take forms have gone digital
Gone are those days when you are sitting in the waiting room at your doctor’s office and filling out long forms. Today, doctors’ offices are sending out the forms by email as PDF documents and some are also sending out links to the online versions of the same, so patients can fill them out before their appointment. Patients can also take a picture of their insurance card and send it to the medical office to make sure their doctor’s visit is covered by their insurance.
As medical practices are adopting this new technology it is important to ensure that all information is collected safely and securely and compliant with HIPAA regulations.
Trend #3: Curbside check-ins
Social distancing and safety protocols to prevent and control the spread of the virus during this pandemic has brought in changes to doctors visits. It is common for many medical offices to ask patients to stay in the car when they arrive for their appointments and call or text them to check-in. Patients do not want to sit in the waiting room with other people and the medical offices are trying hard to reduce the time a patient is waiting inside their office. Sometimes payments for copays are also accepted over the phone. This requires some coordination and every practice has set up its own way of getting through this which may not be very efficient or scalable in the long run.
Trend #4: Patient texting
Most people prefer text messages over phone calls and voicemails for simple 1-1 communications like appointment reminders and other notification messages. Your office can send a text to your patients requesting them to set up a follow-up visit after lab reports are in, or when their crown is ready, or just to remind them that their annual physical is due and things like that. You could wish them on their birthday and maybe remind them about essential health screenings that are recommended at certain age milestones like colonoscopy or breast cancer screenings.
Trend #5: Webchat and Chatbots
The technology for web chats and chatbots has evolved in recent years and today it is common to see many businesses offering this feature on their websites so customers can engage in conversations with sales and support. Typically a web chat is a chat with a live person whereas a chatbot is programmed to automatically respond to queries or point the customers in the right direction.
These tools can be very effective tools for your medical practice to engage with visitors on your website and quickly respond with information.
Your chatbot can have quick links to the Services you provide, the Location of your clinic, or information about the Providers in your practice.
Or the chatbot can drive the conversation by offering a menu of the most common queries such as:
I have an emergency, or I want to book an appointment, What insurance do you accept, and even a link to Frequently Asked Questions.
The chatbot can also allow visitors to your website to type in a custom query. So maybe they will type in “can I get an appointment this Friday” or “I need directions” and the chatbot will try to answer them.
The chatbot will not be able to answer every query. And in situations like these, it’s important that the chatbot gracefully hands over the conversation to a live person. If the live person is not available the chatbot can collect contact information so that the office can get back as soon as possible.
How healthcare is given and received is changing rapidly and more changes will come. Some of these trends we talked about will stick and some will not. Ultimately the patients’ needs and market demand will decide and drive the change.
As a medical practice you have the option to accept the changes and adopt the new technology and what solutions you pick and how they fit into your practice is going to be critical to the efficiency and streamlining of your front desk operations.
Let’s face it, healthcare practices need to embrace cutting-edge digital technologies across all their processes like patient acquisition, patient engagement, patient communications, or front desk operations, for assured long-term sustained growth in this ever-evolving digital world.
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