Improving Patient Experience with Enhanced Communications
Updated: Jun 28, 2019
By Licia Wolf
Communication between healthcare providers and their patients has traditionally occurred via phone calls and in-person appointments. However, this mode is prone to inefficiencies and time-wasting for both patients and providers. Patients with busy lives often have little time to wade through phone menus and re-directs or wait on hold, only to leave a message. Further, when their provider returns their calls, patients may miss the call and must repeat the process. Moreover, patients with chronic conditions may need immediate communication with their providers, and traditional communication methods often fall short, endangering the patient. With more communication choices today, patients and customers are demanding alternative ways to connect with their healthcare providers.
Industries such as airlines and retailers are already on-board with multi-channel communications by sending updates, receipts, and other messaging to their customers using text and emails. Healthcare providers are just beginning to incorporate these methods, and the trend is growing.
Texting is Gaining Traction
Most people today use texting to communicate with family, friends, and business associates. They also would like to use it when communicating with their healthcare providers. In a 2018 white paper by West Corporation a survey found that 17% of patients have texted a healthcare provider. The study also found that 65% - 70% of patients are willing to use text to communicate about appointments (schedule, reschedule, cancel), and 50% - 65% feel it is extremely important to receive texts that contain information about health monitoring and prevention, post-treatment instructions and follow-up. Ninety-five percent of patients feel it is important to use text for preventative care, appointment scheduling, and preventative screenings, while 80% - 85% are willing to receive information regarding remote monitoring, post-treatment instructions, appointments, and payments.
It is apparent that the majority of patients would like to use texting to communicate with their providers, but most healthcare providers do not offer this option. Only 31% of providers regularly communicate about chronic disease management with patients outside of appointments, while 87% of patients want it. Ninety-five percent of patients said they want text communications about preventative care and scheduling appointments, but only about 25% or providers are doing this at all.
To improve the customer experience, multi-channel communication programs could be integrated into contact center activities. Because agents are already handling this information and responsibility, realigning some of the messaging from phone calls to texts and/or emails is a logical transition.
In the past, call centers have focused more on call efficiency and less on call effectiveness. With today’s goals for improved patient satisfaction, contact centers are turning their attention to call effectiveness and ensuring that patients are assisted in a professional and timely way.
For patients with chronic conditions living at home without an attending caregiver, communication issues become more critical. These people include elderly patients that may have limited travel capabilities and movement. Lack of communication and missed appointments can impact the patient’s health and increase re-admission risk. Some chronic condition patients can use a cell phone, but others are not tech savvy or may be non-ambulatory, without access to a phone. To solve this issue, patients can use one-button-call wearable medical alarm monitoring devices that are worn around the neck, on the wrist, arm or clothing. With these devices the alarm alerts a monitoring company which calls the provider, and the patient waits for a call back. This system works well in low priority situations.
On occasions when the patient is undergoing an emerging medical situation that requires immediate attention, it is imperative that they reach a provider quickly. An answer to this issue is a device such as the “CareCaller” (Homestead Health). A revised version of the alarm monitoring system, the “CareCaller” eliminates the monitoring center, and when the patient presses the call button a direct call is placed to their nurse. The device acts like a cell phone when connected, and the patient can report their concerns and receive instructions immediately. If necessary, the nurse also can execute emergency actions.
Using texts, emails, or one-button-call devices to communicate directly with patients contributes to improving patient experience and outcomes, boosting contact center ratings and provider efficacy.
HigherGround provides call recording and data capture for healthcare contact centers and other applications.
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About the Author - Licia Wolf is the Marketing and Communications Manager at HigherGround. She holds a Ph.D., and a professional background in electronics, internet marketing, and print/imaging technology. Click here for more information on the rest of the HigherGround team.
HigherGround, Inc. provides best-in-class, reliable data capture and interaction storage solutions that enable clients to easily retrieve critical information. Our interaction recording and incident reconstruction solutions transform data into actionable intelligence, allowing optimization of operations, enhanced performance, and cost reduction.