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Why Provide Consumer-minded Communications? Patients Expect Them

Posted on March 9, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Chelsea Kimbrough, a copywriter for Stericycle Communication Solutions, as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter: @StericycleComms
Chelsea Kimbrough
With technology advancing rapidly, communication has become both more accessible and more difficult than ever before. Today, Americans nationwide communicate with their smartphones via various social media platforms, mobile calls, text messages, applications, and more. In fact, 80 percent of consumers now own a smartphone for personal use, which could include making purchasing decisions and seeking out support with not only commercial industries, but with healthcare organizations as well.

Patients instinctively utilize the communication methods they are most comfortable with when interacting with healthcare organizations. These often include traditional methods such as live voice appointment scheduling and telephone answering. But as healthcare consumerism has grown more prevalent, these methods also frequently include digital and automated solutions such as online self-scheduling, appointment reminders via text message, and other automated messaging options.

As a self-professed consumer-minded patient, I tend to seek out the latter communication methods when it comes time to contact my healthcare provider. If there is an option to schedule an appointment online from the comfort of my own home, I take it. When asked if I’d like to opt in for email, voice, or text message reminders and messaging, I always indicate ‘yes.’ And if given the opportunity to meet with my physician virtually rather than in the office, I jump at it.

These features and functionalities provide me with the freedom to more proactively manage my healthcare needs without disrupting my day-to-day responsibilities. This freedom is also why I’ve become a loyal patient to my local provider. And I’m not alone.

As reported by the Beryl Institute, 87 of consumers say the patient experience is extremely important overall and 67 percent report that it plays an extremely important role in their decision-making process. Communication plays a major part in what patients view as their patient experience. If my healthcare provider were to only provide traditional live voice services, I may not have been as apt to schedule an appointment. Similarly, if they focused solely on digital solutions, they could miss out on other valuable patients.

So, what’s the answer?

Healthcare organizations should holistically approach communications with a combination of traditional and technology-based communication methods. Patients must be able to communicate however they feel most comfortable, including via a traditional phone call or by receiving important appointment information via automated emails or texts. Healthcare organizations that provide a combination of live voice, digital, and automated communication support tools are more apt to meet the diverse and evolving expectations of their entire patient population. In turn, these same organizations are more likely to successfully foster ongoing patient loyalty and satisfaction.

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

A Girl, a Fitbit, and an Already Failed New Year’s Resolution

Posted on February 9, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The following is a guest blog post by Cristina Dafonte, Marketing Associate of Stericycle Communication Solutions as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter:@StericycleComms
cristina-dafonte
Have you ever heard the story of the person who makes a New Year’s Resolution to exercise more and eat healthy, buys themselves a cool new gadget to stay motivated, a fresh new pair of sneakers, and then has already failed by February? This person is me – in February of 2017, I have fallen victim to every New Year’s Resolution stereotype in existence.

Last week, after eating half of a “family sized” bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and thinking about how frustrated I was that I couldn’t eat healthy for a whole two months, someone gave me a bit of great advice. They told me to write down what I had learned since January.

Lesson 1:

I love Cool Ranch Doritos and I have no self-control over my hand-to-mouth motion when I am around them.

Lesson 2:

Eating half of a family sized bag of Cool Ranch Doritos is guaranteed to make you feel extremely sick.

Lesson 3:

My “stay motivated” gadget is way cooler than I thought.

I bought myself a FitBit Charge 2 so that I could not only monitor the number of steps I took, but also monitor my heart rate while exercising. I had no idea why this was important, but my triathlete boyfriend had a heart rate monitor, so I wanted one too.

After about 1 week with my new FitBit, I was hooked. I was monitoring my heart rate all day, everyday. I wanted to know where my peak heart rate was and how far it was from my resting heart rate. I used the customized “relax” feature on my FitBit, which took me through guided breathing exercises to lower my heart rate. The FitBit also calculates how many hours you sleep and how many calories you burn while running, all based on my heart rate! I was amazed on how much I learned about my body just by watching my heart rate, which led me and my #HIT mind to thinking about how this data could or should be shared with my primary care doctor.

In a recent study by Stanford Medicine, researchers proved how wearables could tell when a person was getting sick. They discuss how healthcare providers can use wearables and the data they collect to help individualize medicine – by establishing a unique “baseline,” providers will easily be able to tell when something is wrong.

