During the pandemic, industries such as retail, restaurants, hospitality, and airlines were challenged with crowded spaces, high-touch surfaces, and significant face-to-face interactions. Businesses had to quickly pivot to contactless service in order to stay operational. Like its commercial counterparts, the healthcare industry has also faced similar challenges, requiring the rapid adoption of low-contact patient interactions such as contactless appointment scheduling and check-in, virtual waiting rooms, contactless payments, and virtual visits in an attempt to get patients to reengage in their healthcare.
As we approach 2021, how can health systems rebuild patient confidence and reschedule delayed visits? The answer requires reimagining the patient experience to enable a contactless patient journey from scheduling and pre-visit registration to post-visit. Here are three ways your health system can provide a safer, more streamlined, and satisfactory digital experience for your patients.
Digital Appointment Scheduling
COVID-19 has forced consumers to shop differently. For example, look at grocery shopping. At most national grocery store chains, you can order your groceries from your phone, tablet, or laptop. When it's time to pick up your order, you simply notify the store via the app that you're on your way. The store uses GPS tracking to know exactly when you will arrive at their store. Upon arrival, you tell them the number of your parking space and the make and model of your vehicle. An employee delivers your groceries, and you never once have to come in contact with them. While this idea of contactless interaction emerged because of COVID-19, it's here to stay, and that means patients will expect contactless interactions when interacting with their healthcare providers.
A simple way to meet patient expectations in this digital age is by offering online scheduling for appointments. Online scheduling allows patients to easily schedule appointments from their smartphone, computer, or tablet. It also makes it easier than ever for people to find a time that works best for them to get the care they need in the most appropriate venue of care. This eliminates the back-and-forth phone tag and long wait times that can come with traditional scheduling. Even more, patients can book appointments during off-hours and reschedule with ease, all of which saves staff time.
Curbside Care and Virtual Waiting Rooms
Drive thru, curbside pickup, and home delivery have been long established for large retailers and restaurants but not so much for healthcare organizations. It wasn't until COVID-19 forced health systems to find a way to provide care safely to patients that virtual waiting rooms, drive thru COVID-19 testing clinics, and curbside flu shot clinics became the standard.
Like text notifications from a restaurant when a table is ready or from a pharmacy when a prescription is filled, virtual waiting rooms satisfy an ever-growing desire for live status updates. By creating a virtual waiting room, patients can check-in from their mobile device and remain in their vehicle until an exam room is ready. This allows the patient to bypass the traditional waiting room, reducing their risk of exposure. Even more, a virtual waiting room creates a more streamlined way for your health system to screen and check-in patients.
Curbside care is also something new, which has emerged in light of the pandemic. As providers encouraged patients to get their COVID-19 tests and flu vaccines, care moved to the car. It's not uncommon to see drive-thru COVID-19 testing and flu shot clinics. In many cases, the provider would give flu shots to all family members in the car making it even more convenient than the retail competition. Now that patients have experienced care that meets them in their comfort zone, they won't want to turn back.
Contactless Payment Methods
Since the start of COVID-19, contactless payment methods have grown increasingly popular among consumers as a "cleaner" way to pay. In fact, Mastercard reported in a recent consumer survey that eight in ten consumers say they are using contactless payment methods due to safety and cleanliness concerns, and three-quarters will continue to use contactless payments post-pandemic. Even more, Mastercard has cited that consumers who switch to contactless payment methods rarely revert back.
As more consumers transition to contactless payment methods, they're going to expect the same experience from their healthcare providers. The easiest way to do this is to offer a payment method that doesn't require a login, where patients can pay in as few taps as possible straight from their smartphone. By offering contactless payments, you can not only speed up the payment process but also protect patients and billing staff from exposure to viruses and bacteria.
As virtual healthcare interactions become a routine part of the healthcare industry, healthcare organizations must maximize digital patient engagement solutions to further eliminate the challenges healthcare consumers face in receiving care. To learn more about why a contactless patient experience should be a key part of your engagement strategy, download our latest executive brief: Optimizing Patient Engagement in a Post-COVID World.