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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

Switching EHRs, The Trends And What To Consider

Posted on September 8, 2016 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 Winyen Wu, Technology and Health Trend Blogger and Enthusiast at Stericycle Communication Solutions as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter: @StericycleComms
Winyen Wu - Stericycle
In recent years, there has been a trend in providers switching Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems: according to Software Advice, the number of buyers replacing EHR software has increased 59% since 2014. In a survey by KLAS, 27% of medical practices are looking to replace their EHR while another 12% would like to but cannot due to financial or organizational constraints. By 2016, almost 50% of large hospitals will replace their current EHR. This indicates that the current EHR products on the market are not meeting the needs of physicians.

What are the reasons for switching EHRs?

  • Complexity and poor usability: Many physicians find that it takes too many clicks to find the screen that they need, or that it is too time consuming to fill out all the checkboxes and forms required
  • Poor technical support: Some physicians may be experiencing unresponsive or low quality support from their EHR vendor
  • Consolidation of multiple EHRs: After consolidating practices, an organization will choose to use only one EHR as opposed to having multiple systems in place
  • Outgrowing functionality or inadequate systems: Some current EHRs may meet stage 1 criteria for meaningful use, but will not meet stage 2 criteria, which demand more from an EHR system.

Which companies are gaining and losing customers?

  • Epic and Cerner are the top programs in terms of functionality according to a survey by KLAS; cloud-based programs Athenahealth and eClinicalWorks are also popular
  • Companies that are getting replaced include GE Healthcare, Allscripts, NextGen Healthcare, and McKesson; 40-50% of their customers reported potential plans to move

What are providers looking for in choosing an EHR?

  • Ability to meet Meaningful Use standards/criteria: In September 2013, 861 EHR vendors met stage 1 requirements of meaningful use while only 512 met stage 2 criteria for certification, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. Because stage 2 criteria for meaningful is more demanding, EHRs systems are required to have more sophisticated analytics, standardization, and linkages with patient portals.
  • Interoperability: able to integrate workflows and exchange information with other products
  • Company reliability: Physicians are looking for vendors who are likely to be around in 20 years. Potential buyers may be deterred from switching to a company if there are factors like an impending merger/acquisition, senior management issues, declining market share, or internal staff system training issues.

Is it worth it?
In a survey conducted by Family Practice Management of physicians who switched EHRs since 2010, 59% said their new EHRs had added functionality, and 57% said that their new system allowed them to meet meaningful use criteria, but 43% said they were glad they switched systems and only 39% were happy with their new EHR.

5 Things to consider when planning to switch EHRs

  1. Certifications and Compliance: Do your research. Does your new vendor have customers who have achieved the level of certification your organization hopes to achieve? Does this new vendor continually invest in the system to make updates with changing regulations?
  2. Customer Service: Don’t be shy. Ask to speak to at least 3 current customers in your specialty and around your size. Ask the tough questions regarding level of service the vendor provides.
  3. Interoperability: Don’t be left unconnected. Ensure your new vendor is committed to interoperability and has concreate examples of integration with other EHR vendors and lab services.
  4. Reliability and Longevity: Don’t be left out to dry. Do digging into the vendor’s financials, leadership changes and staffing updates. If they appear to be slimming down and not growing this is a sign that this product is not a main focus of the company and could be phased out or sold.
  5. Integration with Current Services: Don’t wait until it’s too late. Reach out to your current providers (like appointment reminders) and ensure they integrate with your new system and set up a plan for integrating the two well in advance.

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

Modern Day Healthcare Tools and Solutions Can Enhance Your Brand Integrity and Patient Experience

Posted on August 11, 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
Digitally speaking, the healthcare market is more crowded than ever – and finding the perfect provider, practice, or physician online can quickly become an arduous task for even the most tech-savvy patient. But healthcare organizations that dedicate the time, effort, and resources to create a unique digital presence, enhance their search engine optimization (SEO), and reinforce their brand integrity can cut through oversaturated search results to acquire and retain more patients.

