Healthcare is amid a digital transformation. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, 81 percent of patients research a potential healthcare provider online before scheduling an appointment. If the online presence seems out-of-date or inefficient, they will go to your competitor. Furthermore, patient expectations are increasing in a manner like those of e-commerce platforms, including Amazon, and 60 percent of patients expect a retail-like means of accessing healthcare. While EHR software may help facilitate such changes, healthcare organizations must understand what changing patient expectations mean for the primary stages of patient care, including before an appointment, during the visit and follow-up care.
Before Scheduling an Appointment
Before a patient even schedules an appointment, the practice must have an online presence. Unlisted practices will see stagnant patient numbers, decreased referrals and poor performance. However, simply listing a practice is insufficient as patients expect much more, including:
1. Pre-Register and Complete Necessary Documentation Before the Visit
Pre-registration capabilities are a go-to resource for patients that want to schedule an appointment and submit all necessary paperwork before visiting the office, such as the capabilities offered through ProCheckIn. This may include linking past medical records through EHR software, uploaded attachments from a mobile device, submitting insurance information and more. Furthermore, completing paperwork in advance through online platforms gives everyone an opportunity to review records and determine if more information is necessary.
2. Automated Notifications for Appointment Reminders
The days of receiving phone calls for appointment reminders continue, but it is equally important for a practice to offer automated email and text message appointment reminders. These reminders should also integrate with the EHR and scheduling software, giving patients the ability to confirm or decline an appointment, as well as request rescheduling.
3. See the Cost of an Office Visit
Earlier this year, legislation required all healthcare organisations to increase price transparency for patients. The legislation seems burdensome. Yet, it is the result of a troubling trend among millennial. As explained by Forbes, up to 40 percent of millennial have avoided medical care due to costs, and depending on geographic location, actual avoidance rates may skyrocket to 64 percent among the latest generations. Thus, pricing transparency and upfront information are critical to meeting patient expectations before they contact your practice or take any further actions.
During the Appointment
After making an appointment, the hard work of meeting expectations in real-life interactions begins. Key expectations in this stage include:
1. Expect Low Wait Times
Wait times remain a major concern of today’s patients. Depending on the care facility, the average wait time for patients visiting a physician’s office was 19 minutes and 16 seconds in 2015, says Becker’s Hospital Review. Fortunately, this had improved to just over 12 minutes in 2017, reports Healthcare Finance. At the same time, even a five-minute wait may be too long in today’s world. Patients expect to be seen immediately, and poor clinical time management will result in lost patients and degradation of community health.
2. A Well-Prepared Provider
This the hardest expectation to meet. Patients want providers to do their research before interactions and understand complaints or needs before entering the exam room. In other words, patients expect providers to have all the necessary data to make informed decisions regarding their care. Therefore, caregivers should already understand their needs and be prepared with a course of action. At this point, the actual visit is merely a formality.
3. Pay a Competitive, Reasonable Price
At the end of the visit or beginning, depending on the financial responsibility of the patient, people want to pay an affordable rate. This differs from the pre-appointment pricing transparency expectation. Although the patient can find out costs beforehand, it is important to keep pricing as low as possible. To achieve this, practices should reduce their costs and improve revenue cycle management (RCM), which keeps patient costs under control. Also, patients expect to have the option to make payments online too.
After Visiting a Clinic
Even though the in-office visit is over, healthcare providers still have additional expectations to meet, including:
1. Seamless Way for Prescriptions Refills
The fastest way to irritate a sick person is by making them do something unnecessary, such as taking a written prescription to the pharmacy. Written prescriptions extend the time to fill the prescription, delaying the patient and adversely affecting the likelihood a patient will return for follow-up care. With e-prescriptions—digital prescriptions sent to the pharmacy automatically and from the healthcare office—patients can pick up their medications after leaving the office. In fact, the use of e-prescription has risen significantly, and between 2015 and 2017, notes Becker’s Hospital Review, their use rose more than 500 percent.
2. Automated Notifications for Unusual Labs or Provider-Initiated Conversations
If an issue does arise in follow-up care, such as out-of-range lab results, patients want automated notifications. They may even ask for emailed test results. This is really an add-on to the initial need for secure, online communications between provider and patient.
3. Continue Care Via Telemedicine, Including Virtual Visits
The final expectation is to not need to visit a clinic for follow-up care at all. Patients expect to use telemedicine, including virtual visits, to limit their need to visit the practice. Of course, there will always be incidents and needs requiring an in-office visit. However, if the patient can safely see a provider through a mobile app or other remote capabilities, that interaction will always win.
Put the Right Technology in Place to Give Patients What They Expect
Regardless of before, during or after appointments, patients have another common expectation. They want clear, concise and easy-to-access communication systems. Simply having an in-office staff is not enough in today’s world. They want the ability to send a message to your practice, schedule an appointment online and find out more about the specific clinic’s history. Although this standard exists for all caregiver-patient interactions, healthcare providers should work to meet patient expectations before, during an after appointments as well. Fortunately, PrognoCIS has the resources, including EHR software, ProCheckIn, and E-Prescription systems, to give patients what they expect.