The future of healthcare, and personalized medicine, and the interconnectedness of it all is exciting. I know that given the option, I would gladly share my FitBit data with my primary care physician. I trust that something I wear every single day that monitors my activity, sleep, and heart rate knows me better than the doctor I visit once a year. I look forward to the day where this is a reality, and all of this incredible data that wearables are collecting can be used to help advance medicine and enrich patient data.

Learn more about some of the ways Stericycle Communication Solutions is closing the gap between patients and their providers here.

The Communication Solutions Series of blog posts is sponsored by Stericycle Communication Solutions, a leading provider of high quality call center & telephone answering servicespatient access services and automated communication technology. 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

What Should Coffee Shops and Healthcare Organizations Have in Common?

Posted on December 8, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Sarah Bennight, Marketing Strategist of Stericycle Communication Solutions as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter:@StericycleComms
sarah-bennight
Several months ago, I failed to get up in time for my normal coffee brew. So on the way to work, I decided to stop at a local Starbucks to grab a latte. The drive-thru was packed. Panicking, I stepped inside where the line was sure to be shorter. It was not. As I waited, I noticed folks walking in and going straight to the barista bar, giving an order, and receiving it immediately. No line. No wait. What was this amazing service and why didn’t I receive it? I felt left out of cool kids club as I waited my turn and finally arrived 3 minutes late to work. After searching my junk email, I found several emails touting a new order in app and pay service. With my busy lifestyle and love of coffee, I thought this was too good to be true.

Next time I was running late, I opened the app and ordered my favorite beverage with one hand while putting on makeup with the other. I felt like a true VIP when I sauntered into my local cafe and whispered my order to the barista, who had my drink ready and waiting. You can bet, if I need a coffee on a hurried morning, I will remain loyal to the pre-order app from Starbucks. It’s just too easy.

With increasingly busy lifestyles and the need to complete more in less time, consumers look for the quickest and easiest goods and services. We are much more willing to adventure into unknown spaces if it promises to give us precious time back. After moving last month, I received a card in the mail from a well-known grocer saying “welcome to the neighborhood, we now offer online grocery shopping.” Busy people in my neighborhood are celebrating an end to their most hated and time-consuming weekly errand. I have yet to try this service since there are rarely timeslots open, but the Starbucks’ model of order online and avoid the wait is becoming the norm.

We are so accustomed to immediate service that we sometimes get frustrated with even small delays. Take, for example, my two very different experiences at urgent care centers. Earlier this year, I had to take my daughter in for possible strep throat. I avoided the trip long enough that her primary care physician office was closed and urgent care was the only option. We took our chances with the local pediatric urgent care and waited for our sick child to be seen for over two hours – 45 minutes of which was spent in the examination room before anyone came in to see us.

When the need arose for me to visit an urgent care clinic recently, I was already well versed in the advantages of ordering online without a wait. Although I had been to the local ER for the same condition and they had all of my labs and records, the thought of a potentially lengthy wait was daunting. So, I searched for a clinic that could accommodate my schedule and decided to try a new clinic because they offered the “online ordering model” for urgent care visits. I signed up online and was called back within 10 minutes of arriving at the clinic. The doctor saw me within 15 minutes of being placed in a room. The experience was so positive the clinic has earned my loyalty for future care needs. Not only do they have a caring staff, they get me in and out in a reasonable time.

This trend is rapidly being adopted across commercial industries, but healthcare isn’t far behind. And health providers that aren’t ready to adapt will soon feel the pressure as consumers demand convenience. Services and tools such as Amazon PrimeNow and Disneyland FastPasses prove one thing: Americans simply hate to wait.

Recently, I spoke with a client who made the decision to implement our online scheduling solution as a result of increasingly consumer-driven expectations. Competition with retail clinics for primary care visits also played a role in their decision. They stated, “We are now competing with Walgreens and CVS for simple clinic visits because we make it too difficult to get the patient in the door.” A McKinsey 2015 Consumer Health Insights Survey found the same, as two thirds of the people surveyed reported they would be comfortable using retail clinics such as CVS or Walgreens for care. When asked why, the major reason cited was accessibility.

With two very different clinic visits shaping my view, I imagine on demand access and appointment scheduling will continue to shape the healthcare access scene in the next few years. Convenience is king in our consumer-minded world, and those who rely on only traditional methods of getting patients in the door could miss potential opportunities – or worse, lose existing patients to competitors who provide easier access. I won’t return to the first urgent care clinic because the more recent visit offered better access and a more convenient experience by significantly cutting my wait time. With my new found love for ordering online and avoiding the wait, I have also recently changed the family eye doctor to one who offers this service. Now, if they could only offer an onsite coffee bar…

The Communication Solutions Series of blog posts is sponsored by Stericycle Communication Solutions, a leading provider of high quality call center & telephone answering servicespatient access services and automated communication technology. 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

Are Providers Using Effective Patient Communication Methods?

