Opportunistic Healthcare Imperatives for Healthcare Providers

March 31, 2022 | Stericycle Communication Solutions

Consumer expectations have changed significantly in the past few years, thanks to retailers and other companies that provide enhanced convenience and immediate access to information, products, and services. With just a few clicks on the computer, smartphone, app, and other digital solutions, consumers are accustomed to getting things done in a timely way that fits into their schedule.

Additionally, there has also been a rise in healthcare consumerism; healthcare consumers are playing a greater role in selecting, managing, and paying for their medical care. And with new, more convenient, and immediate ways to find, access, and receive care that did not exist just a few years ago, consumers are taking notice.

The disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated new expectations for healthcare consumers. They rapidly became aware of and adopted new ways of making appointments and receiving care via telehealth visits or waiting in their car as a “virtual waiting room” until receiving a text from the doctor’s office to “come on in.”

Non-Traditional Players Vying For Healthcare Consumers

Capitalizing on increasing patient expectations for convenience, responsiveness, and personalization, many non-traditional players in healthcare, such as retail store clinics and telehealth companies, have entered the field. These new players offer convenient virtual and in-person healthcare services, including primary and urgent care or immediate access to clinicians via an app. Mental health apps also have proliferated to fill the need for emotional and behavioral support.

And increasingly, healthcare consumers are looking at online reviews and ratings of physicians and hospitals more than ever before to find providers prior to engaging their services.

Opportunistic Era of Healthcare

With so many competing avenues in front of patients that provide immediate options for diagnosis, treatment, and information from healthcare professionals--we have entered an “opportunistic era” of healthcare.

For example, healthcare consumers can go to a retail clinic for a rapid diagnosis and treatment for their sore throat, sprained ankle, or to get a flu shot--bypassing their traditional healthcare provider. They may not have even planned to contact their regular doctors for those services, but while shopping, they notice an opportunity to have a diagnosis or receive care.

Hospitals and health systems need to consider closing the gaps in meeting patient expectations to prevent falling behind in patient acquisition and retention. For example, unless consumers can obtain timely appointments, they will look for more responsive providers.

Among respondents to our 2021 Consumer Trends in Patient Engagement Survey, 42% were willing to wait only up to four days for a non-emergency appointment, and 41% said waiting only up to seven days was acceptable.

Meeting the Challenge: Four Things Health Consumers Value Most

It may seem challenging for traditional healthcare providers to meet these expectations, compete, and continue to thrive. However, the key will be excellent patient engagement strategies, making access easier, and encouraging patients to be actively engaged in their health and wellness—which is not only important for patients but also key to success for population health initiatives.

Hospitals and medical practices that wish to retain patients and attract new ones need to up their game and focus on the things that healthcare consumers value most:

Convenience:

The ability to communicate with their providers in a timely way

Convenient online scheduling and billing

Delivery of test results by mobile devices

Easy, secure access to personal health information

Engagement:

Clear explanation of the patient’s health status

Information to enhance patient understanding of their health

Shared decision-making

Treating the patient as a member of their healthcare team

Personalization:

Taking patient preferences and situations into consideration for communication and treatment options

Providing patient reminders about screenings and prevention strategies tailored to their individual health conditions

Privacy:

Respecting patient wishes for privacy and security, including the sharing of data

Tools and Strategies to Ride the Opportunistic Healthcare Wave

The good news is that many digital tools and services already exist to meet and exceed patient expectations. Not only do these tools enhance engagement, convenience, and communication, they also alleviate time-consuming tasks for overburdened healthcare providers, resulting in increases in productivity and reduced burnout.

An online appointment scheduling platform that enables patients to find doctors and access the appropriate types of care at the right setting, as well as schedule a wide array of appointments from in-person and telehealth visits to vaccinations and screening tests.

Automated appointment reminders to reduce the chance that patients miss their appointments.

Medical call centers with live, multilingual agents in addition to automated capabilities.

Personalized messaging to keep care on track and encourage people to come in for primary and preventive care.

A One-Size Consumer Healthcare Approach No Longer Works

It is important to take generational differences into account. Younger individuals are used to and prefer using online tools for everyday activities. While many older individuals are becoming tech-savvy, others prefer more traditional ways to interact with their doctors and hospitals, such as scheduling appointments via phone calls, speaking live with call center staff, and receiving notices by mail.

Therefore, it is important to provide a range of options. In our 2021 Consumer Trends in Patient Engagement Survey, 33% of respondents prefer email communication from providers, while 29% prefer a phone call and 27% prefer text messages.

Tech Partners Help Healthcare Providers Meet Consumer Expectations

To be effective in this new world of opportunistic healthcare, hospitals and other providers need to walk through the digital front door – but not in a fragmented way. Providers can make the most of their opportunities to enhance the patient experience and improve patient outcomes by partnering with technology companies that offer integrated systems that touch all phases of the patient journey and work in concert with electronic health records.

To learn more about our full-suite of patient engagement solutions including, Reputation Management, Intelligent Scheduling, Referral Management, Communication & Reminders, Post-Discharge Services, and Health & Wellness Campaigns, contact us.

Our patient engagement solutions can help healthcare organizations attract & retain patients during this new era of opportunistic healthcare. Learn More.

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