Hybrid Communication and Scheduling Models are Needed for Hybrid Care According to New Healthcare Consumer Research

January 13, 2022 | Stericycle Communication Solutions

digital health awards spring 2022 bronze winnerIn the Summer of 2021, we surveyed 500 U.S. consumers about their healthcare experiences over the past 12 months. Our 2021 U.S. Consumer Trends in Patient Engagement Survey report sheds light on the current high points and low points in the patient journey and how evolving consumer preferences and expectations are impacting healthcare systems today and in the future.

Download our 2021 U.S Consumer Trends in Patient Engagement Survey report.

Our insights will help you evolve and optimize your hybrid care model, improve your competitive advantage, reengage patients who have delayed care during the pandemic, and strengthen patient relationships to drive business and patient outcomes.

Hybrid Care Broadens Access and Helps Overcome Barriers and Patient Concerns

At the time of the survey, many patients had returned to in-person care. Sixty-seven percent reported attending an in-person visit to a healthcare provider in the past 12 months, yet 53 percent say they are not comfortable accessing care in-person. Additionally, those patients utilizing telemedicine have used it more, with 53 percent revealing they used more telehealth visits than in the previous 12 months.

For those visiting their provider in-person, more than half prefer virtual waiting rooms. In fact, 64 percent would choose to wait in a virtual waiting room, citing convenience and safety as the top two reasons for the preference.

Alternatively, those that preferred physical waiting rooms cited concerns about their provider finding them and communicating with them in virtual waiting rooms—showing that there’s room for improvement in virtual waiting room processes and communication.

A combination of virtual and in-person care and virtual and in-person waiting rooms improves access and outcomes by addressing patient needs such as safety, convenience, personal preferences, and more.

Hybrid Communications Drives Patient Action

Like the hybrid care model, effectively communicating with patients also requires a hybrid approach. We’ve long said that the right communication in the right channel at the right time drives action and adherence.

Our U.S. Consumer Trends in Patient Engagement Survey reinforces this idea, revealing that a combination of digital and voice approaches meets the needs of the entire patient population and drives them to action.

Although email is a top communication preference in general for healthcare consumers, phone is almost equally important. Consumer communication preferences show email (33%) being the top choice to engage patients, then phone call (29%), followed by text message (27%).

Which channel of communication from your primary healthcare provider(s) are you most likely to respond to?Which channel of communication from your primary healthcare provider(s) are you most likely to respond to?

Even more, our survey indicates that the vast majority (71%) say that multiple reminders help them keep track of appointments. However, don’t overdo it. Two reminders are sufficient, with 70 percent saying they need one or two reminders prior to the appointment.

Choosing the right channel for communication includes more than patient preferences. It also needs to be aligned with the message. Consider text messages for urgent or critical information, as 59 percent fully read their text messages compared to 39 percent who fully read their emails.

Patient-Friendly, Hybrid Scheduling Can Improve Access and Satisfaction

Scheduling is one of the continuing points of friction in the patient journey. More than half of patients were very satisfied with their scheduling experience, but for the rest, scheduling took too long, there were too few appointments available, and language barriers led to lower satisfaction.

Expanding the availability of appointments is also a major concern. Our survey revealed that 83 percent are not willing to wait more than seven days for an appointment, risking leakage or loss of patients to another provider.

waiting timesWhen scheduling a non-emergency appointment, how long are you willing to wait before considering other care options?

In terms of preferred channel, 40 percent of patients prefer to schedule over the phone, so online scheduling only is not a good option for all patients. You need to extend the hybrid concept to scheduling to address the needs of a varied patient population by providing a choice of live voice scheduling (without long wait times) and easy to use, convenient online scheduling for those that prefer it.

Make note of the emphasis on ease-to-use and convenience. Adoption of online scheduling remains low at 35 percent, with 55 percent of those that don’t currently use it saying they would use it if the booking experience were easier. Make sure that your online scheduling solution is intuitive and accessible. Help remove language barriers by having multilingual voice and online support for patients with limited or no English proficiency.

Applying the Lessons Learned at Your Health System

As we start 2022, strengthening the provider-patient relationship—building trust, improving access, and delivering a frictionless experience—should be at the center of your patient engagement strategy.

That strategy should span the entire patient journey and stretch across the organization to include marketing, operations, patient experience, I.T., and finance—and embrace hybrid communication and hybrid scheduling models to meet the expectations and needs of your ENTIRE patient population.

To Help You Prepare, Here Are Ten Key Takeaways.


Combine the best aspects of virtual and in-person care to deliver hybrid care that improves efficiency and creates a more rewarding patient experience.


Create a frictionless telemedicine or in-person experience with online and live voice scheduling solutions, patient reminders, and technical support for patients who are new to virtual visits.


Offer both virtual and physical waiting rooms to meet shifting patient preferences.


Provide a seamless and contactless experience, from online self-scheduling to virtual waiting rooms and online check-in for the majority of patients who still prefer the convenience and safety of limiting contact with others when visiting their doctor’s office in person.


Use a combination of automated text, email, professional recorded voice, and live agent messages.


Deliver the right information at the right time to help patients understand how to access care, encourage them to take action, and remind them to adhere to their care plan.


Send two reminders using the patient’s preferred communication channel to reduce no-shows.


Address the top scheduling frustrations for patients with fast, convenient, and easy online self-scheduling and multilingual live voice scheduling.


Increase adoption of online scheduling by making the process easy to use and understand, and provide live voice agents for those that prefer a human touch.


Enable live voice scheduling and self-scheduling across all care venues, including emergency, urgent care, physicians, specialists, and telehealth.

To learn more about what’s working and what’s not for patient experiences, engagement, and expectations, download our full U.S. Consumer Trends in Patient Engagement Survey report.

2021 Stericycle Communication Solutions U.S. Consumer Trends in Patient Engagement Survey. Download The Report.

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