Phew! We made it to 2021 more or less in one piece after one of the most difficult years in recent memory. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a rough year not only for humanity but also healthcare organizations who endured disruptions to patient care, cancelations, and lost revenue. Perhaps many of you are still recovering from the impacts the coronavirus had on healthcare.
But the fact that we made it through to the new year doesn’t mean 2021 is going to be a cakewalk. Though the COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed throughout the U.S., we’ve still got to get through what could be a rough road ahead with record numbers of virus cases and deaths anticipated this winter. It won’t be until summer that a large segment of the population will have had the opportunity to be vaccinated. What healthcare companies need now is a literal and figurative shot in the arm—and fast.
As you’re making your New Year’s resolutions this month, one approach to ease and simplify your patient communications is to ditch manual systems and processes and go digital. The following are seven reasons you should resolve to switch to a digital platform for patient communications in 2021:
- Drop in patient satisfaction. COVID-19 changed a lot of things in 2020 and one of the things it affected was patients’ satisfaction with healthcare communications. An SR Health study showed a 7 percent dip in satisfaction during COVID-19 compared to before the pandemic. A digital solution allows you to seamlessly access and communicate with your patients through less intrusive ways like text messaging and emails.
- Less interest in phone calls. We also learned during COVID-19 that patients are less agreeable with receiving healthcare organization phone calls than ever before. That same study found the desirability of live phone calls fell 14 percent. Patients lead busy lives and most people don’t want to be bothered by phone calls, especially from phone numbers they don’t recognize. A digital patient communication system foregoes phone calls in favor of more patient-preferred forms of automated communication like texts and email reminders and messages.
- Texting is the way. Ninety-seven percent of Americans use text messaging on a least a weekly basis and 78 percent of people wish they could have a text conversation with a business. And given the fact that texts have a 99 percent open rate, there’s no doubt that texting has replaced phone calls as patients’ preferred method of communicating. An automated patient communication system allows healthcare organizers to effortlessly correspond with patients through two-way messaging for scheduling, appointment reminders and follow-up messaging.
- Fewer office visits due to COVID-19 concerns. Fears about safety during COVID-19 during the pandemic meant millions of people weren’t getting the healthcare they needed in 2020. A whopping 87 percent of healthcare leaders cited safety as the main reason that patients were deferring care. Another study showed that there was a diagnostic backlog of 920 million visits in 2020 due to concerns about spreading the virus. At the same time, the SR Health study found that during the pandemic, 36 percent of healthcare appointments were canceled, 23 percent happened in-person as scheduled, and 41 percent were moved to telehealth. Going digital not only saves healthcare staff time and money, it offers a multitude of virtual health options to care for patients in addition to in-person visits. Reduce cancellations and no-shows by exploring all the alternative methods of healthcare that virtual health makes possible.
- Fewer visits equates to lost revenue. The average loss of revenue by health providers since March 2020 has been over 35 percent, including 37 percent in primary care, 39 percent in pediatrics, and 32 percent in urology. Moreover, healthcare professional revenue has plummeted nearly 50 percent in the U.S. over the last nine months and the New England Journal of Medicine says hospitals will lose an estimated $323.1 billion in 2020. A digital platform can help ensure with a higher degree of accuracy that patients will show up for appointments, whether in-person or through virtual medicine.
- Getting ready for COVID-19 vaccine rollout. It seemed like it would take an eternity but now the COVID-19 vaccine is being distributed to hospitals and medical facilities across the nation. But don’t get caught unprepared for the onslaught of patients who want to receive the vaccinations when the supply becomes available. With a digital patient communication system, you can begin sending pre-vaccine surveys and other educational information to communicate with and prepare patients ahead of time. A COVID-19 vaccination checklist can help you create a plan for vaccinating patients and staff well before your healthcare organization receives the vaccines.
- Making the best use of your staff. There has been quite a hit to medical staffing as a result of the coronavirus, including hospitals in at least 25 states that were critically short of nurses, doctors, and other staff. Another study found that 35 percent of healthcare organizations experienced an inability to fill open positions, 61 percent had persistent challenges with COVID-19 testing, and 35 percent faced supply shortages. Reduced staffing means more lifting for everyone within a health organization with a greater burden place upon those responsible for patient communication. The automation of mundane scheduling and appointment tasks can create greater efficiencies for your organization and free up your staff for more important duties.
There continues to be a sense of urgency for healthcare organizations to adapt to new norms as a result of changes brought about by COVID-19. Healthcare providers that plan and prioritize improvements like going to digital patient communications system will be best positioned to be successful in the new year and for years to come.
For the complete list of all the tips and instructions for preparing for the vaccine, download the full COVID-19 Vaccination Checklist. You can also sign up here for ongoing series of blog posts that include tips, tools and stories about the COVID-19 vaccine.