2020 will probably be remembered as the most significant year in the evolution of healthcare that the modern world has ever seen. Wrestling with the same challenges for decades – outdated paper systems, increasing administrative burden, and unnecessary waste – medical practices arguably had the odds stacked against them when faced with the rapid spread of a devastating pandemic. But medical practices for the most part survived and adapted to a hugely different world, almost overnight.
In short, COVID-19 forced a change in how patients consume care, and how healthcare providers deliver care. Looking ahead, what does it mean for your medical practice in 2021? Which changes are temporary, and which are permanent? And what does tech have to do with it? These are all questions that can really only be answered by asking yourself, what do patients want?
Patient expectations have been shifting for a while now, but medical practices can expect these to reach a tipping point in 2021- marking a new era in patient-focused healthcare. Here’s how patient expectations are likely to impact your medical practice.
1. Patients will expect digital payment methods
COVID-19 drove patient demand for contactless payment solutions. No more passing bank cards and devices back and forth or handling cash. Easy-to-use mobile payment applications means that even small practices can accept card payments from anywhere. This means if your practice offers Telehealth consultations, your patients are still able to pay without physically needing to be in the practice.
This is a fast, patient-friendly way to pay that comes with extremely low risk because transactions only go through if there are funds in the patient’s account. Essentially, it is as good as cash, without the contact.
What you can do:
Start accepting digital payments your patients are familiar with and prefer using such as SnapScan. Patients use SnapScan because it is a convenient, cashless way to pay from a mobile phone. To find out more, click here.
2. Patients will expect consumer-like digital solutions
Living in a digital age means that consumers want things done quickly, on demand and from the convenience of their mobile device. Picking up the phone and making a call to book an appointment or place an order has largely become a last resort. Now, when you want to order pizza, you simply use an app. The same is true for booking doctors’ appointments.
Patients want to book their own appointments at a time that suits them. It should be fast, easy, seamless, and importantly – digital.
What you can do
In 2021 an online appointment platform is no longer a luxury or a novelty – it is an expectation. The good news is that you don’t have to attempt building your own – there are readily available plug and play technologies where all the work has been done for you. RecoMed is an online booking platform that fits seamlessly into your existing practice calendar. Not only is it convenient for your patients, but the platform has the added benefits of being optimised for Google rankings and will drastically reduce unnecessary admin on front office staff.
3. Patients will want to text with their doctor
In a new world of remote working and physical distancing, digital communication is both necessary and commonplace. Consumers are adept at using instant messaging services and businesses have followed this trend to be able to engage with consumers. Patients will want the same direct channel of communication with their doctor’s office. But setting up a messaging line is easier said than done. In reality, most medical practices simply don’t have the capacity to answer instant messages.
What you can do
If you are not in the position to set-up and manage a dedicated Whatsapp business number, then we suggest you start small. Offer a dedicated email address or SMS number that patients can contact you on. If you are going to set up a dedicated email address, try to avoid info@ or support@ email addresses, rather opt for something specific and more personal such as askthedr@, for example.
It’s really important that when making these channels available, you set clear expectations. For example, stipulate that there is a 24-hour turnaround time, that no emergencies should be sent to this address/number and that no medical advice will be given on these channels.
4. Patients will expect telehealth options, or they will find someone who does offer them
Telehealth (or telemedicine) is a practical way to limit in-person contact and mitigate the risk of spreading of highly infectious diseases. During lockdown, medical practices saw a drop in-patient visits largely due to patients not wanting to put themselves at risk of exposure. But telehealth means patients can continue to make and keep appointments from the safety of their homes without endangering themselves, other patients, you or your practice staff.
Thinking beyond COVID-19, the ease and convenience of Telehealth means that it’s not just a passing phase but rather it is here to stay with more and more patients opting for Telehealth consults over in-person visits.
What you can do
If you haven’t yet implemented Telehealth at your practice, it is time you start investigating a Telehealth solution that is simple to use and can grow with your practice as patient demand increases. To help get you started, click here to access an ebook that covers everything you need to know about implementing Telehealth for better patient experience and practice growth.
Just like any business, medical practices operate in a time when consumer (or patient) expectations drive innovation. As we start the year facing considerable unknowns, it is the perfect time to embrace patient expectations and pivot your practice to meet them. Healthbridge has been helping private practices run their best practices for over 20 years. For more information about how Healthbridge can help you meet patient expectations, click here.
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