This article appears in the October 2021 issue of the
PE GI Journal
10 digital best practices for patient engagement
Keeping patients engaged has changed significantly just over the past 10 years. With advances in technology and forms of communication, the traditional practices of engagement are not as effective with patients now. According to Health Affairs, “disengaged patients are 3x as likely to have unmet medical needs and 2x as likely to delay medical care.” This increases the risk of poor health outcomes for disengaged patients compared to those who are engaged. Keeping current with different technological engagement practices can be difficult, but with small changes, the engagement rates can change drastically, which will lead to a healthier patient. Here are 10 tips for increasing engagement with your patients.
Use QR codes
From ordering food to connecting directly to a particular website, QR codes have become a staple of daily life and feel like a simple way to get technological engagement. However, QR codes are not just for restaurant menus. They can also be used to expedite the form-filling process. Send patients to your website to fill out forms prior to their appointment. Another option is to send the patients to a direct landing page to make an appointment with your office.
It is no secret that social media is a main contact point for most people today. If you do not have social media accounts, create them now. If you do currently have social media accounts, make sure you are posting the most accurate and necessary information. Creating a social media schedule allows you to keep track of important dates and forms of communication that need to go out to your patients. Social media not only helps communicate vital information but gives your practice verification. Using social media platforms helps retain trust with patients by communicating transparent information.
In-product messaging is important
Reminders are beneficial to anyone—if your practice is on an app or uses a text messaging system. Providing an in-product messaging system for your patients can be extremely helpful. MGMA found that “57% of patients who missed an appointment said a text message or email reminder would have helped them attend it.” This type of system can prevent no shows or schedule changes, as well as let your patient know that the office knows they are coming in. In-product messaging systems are both a practical and considerate engagement practice.
Tune your web experience
Put yourself in your patients’ shoes. Go to your website and ask yourself: Is this user friendly? If your answer is “no,” there is a good chance that your patients have a hard time navigating your website as well and are struggling with technological engagement. This can deter not only new patients but also existing patients who need a follow-up or have an initial health concern. Creating a seamless website to optimize the experience for patients will help create more appointments, more forms filled out, and more patients seen in a timely manner.
Survey your patients
Learning about your patients before they come in can make them engage with you more and allow them to feel comfortable opening up once at the appointment. A pre-chat survey can be conducted on your website, app, or even via text message. Asking simple questions such as “How did you learn about our office?” and “What are you visiting our office for?” is beneficial for both patients and doctors.
Consider a chatbot
By the end of the workday, many people are not able to call the doctor’s office to make an appointment, and some offices do not even allow voicemails to be left. This creates frustration with the patient and the office. Having a chatbot on your website can help alleviate that frustration. Chatbots will take necessary information requested from the patient and record it for a coordinator to follow up. It is fast and easy and can be done virtually anywhere.
COVID-19 has changed the way we work and live. Many people went from a bustling work environment with in-person meetings and office lunches to being at home and communicating through a computer screen. We have found as a society that we can work and accomplish tasks in our own spaces—so why not apply that to patient appointments? Offering telehealth as an initial option can save time for both the doctor and patient, and also give patients the personal attention they want. Telehealth allows personal technological patient engagement in a time-efficient manner.
Have a chat
When a patient is having a medical problem and cannot get off work or otherwise can’t make it into the office, a confidential virtual chat is an excellent option. According to Deloitte, “60% of patients are comfortable sharing their healthcare through a digital format.” It is fast and can determine if the question or medical issue can be solved quickly or needs further follow-up. This method also engages with the patient and gets them answers directly and quickly without a middleman.
Show, don’t tell
Word-of-mouth marketing is still a vital tool, and it comes in different formats. Video testimonials are an excellent way to convey patient experience. Video testimonials have a higher retention rate than traditional text. The human brain is particularly attuned to storytelling, and that’s exactly what video testimonials are about. They provide a story for an experience, which can be impactful when shared with other patients.
Another route to technological engagement with your patients is to share industry-specific news. Your patients will appreciate knowing any changes or developments in the industry and how it might affect them the next time they visit your office.
Engaging with your patients is essential. It is what brings them in and keeps them coming back. It can be as simple as sharing an article about changes in gastroenterology or creating a QR code that can bring them directly to your website to make an appointment. The best way to identify the engagement your office needs is to step into your patients’ shoes. Small changes to convert to digital engagement with patients will not only increase the retention rate of your current patients but also provide an opportunity to bring in new patients. An engaged patient is a healthy patient.