In today’s consumer-driven world, shopping for the ideal healthcare organization is quickly becoming the norm. More and more frequently, patients are turning toward the internet during their hunt. In fact, 50 percent of millennials and Gen-Xers used online reviews while last shopping for a healthcare provider. And with 85 percent of adults using the internet and 67 percent using smartphones, accessing this sort of information is easier than ever before.

This ease of access has led patients to adopt more consumer-like behaviors and expectations, such as valuing quality and convenience. Healthcare organizations that proactively ensure their brand image, digital presence, and patient experience cater to these new expectations could be best positioned to thrive. By providing convenient, patient-centric healthcare tools and services, organizations can help facilitate this effort throughout every step of the patient journey.

One such tool is real-time, online appointment self-scheduling, which 77 percent of patients think is important. In addition to adding a degree of convenience for digitally-inclined patients, online self-scheduling tools can support your healthcare organizations’ key initiatives – including driving new, commercially insured patient growth. By using an intuitive way to quickly schedule an appointment, potential patients’ shopping process can be halted in its tracks, ensuring more patients choose your organization over a competitor’s. And with the right tool, your search rankings and discoverability, or SEO, could be significantly enhanced.

Reaching patients where they are most likely to be reached is another way to improve your brand experience. Like consumers, patients are often connected to their phones – so much so that text messages have a 98 percent open rate. Organizations that leverage automated text, email, and voice reminders can successfully communicate important messages, boost patients’ overall satisfaction and health, and improve appointment and follow-up adherence – ultimately setting themselves apart from competitors.

Other digital tools, technologies, and communication strategies can help fortify your brand’s digital standing and patients’ satisfaction, including social media outreach, useful email campaigns, and more. Whatever method – or methods – best serve your organization, it’s important they help improve your SEO, enhance patients’ overall accessibility and experience, and support your brand values and initiatives.

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

Has Technology Changed The Way We Interact With Each Other, Our Healthcare Providers And Healthcare Organizations?

Posted on July 19, 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

In this blog series, we have talked a lot about healthcare consumerism, the importance of communication in the patient/provider relationship and how embracing technology can lead to an increased patient experience. Today I want to talk about how technology is changing the way we interact with each other in the healthcare industry.

The other day I tried to book a doctor’s appointment with my family physician.  I looked up my family physician’s phone number online and called in. After about 25 rings, 20 minutes on hold and a cranky voice on the other end, I hung up the phone feeling extremely frustrated and couldn’t event remember the time of my appointment.

This left me thinking. Everyday we rely and crave the use of technology to help us be more efficient and to simplify our lives.  I would argue, even more so, when it comes to our health. Approximately 58% of patients believe that technology leads to better care.  Technology has truly transformed the way patients want to interact with providers.  And to be fair, a lot of healthcare organizations and clinicians have been quick to adopt as they see the efficiency and patient experience benefits – so what was the hold up with my family physician?  I think perhaps they just weren’t aware of the facts.

So let’s take a look at them:

Fact 1 – Mobile Health

The truth hurts.  Many of us are addicted to our phone and are guilty of driving home when we were almost at work to retrieve it. When it comes to mobile health, the addiction is just as strong. Over 50% of smartphone owners, have used their phone to look up health or medical information.  A staggering 80% of patients want the option of using their smartphone to interact with healthcare providers.  Traditional methods of inquiring about our health and interacting with healthcare providers are long gone. Today’s technology makes it much more convenient for both physicians and patients to connect, research and communicate right from their smartphone.

Fact 2 – Online Health

Face it! Most of us have gone down the rabbit hole of searching a particular ailment online.  At least 35% of U.S. adults say they have gone online to try to figure out what medical condition they or someone else might have. Research indicates that 77% of online health seekers began their last session at a search engine such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo.  The presence of the internet has given patients easy access to information and has empowered them to make more informed choices about their health. It has also allowed physicians to easily update new information and build interactive treatment plans that can increase patient adherence and retention.

