It’s no secret that it’s been a rough go of it for healthcare organizations and their patients in the past year, and new data from an Accenture survey shows that changes in the patient experience during COVID haven’t always been for the better.
Two-in-three patients had a negative patient experience, with 22 percent saying the visit was insufficient and 19 percent said the medical advice wasn’t helpful, according to the survey. As a consequence of the poor care visit, 44 percent of patients said they were stressed or upset, 34 percent said they’d be less likely to seek medical care the next time they needed it, and 34 percent said they would switch providers.
That compares similarly with another study that found that 83 percent of patients said that poor communication was the worst part of the patient experience in 2020.
These are alarming figures given healthcare providers’ increased emphasis in recent years on improving the patient experience. However, the news wasn’t all bad. Patients seems reasonably satisfied with their access to healthcare with 26 percent even saying it had improved during COVID. And while only 7 percent said they had participated in a telehealth appointment in early 2020, 32 percent said they’d used telehealth in 2021.
Most tellingly, 35 percent of patients said having well-coordinated communications and organization were important to them to having a positive patient experience. Obviously, clear and effective communication and can go a long ways in helping ensure patients not only have a quality care visit but also a positive end-to-end patient appointment experience, from booking the visit all the way through to post-visit care follow-up.
Here’s three tips to help providers increase the likelihood that their patients will have an improved and more satisfying care journey.
Take a text-first approach. Patient communication preferences have changed in the last few years and like consumers, more patients want to engage with their providers through the ease and convenience of modern communication tools like text messaging. Since smartphone/cellphone ownership is near universal, and 97 percent of phone owners use their phone for texting, it’s also logically the most effective way to reach patients. Like today’s consumers, patients want the ease and convenience of replying to provider texts like appointment reminders, pre-visit instructions, and post-visit care follow-up at their own leisure. But don’t forget to match your individual patient communications with each patient’s communication preferences, whether it be text, email, voice or a combination of these.
Update your appointment workflow. Part of the reason many patients are having a negative care experience is that the existing appointment workflow is fraught with hiccups and annoyances. Patients are having a difficult time connecting with providers and vice versa due to ineffective methods like phone calls, voicemails, and manual reminders systems. Throw in telehealth visits, and the whole process just seems complicated and frustrating for patients and staff. However creating a more robust perfect appointment workflow supported by texting can help you successfully interact with patients at each critical stage of the appointment process, from booking the visit all the way through to post-visit care instructions and follow-up notifications. A single perfect appointment workflow for virtual and in-person visits lets patients to have an ongoing conversation with providers throughout the care journey to ensure clear communication, minimize disruptions, and provide a more satisfactory patient experience.
Personalization through automation. Automated communication allows a provider to personalize text reminders to individual patients to help patients feel unique and appreciated. Automation means a provider can more efficiently extend their reach to a large group of patients in a short period of time while also delivering more individualized attention to each patient. You can even send out individualized messages to patients on their birthday. This approach can significantly reduce the amount of time your staff spends on appointment reminders and other patient communication while allowing you to reach out in a more personal fashion to each and every patient.
For more information about just how much patient communication preferences have changed in the past year during COVID, check out the new HIMSS survey in the white paper, “Patient Communication Preferences in 2021.”