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Convenience is king: 4 ways to streamline access to care

In the digital age, most of the patient journey unfolds online. Care seekers use the web to search for and learn about providers. In fact, they rely on digital channels 2.2x more than referrals when looking for healthcare. But say you’ve already done the important legwork of building a compelling online presence. Your profiles are up to date—bolstered by a 5-star reputation and a lightning-fast response rate when feedback comes through. So, why are patients still picking your competitors instead?

One likely cause is that they find the whole process around booking and conducting the appointment too frustrating and inconvenient.

A streamlined journey is increasingly important to a patient’s decision-making process—as well as a key driver of 5-star reviews and patient loyalty. Digital scheduling, a seamless intake process, excellent pre- and post-visit communication, and telemedicine are now in the spotlight, and consumers’ expectations for a frictionless end-to-end experience have never been higher. Healthcare organizations that don’t prioritize convenience at every touchpoint risk losing a large chunk of the market to competitors, both in converting first-timers and developing repeat patients.

Patients today expect a frustration-free experience, from when they first start looking for care, then on through follow-up communications and beyond. Difficulty at any touchpoint can drive them away from your organization before they even get through the door. Forward-thinking healthcare leaders are working to minimize friction in the patient journey whenever and wherever they can.

1. Enable online appointment scheduling to facilitate the “last mile” and drive conversions  

Difficulty contacting the office is the #1 reason a consumer would decide not to make an appointment. Digital scheduling has emerged as patients’ preferred way of scheduling: Over 63% of patients prefer booking online, via an app, or over email, while only 36.8% would rather use a phone. After researching providers online and seemingly making their decision, ~50% of patients would change their mind and continue the hunt if they had to switch channels to make the appointment.  

2. Prioritize pre-visit and follow-up communication 

Patients prize communication with their doctors and front-office staff. Any uncertainty prior to an appointment or confusion about next steps will cast a shadow on an otherwise positive experience.   

Stellar communication before and after an appointment has a profound effect on loyalty. More patients now cite communication and the demeanor of front-office staff as key to a 5-star experience—two factors they even put ahead of “provider’s bedside manner.” On top of that, almost 40% of patients say that receiving digital appointment reminders (via text or email) impacts how loyal they feel toward a provider.

The stakes for having a solid strategy to streamline operations before and after visits have never been higher. Some proven tactics to jump-start the process include: 

  • Engage with patients on their terms: Most patients today prefer text or email communication, but let patients opt in to how you contact them. Your operations should accommodate different communication channels to ensure important information doesn’t get lost and you meet patients on their terms.
  • Digitize patient check-in: Offer a digital intake and check-in process. This not only minimizes time in the waiting room, but it can also help patients feel prepared ahead of their appointment.
  • Encourage patients to bring questions: When face to face with their physician, all the important questions they were wondering before their appointment might completely evaporate from their brain. Suggest patients write down their questions or anything they want the doctor to know ahead of time so they don’t forget to ask what matters most to them.   

3. Don’t slack on your telemedicine efforts  

Over the last several years—and amplified by COVID—virtual health has gone from peripheral to mainstream. Over a third of patients used telehealth in 2021—a 338% spike compared to pre-pandemic levels. Having a virtual option for care is now more important than ever in driving appointments, patient loyalty, and 5-star reviews. 

While this surge was largely driven by the pandemic, it also reflects patients’ comfort levels with digital care. But no two telehealth systems are the same: Make sure patients are prepped and well versed in telemedicine best practices ahead of a virtual visit to boost adoption, adherence, and satisfaction with the technology. Clearly explain how to log in, use the platform, which browser or device it works best on, etc. Outline what to expect during the experience, including how to troubleshoot if there’s a glitch.  

>> Related read: Telemedicine goes mainstream. Now what? 

4. Leverage authentic online reviews that reflect the true patient experience 

The convenience factors detailed above aren’t just critical to patient acquisition. They’re also key drivers of 5-star reviews—and friction at any touchpoint will show up in consumer feedback, whether someone becomes a patient or not.  

Prospective patients turn to reviews to get a better picture of what their experience will look like. On average, a consumer will read 5½ reviews before deciding on a provider. And reviews and ratings are the #1 influencer when patients research their healthcare options.  

This is where a technology solution can help drive review collection and improve hospital reputation management. Press Ganey’s Review Publishing syndicates real patient survey feedback directly to your profiles on sites like WebMD and Healthgrades. This ensures your online reputation reflects how people really experience care from your doctors and at your facility. 

To learn more about streamlining the patient experience to boost acquisition, satisfaction, and loyalty, reach out to an expert here.