Let’s face it: We’ve all likely faced the nightmare of navigating today’s healthcare system.
What should be simple and straightforward—getting healthcare for yourself or your loved ones—almost always turns into a confusing mess of web portals, logins, emails, phone calls, and department transfers.
But as the quality of healthcare continues to rise, healthcare consumers are increasingly making care decisions based on accessibility and customer service—meaning success in the healthcare marketplace is more and more determined by the quality of a healthcare provider’s patient experience.
To stay competitive in today’s crowded marketplace, healthcare providers have to meet patient expectations in three critical ways.
1. Provide a connected, seamless experience across all channels.
We live in an omnichannel world, and that extends to how we engage with the healthcare industry as well. From search engines and healthcare review sites to social media and mobile apps, consumers regularly move between multiple channels as they explore healthcare options that best fit their preferences.
But when every channel within a healthcare company offers a disconnected experience—like when callers have to repeat themselves after a call transfer, or restart their journey in a different channel after hitting a digital dead end—it creates confusion, frustration, and damaged loyalty.
It takes an omnichannel strategy to connect multiple interaction channels. It takes an even stronger approach to decrease department silos and improve communication consistency across the board.
To do this at your own healthcare company, start by consolidating all your patient interaction data in a single database. Your CRM should integrate with all of your communication channels—your telephony stack, chatbot, email, SMS messages, and other platforms—so that agents can quickly recall previous patient interactions, and patients can freely switch between communication channels without having to start over in each one.
This might look like implementing a chatbot solution that can offer users the option of speaking with the next available healthcare customer service representative if they’re not receiving the help they need. Or using a click-to-call widget on your website or mobile app that lets patients quickly schedule a call with an agent—say to schedule their next appointment—rather than dealing with the headache of having to call in and get stuck on hold.
These solutions transform frustrating experiences into ones that keep patients engaged and feeling like your service team is walking alongside them every step of the way.
2. Be proactive in patient communication and support.
Proactive help and support is all about anticipating and meeting a patient’s needs before they reach out to your help line or service department.
Appointment confirmations and reminders, notifications about prescriptions or test results, pre- and post-op care information, health insurance marketplace updates—your patients shouldn’t have to scramble or jump through hoops to find this information. Proactive customer support places the burden on the healthcare provider to both make it accessible and communicate it before the patient knows they need it.
The best way to accomplish this is through AI, automated notifications, and connected CRM and EHR software. Does your patient need to schedule a quarterly or yearly follow-up appointment? Program your CRM or EHR to send out an email or text message a month in advance with a call scheduling link that lets the patient skip waiting on hold to talk to an customer service representative. Or if you have a patient getting ready for surgery, consider setting up a series of text messages that provide pre-op information on how they can best prepare their home for their recovery.
Proactive customer support starts by placing yourself in your patients’ shoes and considering every element of their journey or experience.
Consider their personal communication preferences, the specific channels or touch points they use with your company, and any followup questions they might have throughout the process. Then create different pathways within your customer support department to provide preemptive resolutions.
Not only will this improve consumer perception of your brand, but proactive support also significantly reduces the strain on your contact center by allowing patients to get the help they need without having to call in and speak with an agent.
3. Create empathetic interactions using patient voice feedback.
Dealing with health concerns is already a trying experience. So when a healthcare organization doesn’t take the time to listen to their patients and work to create an empathetic support process, it communicates a lack of care, erodes trust, and ultimately causes healthcare consumers to look elsewhere for help.
The solution is to regularly collect and act on patient feedback. This first-party feedback gives healthcare providers insight into what patients experience as they interact with their company-highlighting both positive interactions and, more importantly, friction points in their experience. Things like long hold times, confusing web portal self-service options, problems with quality of care—when providers can see exactly what’s tripping up their patients in their healthcare journey, they can work to improve their patient experience.
But patient voice feedback is only truly helpful if it’s collected and acted on in real time. Aggregating patient satisfaction metrics into a dashboard and only reviewing them on a weekly or monthly basis is a surefire way of allowing unaddressed negative experiences to snowball. Unless you catch negative feedback early, subpar patient experiences will cost you.
Real-time patient voice solutions should be able to deploy immediately following client interactions, be flexible enough to use in various channels (like phone calls, text messages, emails, or chat), and use AI and keyword flagging to notify experience teams when a patient leaves a negative review.
Once you’ve implemented a patient voice solution, haste and empathy are the ingredients to crushing negative experiences and reestablishing trust with frustrated patients.
Have a dedicated CX team reach out to patients who’ve indicated they’ve had a less than stellar experience, empathetically respond to negative reviews—not to set the record straight, but to mend the relationship and let patients see that you truly value their feedback.
A great patient experience gives healthcare providers the chance to deliver a positive, lasting impression. But a bad one gives consumers the opportunity to share their grief and damage the brand’s reputation.
Sometimes creating a winning patient experience greatly depends on software and technology. And in today’s customer service environment, the best tech solutions are the ones that put patients in the driver seat of their experience.
- Use a click-to-call widget or call scheduler on your website or mobile app to make scheduling appointments and speaking with agents or doctors a breeze.
- Keep your patients from scrambling to find information by connecting your CRM and EHR software to provide personalized, timely notifications.
- And consistently gather patient feedback to catch negative experiences and see areas you can improve the patient journey.
When done well, a healthcare organization can provide quality care to their patients that drives peace of mind, customer satisfaction, loyalty, and positive brand perception.
This article was originally published in June 2015. It has since been updated.