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Healthcare in an E-Commerce World – Communication Solutions Series

Posted on April 14, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Laura Alabed-Olsson, Marketing Manager of Stericycle Communication Solutions, as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter:@StericycleComms
Laura Alabed-Olsson
These days, it seems as though I can’t pickup an industry publication, or even a major daily newspaper, without finding at least one article on healthcare consumerism. Consumers want to shop for healthcare the way they shop for TVs and cars, they say. Consumers expect cost information, quality ratings and anytime access, too, they tell us.

All of this makes me wonder: For healthcare providers that have long operated in a traditional, not so consumer-centric world, where does one begin? Results from a handful of recent surveys offer some insights:

  1. More than 40% of consumers say that information found via social media affects the way they deal with their health.
  1. 77% of consumers use online reviews, often found on sites like Yelp and Healthgrades, as their first step in finding a new doctor.
  1. 56% of consumers have actively looked for healthcare cost information before getting care; 21% of these have compared prices across multiple providers.
  1. Consumers expect the same online service in healthcare that they see in other industries, and they will switch providers to get it.

So, let’s dig in.

Insight #1: 40% of consumers turn to social media for healthcare information. This statistic may not come as a surprise, especially when you consider the number of patients sitting in waiting rooms – or restaurants or coffee shops or wherever  – with phone in hand, endlessly scrolling Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.  What is surprising is how relatively few healthcare providers are pursuing this captive audience with educational content that accurately informs consumers about health-related issues (while simultaneously addressing demands for a “connected” experience). Is your organization leveraging social media to educate and engage with patients? Perhaps it should be.

Insight #2: 77% of consumers look to online reviews when choosing a provider. To further validate this point: Did you know that Healthgrades.com, the for-profit site that shares a variety of information about physicians, hospitals and other provider organizations, gets a million hits a day? Clearly, consumers have an appetite for information on patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes. Is this information readily available on your organization’s website? If you don’t provide it, others will and, in doing so, they are poised to steer prospective patients elsewhere.

Insight #3: 56% of consumers are paying attention to healthcare costs. While the idea of comparison shopping for healthcare is a relatively new one, it’s one that consumers and providers alike must embrace (consumers, because they’re increasingly accountable for a greater share of out-of-pocket costs, and providers, because cost transparency is the new norm – and if you want to effectively compete with traditional providers, retail clinics, telemedicine, docs-on-demand and whatever comes next, you’ve just got to get onboard). Is your organization empowering patients to make thoughtful decisions? A cost estimator on your website – or even a promise to have cost information available when patients request it – could make for a great start.

Insight #4: Healthcare consumers want an online experience that mirrors what’s being offered by retailers like Amazon, Southwest Airlines and OpenTable. When consumers want to book an airline ticket or reserve a table at their favorite restaurant, they don’t have to pick up the phone and call between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. They hop online when it’s convenient for them and, in just a few clicks, they’ve gotten what they want. Why should healthcare be any different? By offering online self-scheduling on your website, you’re giving patients 24/7 access to care – and you’re doing it in a way that is familiar and convenient for them. Does your organization offer a way for consumers to access care when and how they want to? Research suggests it should.

Healthcare consumerism requires a significant shift in how providers serve patients, for sure. But in just a few, small steps – like those mentioned here – you can be on your way.

The Communication Solutions Series of blog posts is sponsored by Stericycle Communication Solutions, a leading provider of high quality telephone answeringappointment scheduling, and automated communication services. Stericycle Communication Solutions combines a human touch with innovative technology to deliver best-in-class communication services.  Connect with Stericycle Communication Solutions on social media: @StericycleComms

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency – It’s a Must in This Age of Healthcare Consumerism

Posted on March 10, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Laura Alabed-Olsson, Marketing Manager of Stericycle Communication Solutions, as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter:@StericycleComms
Laura Alabed-Olsson
Whether I’m visiting my favorite restaurant, online shopping from the couch, or navigating airport security (grrrr), for me, consistency counts.  In fact, it’s amazing how even the most daunting of tasks can seem more manageable when I know exactly what to expect.

Research shows that I’m not alone in my preference for predictability and familiarity, especially as it relates to consumerism.  A 2014 study of 27,000 American consumers by McKinsey & Company found that a consistent customer experience across the entire customer journey increases satisfaction, builds trust and boosts loyalty.  Similarly, a 2015 study by King Brown Partners found that 80% of people agree that consistent consumer experiences strongly impact brand perception.

You may be wondering what all of this has to do with healthcare.  Do your patients (and prospective patients) really think about shopping for a TV and shopping for healthcare in the same way? In this world of high-deductible health plans, narrow networks and walk-in clinics on every corner, yes.

Consider this:

  • 92% of consumers want more control over their personal health. [1]
  • 52% report searching online for health or care-related information. [2]
  • 91% say they are loyal to their doctor, yet 44% may change for a more convenient location and 33% may change for a lower cost. [3]
  • 67% say the overall patient experience plays an extremely important role in their decision-making process. [4]

The consumer mindset has clearly taken root in healthcare. While slashing prices or relocating to a more convenient location likely isn’t possible, thankfully, there are simple things providers can do now to deliver a consistent, consumer-centric experience that gets and keep patients.

