Experience is everything. In today’s digital economy, traditional values like product and brand are being overtaken by experience as differentiating factors. In healthcare, while quality of care is always imperative, patient experience can be a natural factor in forming long-term patient-physician relationships. In fact, patients are likely to consider friendliness and attitude when selecting their physicians.
The healthcare system, though, has evolved and both physicians and patients have access to various technologies that can enable better communication and convenient access to healthcare services. Connected health tools, in particular, have emerged as a viable alternative to traditional care models over the past year. Not only has their use increased, but most physicians believe they have created better access to care and that patients have reacted positively to them. As a result, both physicians (68%) and their organizations (71%) are motivated to increase their use of connected health technologies going forward.
Ultimately, it still comes down to delivering a positive experience for both patients and providers.
Patient Education as Part of Workflows
Despite their belief that telehealth has had a positive impact on patient care, physicians remain concerned that many patients will have difficulty accessing services. In fact, patient digital literacy remains among the top perceived barriers to increased adoption, according to physicians. Providers may need to enlist the help of staff members to provide technology training to patients who are trying telehealth for the first time or who have had difficulty in the past. In advance of a scheduled telehealth visit, staff can call patients and walk them through all the steps of a live video interaction to ensure patients are able to connect for their appointments. It may require some additional effort up-front for healthcare providers, but the benefit is a better patient telehealth experience, which can drive additional use in the future.
Awareness of Services
It’s difficult for patients to use services if they don’t know about them. More than a third of patients say they don’t know if their providers or insurance carriers offer telehealth – a figure that jumps to 72% in rural areas, where access to healthcare services can be more difficult. With the increase in usage during the past year, the hope is that more patients are now aware of these services, but providers should continue to promote them, as well as making sure both physicians and patients know how the registration and scheduling process works. Currently, there appears to still be some confusion as to who is responsible for scheduling telehealth visits: The majority of patients think it comes from their physicians, while doctors think it’s their patients’ duty. It’s a misunderstanding that could preclude patients from fully leveraging the healthcare tools at their disposal.
When it comes to digital experience, familiarity with technology is an imperative. Doctors should know how to use the connected health tools and providers should make sure all involved staff are well versed on their connected health platforms to avoid confusion and delays. But, things like appearance and attitude also matter. Just because patients and/or physicians aren’t physically in the office doesn’t mean they shouldn’t present professionally. That includes appropriate attire, but it also means understanding how they appear in a digital setting. Lighting, positioning, glare, background, body position, and other controllable variables can factor into patients’ perception of their virtual visits or create distractions that draw their attention away from their healthcare discussions.
Telehealth integration with EHRs and other technologies, along with telehealth-specific workflows, are among the top challenges physicians see with continued use of telehealth. While tighter integration and well-defined or automated workflows can increase provider efficiency, they can also elevate patient experiences by ensuring physicians are able to quickly and easily access all necessary information before and during patient interactions. For instance, integrated RPM devices that can automatically deliver patient data to EHRs can save time and during visits, reduce errors, and ensure physicians and staff have up-to-date information at all times.
Many factors contribute to patient experience with connected healthcare. Some are consistent with traditional office visits, while others are unique to digital healthcare. With the increased use of telehealth over the past year, providers have an opportunity to leverage these new tools to enhance their ability to treat patients and improve on some of the operational deficiencies that have plagues the industry for years. But, they have to get it right because experience matters. Almost two-thirds of patients who have used telehealth did so on the basis of positive recommendations. Providers who are able to deliver positive connected health experiences create opportunities for patients to promote those services to others, helping increase their use and value.
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