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5 Digital Solutions To Improve Patient Access To Healthcare

5 Digital Solutions To Improve Patient Access To Healthcare | Digital Marketing Company in Malaysia - MYSense

With 30% of people now scheduling healthcare appointments online, and 40% have switched providers just to get an appointment sooner, improving patient access is more important than ever.

Healthcare marketers can learn a lot from JetBlue. Seriously. In recent years, the budget air carrier has totally revamped its customer experience, to wide and well-deserved acclaim. How did they do it? They put the customer experience at the center of their entire design. Today, things are much easier for passengers flying with JetBlue, from self-check-in and bag drop to a handy dandy mobile app.

 

Like airline passengers, healthcare consumers want the same level of thoughtful design. They want a consistent, on-demand, digital experience across all of their devices. They want transparent and proactive communications that help them rather than selling them.

 

And when healthcare needs arise, as they inevitably do, these consumers want fast access to care. The data from the Kyruus 2019 Patient Access Journey Report doesn’t lie:

  • 30% of people schedule their appointments online
  • 40% of people switched providers to get an appointment sooner
  • 46% of people who visited urgent care in the past year cited “speed of access”

In short, patient access is important. To remain competitive, healthcare providers must respond by removing barriers to patient access. This article examines how five specific digital marketing technologies can improve consumers’ access to healthcare.

1. Start With a Well-designed Website

Before diving into other technologies, we need to start with the foundation. Your website should be the center of patient access, never an afterthought. Whether they find your website using a search engine or come to you directly, your patients often begin their journey on your website. The question is: can they quickly find what they need with just a few clicks or less? 

 

What we’re talking about is the user experience (UX) of your website, a rather generic term. To create a completely free experience, here are some best website practices to remember:

 

Intuitive navigation: Yes, reduce the clutter of your top navigation. But also think about the most searched for information, pages, and procedures that the majority of patients are looking for. For example, how quickly can they book an appointment? Find your phone number? Where can I find information about COVID19? 

 

  • Good copywriting: For many patients, the medical world speaks a different language. The quality of your website text can help avoid confusion and guide people where they need to go. Keep it brief. Focus on clarity. Minimize jargon. And write in laypeople’s terms. 
  • Use larger font sizes: This makes it easier for people of all skill levels to read your site and on more devices. 
  • Comply with ADA site guidelines: What most sites ignored (and some still do) is now a must. Healthcare providers in particular have no reason not to prioritize the accessibility of ADA’s website. 
  • Be mobile responsive: The world is mobile, including healthcare consumers. Make sure that your website content is accessible on all mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.) Make sure to check out the new pages. 
  • Load fast: Healthcare consumers and the gods of Google expect high site speeds. Slow-loading, cluttered pages add to the patient journey, create frustration, and can affect your site’s ranking.
Speaking of ranking on Google …
For many healthcare consumers, Google and other search engines are their entry point. Fortunately, a good website, one that follows the best practices detailed above, goes hand in hand with strong Google rankings. As part of your website updates, consider auditing pages against search engine optimization (SEO) best practices, too.

2. Consider Your Online Scheduling Process

Remember that statistic from Kyruus, where 40% said they switched to vendors who could recruit them sooner? Planning is a big deal for almost all health care consumers. However, some people still have mixed feelings about booking online. According to the same report, around 55% still prefer to talk to someone and schedule on the phone.

 

However, others benefit from convenient online planning offers, especially the younger generations. Globally, the preference for making appointments by phone is declining, especially among young people: 40% of Gen Xs and 35% of Millennials, for example, prefer to make appointments online.

The first step is to assess your interest in the practice. What is the demographics of your primary patients and how likely are they to book online? What are competitors doing about online planning? Can online planning keep you competitive? Does implementing this option help you operationally? When launching your online planning interface, keep a few things in mind: rankings.