Posted on December 1, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Cristina Dafonte, Marketing Associate of Stericycle Communication Solutions as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter:@StericycleComms
cristina-dafonte
This year at MGMA 2016, the Stericycle Communication Solutions team had the opportunity to survey over 800 providers about their patient communication strategy. Getting to collect our own data, rather than relying on facts and figures from scholarly articles, was truly invaluable. But what was even more exciting was sitting down and analyzing the results.

Many of the statistics weren’t surprising – nearly 100% of providers are sending appointment reminders, 60% of providers are using technology to send these reminders, and 2/3 of providers surveyed love the idea of online self-scheduling. These statistics all made sense to me… it’s almost 2017, of course providers would prefer to use technology when it comes to their patient communications.

But as I dug more into the numbers, I saw a startling trend:

  • Only 1 out of 3 providers who “love” online self-scheduling offer it to their patients
  • While almost all providers are sending appointment reminders, 1/3 are still manually calling their patients
  • Over 60% of providers are only sending appointment reminders via ONE modality

I started to think about other parts of my life where I booked appointments or used technology to interact with a vendor– did these healthcare numbers match their non-healthcare counterparts?

First I looked to my hair salon. When I go to their website, I have the ability to book an appointment with my current hair dresser directly on their home screen. I get an email reminder the day that I book the appointment with a calendar attachment. The day before the appointment, I get a text reminding me what time my appointment is and whom it is with. Four months after the appointment, I get an email reminding me that it’s time to come in for my next appointment… with a link to book an appointment online. Surprisingly, this didn’t match what I was seeing in my survey data analysis. When I looked at scheduling an appointment to get my car serviced, I saw the same trend – booking was conveniently online, the communications were all automated, and I received more than one reminder.

So why does there seem to be such a difference when it comes to healthcare communication? Our survey shows that providers like the idea of technology, so, I wonder, why are most providers only going halfway? What is it that is holding them back from fully investing in automated patient communications? According to TIME, the average person looks at his or her phone 46 times per day. As we near 2017, shouldn’t we reach and capture patients where they are engaged and spend most of their time – on their mobile devices and computers?

For more MGMA survey results and a sneak peak into how Stericycle Communication Solutions can help you adopt an automated patient communication strategy, download the infographic here.

The Communication Solutions Series of blog posts is sponsored by Stericycle Communication Solutions, a leading provider of high quality call center & telephone answering servicespatient access services and automated communication technology. 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

Patients Want the Ultimate Experience – Convenient, Considerate, and Compassionate

Posted on October 13, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Chelsea Kimbrough, a copywriter for Stericycle Communication Solutions as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter: @StericycleComms
Chelsea Kimbrough
For many patients – myself included – braving the doctor’s office can be a difficult, scary task. So, when I moved to a new state, I put off finding a new healthcare clinic. My procrastination recently turned to panic when the time for an annual wellness check arrived.

After researching local providers, reading countless patient reviews, and cross-examining healthcare capabilities, I hesitantly scheduled an appointment. When the appointment finally passed, I was surprised to not only enjoy the experience, but to confidently schedule another. Here’s why:

  1. They offered patient-friendly online self-scheduling. With a majority of my weekdays absorbed by work, I had little opportunity to make phone calls. But with the option of online self-scheduling, I was able to schedule an appointment at a time and in a way that worked best for me.
  2. They ensured I was aware of and prepared for my upcoming appointment. I received a text message prompting my appointment confirmation and an email outlining what I needed for the appointment. Both these nontraditional communications supported my appointment’s success.
  3. My wait time was minimal. From the moment I arrived, I was met with friendly, courteous support. And before leaving the facility, I was able to quickly schedule a follow-up appointment – all of which minimally impacted the remainder of my day.
  4. I received one-on-one, thoughtful attention and service. And for a nervous patient, this was the difference between loyalty and abandonment.
  5. I was able to provide feedback about my experience. Though my feedback was primarily positive, I appreciated that my opinions and experience were valued.

Though online reviews helped me make my initial decision to schedule an appointment, the entire experience is what put my nervousness at ease. From an online self-scheduling option to a post-appointment survey, this organization’s patient-focused approach was both a novel and welcome experience, and is what will ensure I continue trusting my health in their care for years to come.

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