Everything seems to run in a cycle. What is old comes back again as new. It is no different in the realm of health care. I remember a time – not so long ago – when the town’s doctor would see a patient in their home or office. That doctor would personally manage both the expectations and the experience of that patient. They were, after all, his customer. That patient would know exactly what the doctor expected of them for their treatment and in regard to payment for his services. However, for the past number of years the introduction of big companies has left the patient wondering if how they feel matters at all in the process of their own health care experience. They wonder if their health care team cares about their experience, their expectations, and their out-of-pocket expense.
I have observed that because of this disillusionment with modern health care, that many have turned to alternative medicine. Many alternative medicine providers have been much more forward thinking when it comes to embracing modern customer and brand management. Their wait times are less, their customer experience is more comfortable, and the expenses borne by the patient more transparent. This all leads to happier patients.
Much of this “customer satisfaction” comes from the simple fact that many alternative medical providers are incorporating information technology that allows them to smooth out the patient/customer experience from start to finish.
Consider these statistics:
- 19.7 million patients have a high deductible (between $2,000 and $7,000) and therefore are fearful of medical costs.
- One-third of patients are surprised when they get their bill because insurance doesn’t cover as much as they thought that it would.
- 66% are afraid to talk to their doctor about the cost of his services.
- 57% are afraid to talk to their doctor about the cost of a prescription that he is considering prescribing.
- 70% would like to be able to go to the doctor without an appointment.
- 76% would skip the doctor’s office altogether in favor of an online “virtual care” video-conference experience.
- 23% of patients would like to talk to their doctor on the telephone instead of coming to the office.
- 70% would like to have less than a thirty-minute wait time to see a doctor.
- Only 19% of patients actually want to see a doctor in person.
All of these statistics point to one thing: Patients are not happy and feel trapped and powerless because of the way their care is being currently administered.
To solve this problem and to begin to empower and free patients to advocate for their own health care I would like to make the following suggestions regarding treating patients as customers.
- Treat patients as customers by giving them “virtual” avenues of service. – In our day of instant communication there is no reason why video conferencing cannot be incorporated into the health care model. Every smart phone, computer, and tablet produced today has this capability, and patients want the convenience. Whatever doctor or clinic embraces this technology first in the pursuit of patient convenience, will win the loyalty of their patients. Convenience is the new “sale price”. At one time, society was looking for the best bargain, now they are looking for that which is the most convenient.
- Treat patients as customers by gathering information and insights about them and their health care experience in real time. – Today’s business community thrives on what the health care community has failed to implement – customer service. Customer service does not begin when the patient steps into the waiting room, but rather begins with accumulating all of the data necessary to know just how to tailor your service so that the most number of patients can have the best experience. Having some idea of who your target patient is, what they need, how they feel about your services, and how they communicate can go a long way toward establishing a bond of trust with them and serving them well.
But it goes further than before and during the patient’s visit to your facility. Using new information technology applications can give instant, real time data on customer satisfaction and feedback as the software sifts through mentions of your office, doctor, or practice on the web. Knowing that Mrs. H. has posted negative or positive things about your practice on her public profile helps you serve her better. Conversely, not knowing this information could be detrimental to her overall health care outcomes.
- Treat patients as consumers by implementing and practicing a high level of transparency. – As we have seen from the statistics above, many people are intimidated by their health care providers and the medical experience. Because they lack the same education or the level of education, they are afraid to ask questions or to advocate for their own care. Using information technology in health care can alleviate this challenge and make the patient feel more comfortable with their visits. By making use of online user-friendly scheduling and cost approximation tools, a practice or hospital can take much of the stress and fear out of the process. Allowing a patient to have instant, real-time online access to wait times and cost of care will make your practice the one to which they are loyal. Going a step further, a health care provider can make the payment experience that their patients face more comfortable by making it both personal through human contact and user-friendly by employing online accounts and simple electronic payment options.
By doing things faster, smarter, on-demand, and in a connected way the modern health care provider can empower their patients to act in their own best interest. Treating patients as consumers will result in better health outcomes for the patient, and in the end, a better bottom line for the health care provider.
To learn more about how information technology can help you improve your patient experience and retention, contact Apex today at (800) 310-2739 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Our IT specialists will be glad to discuss utilizing IT to meet the goals of your health care practice.