  • Test and refine the UX across devices, browsers, and even operating systems. Your UX mustn’t be the reason patients abandon your online scheduling platform or neglect to use it at all. If online bookings are lagging, this might be why.
  • Make online scheduling availability obvious and promote it widely. Start with adding a prominent button or link to your homepage and top navigation menu. You can also add online scheduling to your Google My Business listing(s) and, if needed, launch ad campaigns to build awareness and drive appointments.
  • Find a good online booking solution that specializes in healthcare. The right vendor ought to offer easy, out-of-the-box integrations with your existing website experience, while handling all the technical nitty-gritty so you don’t have to build something from scratch.
 

3. See If Chatbots Make Sense For Your Demographic

There has been a lot of hype around chatbots – a lot. And while they’re not necessarily a lifeline for overcrowded call centers or long wait times, they can help patients get the answers they’re looking for. According to Accenture’s 2020 Digital Health Consumer Survey, for example, more than 12 million people have been contacted through the WHO Health Alerts chatbot service. 

 

The reason is simple: they can troubleshoot issues and answer questions so the patient doesn’t have to call the contact center. There is no doubt that chatbots can help facilitate patient access. Here are some of the most common use cases we’ve seen in healthcare:

  • 24/7 scheduling
  • Symptom checker
  • Volume control for spikes in COVID-19 related questions (Can I get the vaccine? Are you offering in-person visits? Do you offer telehealth appointments?)
  • Answers to questions in a judgment-free environment, any time of day
  • Healthcare recommendations (who to see depending on their question/symptoms, for instance)

What’s nice about chatbots is how versatile they can be. While some chatbots are 100% automated, others can gather information from a patient before handing them off to live agent chat. Other chat platforms can be integrated into messenger apps, such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, as well as text messaging.

4. Optimize Your Telehealth Offering

There’s no doubt that the global pandemic has accelerated telemedicine adoption and virtual care investments. For some patients, virtual care allows them to overcome disabilities, remote locations, or trepidation around COVID-19 exposure. For others, telehealth extends safe access to healthcare for at-risk populations for whom in-person visits are still not an option. Coming back to the aforementioned Accenture report, we see that some 62 % of healthcare consumers are open to virtual health and wellness advisories. 52% of consumers are open to conducting routine appointments using telehealth, while 44% are open to telehealth appointments with specialists.

 
 

To drive telehealth adoption at your practice, you need to provide your patients with two things:

  • Awareness of your telehealth offering and how to take advantage of it.
  • Support for accessing, setting up, and using telehealth.

5. Leverage Marketing Automation Where It Makes The Most Sense

Marketing automation is a slippery slope. Too much information can make patients feel like automatons or make them feel like their healthcare provider is intentionally restricting their access to a real person. On the other hand, marketing automation can bring tremendous value and convenience to the patient’s journey. 

 

Just consider this excerpt from Accenture’s 2019 Digital Health Consumer Survey:

 

“More than half of patients surveyed expect digital capabilities—from requesting prescription refills to booking appointments. These expectations increasingly influence who these patients choose as a provider. For instance, in 2019, 70% are more likely to choose a provider that offers reminders for follow-up care via email or text, compared to 57% in 2016.”

Ensure your practice's website is up-to-date with digital capabilities

We see automated messages mentioned here, for good reason. Is it fun to receive an email or SMS reminder of an upcoming appointment (an appointment you may have forgotten)? This type of automation benefits both parties: it helps patients stay on track while keeping time slots fully booked and reducing no-shows. 

 

Again, this is a proactive and value-creating approach. You can use automation to connect patients with specialists or continuum of care options, or provide reminders about next steps in their follow-up care (for example: after surgery).

It’s Time to Take a Close Look in the Mirror

The point is, patient experience matters to the very status and survival of your brand, and patient access comprises a central part of it. By constantly viewing the processes, operations, and marketing touchpoints that make up your patient journey through the lens of enhancing patient access, you’ll quickly see your blind spots.

 

In many cases, barriers to patient access are self-imposed. Getting your practice squared way in the five areas we’ve enumerated above will put you head and shoulders above the competition.

 
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