Successful Tips on Communicating with Patients During a Pandemic
Practices across the country are rethinking how they operate and handle the patient experience during the pandemic. Virtual appointments and contact-free interactions were the go-to strategy at the onset of the pandemic, but as practices reopen their doors, healthcare professionals are modifying operations and patient communication strategies.
Effectively communicating with patients during a pandemic is critical to fostering trust, helping patients get the care they need most, and moving successfully into the future. Maybe you have brainstormed various patient retention ideas, but where and how should you start applying these concepts? Pivoting on existing patient communication strategies and implementing new tools can help support your efforts and build more meaningful relationships with patients.
Consider new ways to communicate
The pandemic brought what seemed to be overnight change to medical practices, and now, it provides an opportunity to reflect on which of these changes in patient care are working and which aren’t. An area of potential improvement is effective communication strategy. Automating communication and reaching out to patients at critical touchpoints is a powerful strategy for connecting and building patient loyalty.
Not all patients like to communicate using the same method, so it’s important to tailor your communication based on preferences, whether that’s text, email or a phone call from staff. Post the most critical information on your website, but don’t stop there. Consider using a patient engagement platform.
This type of patient experience system is designed to nurture relationships at the points in time when it makes the most difference. For example, a patient might have an outstanding bill, and can send them a reminder about flexible and personalized payment options.
Reconsider payment processes and communication
A pandemic highlights the need to create more contactless processes within your practice. Digital payment options, for example, can eliminate the need for physical contact during the payment process. Patients are already using this technology in many areas of their lives for everything from purchasing groceries to ordering food and shopping online. You can bring this same level of confidence to patients while at the same time eliminating the need for staff to physically touch and handle credit cards.
ClearGage provides QuickPay, which allows patients to pay their bills from their smartphones or tablets, eliminating the need to physically handle the patient’s credit or debit card. A patient can also enroll in AutoPay, which allows you to securely store patient payment information and with their consent, use that payment information to automate and collect future payments.
Minimize in-person interaction with up-front and accurate patient estimates
A pandemic is an opportune time to reconsider how your practice handles communicating a patient’s financial responsibility. Most patients want to know the cost of services up front; however, not all practices do a good job of sharing that information. The reason this is so important right now is because a larger proportion of patients have high-deductible insurance plans and are paying their entire medical bill out of pocket. Enrollment in high-deductible insurance plans from 2007 to 2017 increased from 4.2% to 18.9% among adults ages 18-64 with employer-based coverage.
Accurate, up-front estimates allow you to calculate a patient’s out-of-pocket expenses. If the patient has difficulty affording the bill, this is the perfect time to talk with patients about flexible and personalized payment plans and allow them to enroll in those plans contact-free online or through their mobile devices. Handling this process prior to the appointment reduces the amount of time front office staff spend in direct contact with the patient during the appointment and make the process much easier for the patient.
Listen to your patients
Worry and anxiety are common feelings during a pandemic, and it’s important that patients feel truly heard. Many patients have gone through financial turmoil as they deal with temporary or permanent job loss. People are worried about paying for their basic needs, and medical bills compound that anxiety.
When connecting with patients, a proactive response can help ease these burdens. Use an engagement platform to consistently communicate that you’re there for patients and that you have flexible and personalized payment plans to help people pay their bills. This may help ease the stress and burden of patients and help create stronger patient relationships.
Touch base often and keep patients informed
Patients are relying on medical practices and health professionals to keep them up to date with accurate medical information about the pandemic and to be available when healthcare concerns come up. An engagement platform can help you continue to communicate new information to patients and provide all of the available resources you have to help them get access to care, treatment, and beneficial health outcomes.
When patients understand that you are there for them and understand the new processes and streamlined operations that you have in place, they will feel supported. And they will know that you value their health and are working hard to make accessing patient care easier.