The Rise of the Digital Patient

July 24, 2018 | Carenet Health

Like many commercial businesses, Starbucks understands how important online ordering is to modern customers. Of the 75 million customers that visit Starbucks locations each month, 30 percent  (or 22.5 million customers) have already ordered and paid for their tasty treats online. As commercial competition heats up, more businesses are investing in digital experiences to increase customer loyalty. Walmart and Target feature websites and mobile apps offering free two-day shipping to compete with Amazon – with Target also offering same day digital shopping and delivery with its acquisition of Shipt in late 2017. Due to competition with Moviepass, movie theater giant AMC recently released a competing digital subscription service to better entice moviegoers to use AMC exclusively which hopes of boost profits through increased concession sales.

As the use of technology increases in the commercial space, healthcare providers aren't doing enough to improve their patient experience. While making improvements in this area is a top priority for 90 percent  of healthcare providers, patients aren't seeing the results.

Online scheduling, for instance, is a healthcare convenience that 83 percent of consumers are familiar with – and 35 percent of which consider it a major deciding factor when choosing among providers. Ascension – the largest Catholic health system in the world 1 – has learned firsthand how important online scheduling is to patients. Since rolling out the service last fall, 20,000 Ascension patients are scheduling appointments online each month – about a third of which are new patients.

"Online scheduling has become a differentiator when it comes to patient accessibility and a great consumer experience," said Ascension's chief marketing officer, Nick Ragone.

A survey by Accenture found that booking an appointment over the phone takes an estimated eight minutes on average – compared to an average of one minute for online scheduling. Other benefits include the ability to schedule last-minute and same-day appointments, and also decreases cancellations and no-shows – both of which are costly to health systems.

Though younger patients tend to prefer these digital experiences, it's also important for providers to acknowledge the patient base that will always prefer speaking with another person to schedule appointments or ask questions. Having both a call center and online appointment scheduling offers an optimal patient experience. What's more, including online scheduling has shown to increase calls by 24 percent. By introducing robust digital engagement solutions that complement existing communication channels, healthcare organizations can better connect with more patients, seamlessly improving their loyalty and satisfaction in the process.

Learn more about what modern patients expect from their healthcare experiences in our infographic, Consumer Expectations Define Today's Patient Journey.

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