How to Connect with Patients Remotely and Boost Engagement
How to Connect with Patients Remotely and Boost Engagement
The recent COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to conduct an increasing number of tasks remotely. They work remotely, go to school remotely, and shop remotely. This environment shift is transforming many areas of patients’ lives – and how they expect to interact with your practice via virtual care.
As practices open their doors again, patients still expect some level of remote interactions. People are looking to their medical practices for information, guidance, and health care when needed. Fortunately, there are many ways that you can connect with patients remotely while simultaneously increasing engagement and decreasing employee workload.
Implement contactless checkout options
The recent pandemic has accelerated interest in contactless payment options. A study of 17,000 people across 19 countries found that contactless payments are perceived as a “cleaner way to pay.” What’s more is that the use of this type of payment method has increased by 150% in recent months. But what are contactless payments and how can they help your practice?
Contactless payments include a variety of tools, such as the following:
- Automatic payments. Patients already use automatic payments in a variety of areas of business, from one-click online shopping to ordering groceries to purchasing takeout or delivery online. Practices can offer the same level of convenience and drive higher engagement by securely storing patients’ credit card details to automate and collect future payments with the patient’s consent.
- Smartphone payments. People are tethered to their smartphones around the clock. One study found that 71% of people sleep with or near their phones. Practices can offer patients the ability to pay bills using their preferred devices. People can receive a customized text message or email with the option to pay now, or enroll in an approved payment plan.
- Interactive voice response. Interactive voice response is another option that allows you to streamline payments and provide a contact-free experience. IVR also improves efficiency and helps to lower the overall customer service cost.
Patients are transforming the way they do business, and much of that transformation applies to medical practices. When you adopt easier and more simplified ways for people to pay bills, you instantly increase their satisfaction with your practice due to an excellent patient experience.
Provide patients with contact-free estimates
Many patients feel anxiety about paying for care. A rising number of people are enrolled in high-deductible insurance plans, which means that your practice is collecting more of each bill directly from the patient. In fact, out-of-pocket expenses are estimated to have risen over 53% over a single decade. At the same time, practices are struggling with slow payments and bad debt.
There are a variety of reasons why a patient doesn’t pay a bill, but one of the major ones is confusion. The bill is more than expected, or the patient believes the insurance company should have paid more. Instead of paying the bill right away, the bill sits unpaid until the patient gets around to getting their questions answered.
The majority of patients (76%) say that it’s important for their medical practice to discuss the cost of care. However, only 21% of people reported they received some or little information during a doctor’s visit. This can be frustrating for a patient when they receive an unexpected bill in the future and aren’t sure how they will pay it. Ultimately, this can affect patient loyalty towards a medical practice or specific healthcare provider.
Practices can provide contact-free estimates over the phone before the patient’s appointment. ClearCalc is a tool that checks patient eligibility, analyzes the patient’s benefit plan, and uses the payor fee schedule to accurately calculate the patient’s out-of-pocket expenses.
For example, when staff contact the patient to discuss what to bring to the appointment and other details, they can talk about the cost. How much is the service, and how will the patient pay for care? If the patient is struggling financially, this is the perfect time to talk about financing options. The patient can set up a personalized and flexible payment plan for the estimated cost of service before services are rendered.
Providing the cost upfront will help you reduce patient frustration and mitigate the risk for slow receivables and bad debt in the future.
Automate communication with patients
Patient engagement is a topic that many practices are talking about, but what can professionals do to create more meaningful and engaging experiences? A recent survey of healthcare leaders found that only 34% of patients were highly engaged. Low patient engagement puts practices at serious risk for patient turnover and the resulting business challenges that come with constantly working to onboard new patients.
Ongoing and consistent communication is critical to fostering positive relationships with patients and helping them trust and continue to return to your practice. Handling communication needs manually, however, can take a large amount of staff resources. So, what is the best way forward?
Automating patient engagement is useful for connecting with patients and building ongoing and lasting trust. A patient engagement platform is strategically designed to nurture relationships at critical touch points throughout the patient journey. You can connect with patients using their preferred communication type, whether it’s text or email, or speaking with a care team member. And you can coordinate that communication so it arrives at the most relevant periods in time.
For example, consider a patient who hasn’t paid their medical bill. One reason that people don’t pay medical bills is that they can’t afford it. At this critical point in time, you can send a reminder about the bill but also provide information about flexible and personalized payment plans. This carefully timed communication with patients can help drive greater engagement and do so at scale in a way that doesn’t tax your internal resources.
Enable patients to set up payment plans remotely
Many patients don’t seek care from healthcare providers because they are worried about paying medical bills, as opposed to patient outcomes as they relate to thriving health. One in six adults reported that they avoided getting the required health care due to costs. And with people paying more of their bills out of pocket, a mindset shift is occurring. Patients are no longer patients; they are customers. When people are paying for services out of pocket, they expect a higher level of service and more engaging experiences that require human connection.
More than one third of people surveyed said they’d move to a different medical practice if that practice offered more attractive payment programs. Patient financing is a powerful opportunity to better understand and serve your patient population.
Consider offering patients flexible and personalized payment options through a contactless process. For example, you can discuss the cost of service prior to the appointment, and send a text or email message to the patient’s smartphone and allow them to enroll directly through their device.
If the patient doesn’t enroll in a program right away, they can receive a follow-up email reminding them about their bill but also giving them flexible and personalized payment plan options. Consider selecting a program that allows you to get paid upfront on receivables. Many practices struggle with slow and unpaid receivables. Getting paid upfront on payment plans can help your practice increase cash flow and improve its financial health.
Update your website policies
Once you implement more engaging and contact-free processes and services, it’s important to spread the word on your website. Let patients know exactly what to expect – a staff member will be contacting them to discuss the specific costs of services – and provide details for people who need a little more time to pay medical bills.
Provide links and tools that offer greater engagement upfront, such as a link to the patient portal. Once you start receiving feedback from existing patients about the improved experience, ask them to leave online reviews. Studies show that 84% of people trust online reviews as much as those from friends and family. Plus, when it comes to better health, people are willing to do the research to find a physician that will truly make patientcare the top priority, even through means of telehealth.
Moving forward with greater success
Most practices (70%) report that patient engagement is a top priority. However, practices today face unprecedented challenges as they operate in a hyperconnected environment that includes rising patient expectations and people paying more of their bills out of pocket. Besides brainstorming a variety of patient retention ideas, the key to a practice’s success is understanding the root problem of engagement and implementing the correct strategies accordingly.
Practices empowered with technology that supports greater engagement, contact-free experiences, and a streamlined patient experience can start building relationships with greater impact. As a result, patients will feel supported and trust your practice more, which encourages positive word of mouth and organic growth of your practice.