Fact 3 – Online Scheduling

Truth be told, I did scream when I got off the phone with doctor’s office.  Why was calling in to book my doctor’s appointment the most painful thing I had done all week? I am not alone, 77% of consumers think that the ability to book, change or cancel healthcare appointments online is important. Technology has us conditioned to want the quickest and easiest way of getting things done.  It is much quicker and convenient to go online to book the next available appointment than the 8.1 minutes it takes for a patient to complete a scheduling call.  Online scheduling helps to satisfy a patient’s need for quick gratification and alleviates the significant amount of time staff spend scheduling appointments.

Fact 4 – Digital Communication Platforms

The fact that I couldn’t remember the time of my appointment the moment I got off the phone was a bit embarrassing. But let’s face it, we’ve become so reliant on technology telling us where we need to be and what time we need to be there that our brains begin to ignore certain timelines. The truth is, the sticky note no longer holds the top spot in patient’s minds. A whopping 85% of consumers say that they would welcome digital appointment reminders, medication reminders and general health tips.   This type of technology is a win-win for both patients and clinicians.  Patients receive a simple reminder that can be added into their calendar allowing them to show up and be better prepared and clinicians receive appointment confirmations allowing them to increase their operational efficiencies, revenue and better manage their daily schedule.

Fact 5 – Tracking Health

Tracking health is not a new concept, but the exchanges and the method patients are tracking their health has revolutionized with newer technology. When recommended by a doctor, 3 in 4 consumers followed advice to wear technology to track their health. Over 20% of patients track their health indicators with the use of technology.  Technologies that assist in tracking one’s health have allowed for higher patient engagement which can lead to better monitoring and increased outcomes.  Both US consumers (77%) and doctors (85%) agree that using wearables helps a patient engage in their own health.

As technology evolves, so will our interactions as patients, providers and healthcare organizations.   It’s imperative to capitalize on the many benefits healthcare technology has given us to ensure we expand our connectivity, grow our data, increase our health outcomes and continuously improve our communication and collaboration. However, and unfortunately, in the meantime while we wait for everyone to catch up some of us will suffer from the frustration of expecting technology and not getting it. #Siricantyoujustrunmylife

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

The Need for an Improved Patient Focus and Patient Experience in Healthcare

Posted on July 1, 2016 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.

I had a chance to talk with Colin Hung from Stericycle, a real thought leader in the world of healthcare IT and patient engagement. You can watch our discussion below where we talk about the lack of patients at healthcare IT conferences and a healthcare IT vendor perspective around interaction with patients. Plus, we dive into the concept of patient experience and patient’s desire to communicate and interact with their physician. We also talk about self-scheduling appointments in healthcare and involving patients in product design.

Thanks to Colin for sharing a bit about the benefits of involving more patients in healthcare IT. I’m sure we could have talked for a few more hours about this topic.

Can Online Self-Scheduling Really Change the ER and Urgent Care Experience? – Communication Solutions Series

Posted on June 9, 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
As a part of the team behind online self-scheduling solution InQuicker, I am asked this question a lot. When you’re dealing with the sickest of the sick of patients, can online self-scheduling really make a difference? Yes, it can. Let’s begin by looking at things from a patient’s perspective.

Imagine you’re sick. Really sick. You haven’t showered in a day or so. You’re in your pajamas and buried under the covers in your bed. Even if your favorite ER or urgent care is the best of the best – think big-screen TV, a beverage bar and a tall stack of your favorite magazines – wouldn’t you rather wait from home than this palace of a waiting room? Online self-scheduling makes this possible. You simply go to your preferred provider’s website. Select an estimated treatment time. Provide some basic information. And then you wait from home until it’s time to be seen. It’s that easy. (You still feel crummy, but at least a little bit happy that you won’t have to wait long when you get there, right?)

Now, let’s look at it from a provider’s perspective. With online self-scheduling, you have the benefit of knowing who’s coming in, why they’re seeking care, and when they’ll arrive – giving you plenty of time to prepare space and allocate resources. Online self-scheduling supports operational efficiency, big time.

Running behind and fearful that you can’t see a self-scheduled patient at their estimated treatment time? No problem. Just let them know when you’ll be ready, so that they can adjust their timing. Then, bask in the glow of knowing that when they do arrive, they’re certain to be happier than they would have been had they been sitting in the waiting room the entire time. Talk about getting the patient-provider relationship off on the right foot!

