Digital Technology: The Key to Patient Satisfaction
By Jim Higgins
Jim Higgins is the CEO and founder of Solutionreach in Lehi, UT.
It’s time to face the truth—we’re not living in the same world we once did. According to the Pew Research Center, 95 percent of American adults own a cell phone and 89 percent use the Internet. This is a huge increase since the year 2000, when nearly half of the population reported not using the Internet at all.
With such incredible growth in access to (and comfort with) technology, it’s easy to see why patients say the use of digital tools is a priority to them in a healthcare organization. In fact, one study found that the use of technology increases patient satisfaction scores by 10 percent or more. And while a majority of healthcare facilities understand the need, many have not yet adopted streamlined digital communications or payment options that meet current patient needs. In fact, only about 9 percent of providers offer all of the digital tools patients want.
What are the best ways to take advantage of modern technology? (Hint: They are all related to improving the patient experience.)
Digital Payment Options
Are you still sending the good old paper bill? If so, you are not alone — 86 percent of patients report receiving paper medical bills. This is true regardless of the fact that 85 percent say they would prefer to pay online! But is it really such a big deal? The answer to that is a resounding YES! Experts report that 65 percent of patients say they would switch healthcare providers for a better payment experience.
Fortunately, using digital methods to send and process payments has never been easier. Not only can you process payments through typical methods like a patient portal, but with today’s technology, balance notifications can be sent directly to a patient’s phone via text message or email. These messages can include a direct link to a secure payment screen where patients can process their payments within minutes. It’s easy and fast—but more importantly, it’s what patients want.
For years and years, the only way to make an appointment with a healthcare provider was to call the office. That is all changing. We now live in a time where we’re accustomed to doing everything from buying movie tickets to scheduling a haircut via a simple click on our smartphone. The use of online scheduling — where patients book their own appointments whenever or wherever they may be — is becoming a must-have for healthcare organizations. It takes less than one minute, on average, to schedule an appointment online. In contrast, appointments scheduled by phone take an average of eight minutes. That’s just not practical for patients OR their healthcare organizations.
Seventy-seven percent of patients prefer to schedule appointments online. And practices can make that experience even easier with the right technology. When online scheduling is integrated with your practice management system, it can identify existing versus new patients and adapt the forms so existing patients don’t have to provide information that you already have.
Texting is the most popular way to reach out to friends and family these days — even 85 percent of senior citizens own a cell phone! But people want to text more people than their friends. They like the ability to text businesses — including their healthcare provider. As one study found, 73 percent of patients would like to have back-and-forth conversations via text message with their healthcare provider. With two-way texting, you can:
- Answer care questions.
- Schedule new appointments.
- Discuss follow-up instructions.
- Reschedule appointments.
- Anything else you might need!
Of course, you want to make sure you stay HIPAA-compliant whenever you may be sending PHI via text message. Make sure to use technology that offers the tools to stay compliant.
It’s something every healthcare organization has experienced: A patient posts a negative review about your services. Most of the time, these negative experiences can come as a complete surprise. Fortunately, there is a simple way to drastically improve your chances of handling issues before patients lash out online. The simple solution is the use of patient surveys. Patient satisfaction (and provider success!) is closely tied to how patients feel about what happened during an appointment. Sending a survey to patients after a visit is a great way to better understand problems and be able to address issues.
In the past, most organizations asked patients to fill out paper surveys in the office. This method is now very outdated. Paper survey results are very ineffective at making any real change. Using technology to email or text your patients a survey after their appointment increases the likelihood that they will give more honest responses. It also makes it a whole lot more likely that they will be filled out. When it comes to making patient satisfaction a priority, it’s critical to gauge if your current technology is up to the challenge. Technology can greatly improve how your patients view you and your entire practice. It can also improve the productivity and efficiency of you and your staff.
Digital technology has changed the world as we know it. From business to education to health, no corner of the world has been left untouched. It allows for better communication between a healthcare organization and their patients, smoother methods for scheduling and payment, as well as an improved patient experience. Now is the time for you to take advantage of the benefits offered by the digital revolution.
Jenn, Mr. H, Lorre
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