  1. Ensure customer satisfaction during each and every encounter – and across all channels. This means having staff, protocols and supporting mechanisms (from online self-scheduling to after hours call support) in place during regular office hours and beyond. Today’s healthcare consumers expect 24/7 access and the most successful providers deliver.
  1. Communicate with patients frequently and in a way that’s convenient for them. A majority of patients believe that technology supports better care, so use it to reach out with appointment reminders, preparation and discharge instructions, preventive health reminders, and messaging that helps with disease management. Doing so supports a stress-free (and wonderfully predictable) care experience – while also minimizing scheduling gaps and boosting population health.
  1. Welcome questions (above and beyond the regular ones). This new age of healthcare consumerism can be challenging for providers and patients alike. By welcoming patient questions specific to once taboo subjects like cost, quality and alternative therapies, you’re helping build trust, loyalty and a better healthcare consumer – and that’s good for your patient, your business and the healthcare industry at large.

Yes, consistency is where it’s at…the numbers don’t lie. Are you delivering?

The Communication Solutions Series of blog posts is sponsored by Stericycle Communication Solutions, a leading provider of high quality telephone answeringappointment scheduling, and automated communication services. Stericycle Communication Solutions combines a human touch with innovative technology to deliver best-in-class communication services.  Connect with Stericycle Communication Solutions on social media: @StericycleComms

References:
[1] Ipsos, Pfizer and the National Council on Patient Information and Education, April 2015
[2] Deloitte’s 2015 Survey of US Health Care Consumers
[3] RBC Capital Markets Consumer Health & Information Technology Survey, April 2015
[4] Beryl Institute, September 2015

Finding The Perfect Match…The Hunt For A Provider Patient Relationship That Works – Communication Solutions Series

Posted on February 11, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Brittany Quemby,  Marketing Manager of Stericycle Communication Solutions as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter: @StericycleComms
Brittany Quemby - Stericycle
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, some of my single friends are sharing the difficulties they are having while trying to find “the one.” This got me thinking about the relationships in my life where I’ve struggled to find “the one.”

Most of us put in a lot of time and consideration when choosing a healthcare provider.  If you think about it, it’s almost like online dating.  We research our physicians online, take a look at their reviews, get feedback and recommendations from friends, and meet with them to make sure it’s the right fit.  After what could be months of trying to find the right doctor we finally make a decision and bring them onboard as a trusted healthcare advisor.  You entrust them with your health, your life, and your future.  This got me thinking…are our healthcare providers taking the same amount of time and consideration when evaluating the services they provide to us?

Healthcare providers offer a number of services and contract many different service organizations when it comes to running their organizations. Everything from EHRs, to Patient Engagement tools, to Lab Facilities, to Digital Health apps, to their telephone answering service is outsourced in one way or another. I wonder, how can you ensure you’re selecting a physician who takes as much care choosing service providers and their amenities as you did choosing them?  After all, your care and health outcomes are impacted by both people in the relationship being the “right match.”

After working in the healthcare industry for several years, I treat my visit to my doctor’s office like I would a first date. I take notes, try to spot the red flags and ask lots of tough questions. Anything from which EHR they are using, to how they document my visit, how they dispose or store patient files, how they remind me for my appointment, how they route my calls, what patient educational tools they offer me, my wait-time, and even who they buy their supplies from.

Now…I am able to spot these things because I have an idea of what I am looking for and the right questions to ask.  But what about patient’s who don’t know what to look for? Do they know what they are looking for in a long term provider relationship? What are the most important characteristics to them and what are they willing to compromise?

Here are some of my deal breakers:

  • Old Equipment and Technology. It’s important to me that my provider uses the best healthcare products and services on the market that can help manage my health effectively.
  • Lackadaisical Security. It’s imperative that my health data is secure. My provider must understand the importance of maintaining secure patient information and employing vendors who are HIPAA compliant.
  • Unavailability. I get that my healthcare provider may not work 24 hours a day, but there are times that I think their service providers should. What if I need an appointment on a Saturday? What if I need to get a hold of my physician after hours? Who will take that call? A provider who I can only communicate with Monday to Friday between 9am and 4pm is a deal-breaker for me.
  • Poor Communication. I always have questions about my health and how to better maintain it. For me, my provider has to be available, approachable, caring, and communicative to serve as a consultant in my healthcare journey.
  • Makes me pay. When I am searching for the right providers, insurance is the first place I start. Does the healthcare organization accept my insurance, or will I have to pay for my services? Don’t take my insurance? Deal breaker!

Unfortunately, there is not a Match.com to help pair the right patient with the right provider….yet. (With the demands patients are putting on healthcare organizations I wouldn’t be surprised if we are swiping left or right when picking our providers in the next 5 years). However, as patients become more and more involved in their care decisions and continue to expect more from their providers I’d encourage everyone to create their list of deal breakers and ask the hard questions, and when in doubt, introduce them to your mom!

The Communication Solutions Series of blog posts is sponsored by Stericycle Communication Solutions, a leading provider of high quality telephone answering, appointment scheduling, and automated communication services. Stericycle Communication Solutions combines a human touch with innovative technology to deliver best-in-class communication services.  Connect with Stericycle Communication Solutions on social media:  @StericycleComms