Today’s patients want – and increasingly expect – a patient-centric approach to healthcare. Online self-scheduling supports this (along with patient acquisition and retention, operational efficiency and care coordination). In fact, across the clients that use InQuicker for their online scheduling needs, we see patient satisfaction rates that average 90 percent.

Yes, online self-scheduling really can change (and improve) the ER/urgent care experience. Do you want happy patients and happy providers? Online self-scheduling could be the answer.

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

EHRs Don’t Have to Be a One-Stop-Shop – Communication Solutions Series

Posted on May 16, 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
We have talked a lot about healthcare consumerism on this blog series, and it appears that as we discuss many topics, the importance and relevance of healthcare consumerism continues to grow.  More and more patients are demanding to be treated and have access to their healthcare as they would any other commodity they buy.

As I started to think more and more about patients as consumers, I started to think about my own buying behaviors.  If I were to be put into a category of buyers, what would I be? As consumers we don’t always fall into one particular bucket of buyers. We typically fall into several buckets of buyers depending largely on the type of commodity that we are buying. You may be a “One-Stop Shopper” or a “Bargain Shopper” for one thing, but become a “Research Shopper” for other things.

But what about when it comes to healthcare? Do we follow the same trends?  Typically when I shop, I’m a “One-Stop Shopper”.  I travel a lot for work and the convenience of a one-stop-shop significantly increases the time I have to do other things I enjoy. However, when it comes to my healthcare, I quickly become “The Researcher.”  I scour websites and reviews to ensure that I am getting the best healthcare I can.  I chalk it up to the fact that at the end of the day, I really don’t want to be getting my healthcare from the gas station around the corner from my house.

How we shop varies depending on a consumer’s lifestyle and what we are shopping for. But what about providers? Do healthcare providers receive the same liberties that patients have with their vendors?

Take shopping for an EHR for example.  Were physicians given the same consumer rights and liberties when it comes to EHRs? Do EHRs really provide everything a physician needs? The consensus is saying no.  Although studies have shown that EHR adoption rates have increased over the last few years, satisfaction rates from physicians have declined. Reports found that in 2010, 61 percent of respondents claimed they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their EHRs, compared to just 34 percent in 2014.

So what happened? Did EHR vendors miss the mark?

Lack of Inclusion
A big portion of what went wrong can be linked back to the lack of inclusion from EHR vendor’s biggest consumer….physicians.  Many EHR vendors rushed to the market with software that dictated a user’s workflow rather than providing them with software that actually complements how they normally work. What transpired were cumbersome and difficult to use EHRs that significantly slowed physicians down.

Big Promises
EHRs had big promises for healthcare delivery and many doctors continue to be disappointed that they have not met their promises when it comes to quality, safety, efficiency and enagement.  A report titled “Physicians Use of EHR Systems 2014” found that 55% percent of physicians said it was difficult or very difficult to use their EHR to improve efficiency and 72 percent said it was difficult or very difficult to use their EHR to decrease workload. A far cry from the promise of efficiency and better patient engagement.

Interoperability
Another major drawback is the current lack of interoperability of EHRs with other products that exist in the market.  There is a growing number of healthcare platforms and technologies in the market that actually increase a physician’s quality, safety, efficiency and engagement, however many EHRs whether due to stubbornness or fear of loss of control have made it difficult for physicians to easily integrate with these platforms.

Needless to say, physicians are quickly realizing that their pseudo one-stop-shop of an EHR is not cutting it when it comes to satisfying the patient’s needs and their own needs.  Patients’ demands for things like access to their medical records, appointment reminders and mHealth have got physicians on alert for vendors who can deliver. Not to mention, their own demands for things like patient engagement tools and better overall efficiencies.  These crucial demands have begun to shift their buying behaviors to that of a healthcare consumer.  Many physicians are taking a stance with their own healthcare consumerism, recognizing that their EHR can’t and won’t be their one-stop-shop and have begun researching the market for the many niche products and vendors that can and will deliver better results and ultimately happier patients and a happier physician.

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

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