As society becomes more driven by technology, it only makes sense that healthcare does, too. If someone needs to find a doctor, that search is probably going to happen on the Internet. When it is time to book a checkup, patient portals and other scheduling apps are the easiest way to do it. Technology has changed how a medical office runs, how it communicates, and how patients engage with their care providers.
Fortunately, this shift is good news for healthcare patients and providers. Because the Internet has so drastically affected the way that society functions, medical professionals have new and better opportunities to serve patients that did not exist in previous generations. From telehealth appointments to health devices, engagement-focused tools make it more convenient and efficient for individuals to receive care. Importantly, clinicians who know how to take advantage of these technologies can get patients more involved in their health plan and engaged with their medical team.
So, what are the best ways for technology to boost engagement for medical practices? Here’s a look at how and when apps, portals and online records can drive better interaction among offices and patients.
The Critical Touch Points of Care Delivery
All the best online tools in the world won’t matter if patients are not made aware that they are available. So, what can healthcare providers do beyond communicating at appointments? When it comes to getting patients on board with technology, all opportunities are not created equal. The medical providers who see the best results are the ones who know how to seek connection at the moments when patients are most likely to be interested. Here are a few examples of successful touch points:
- Waiting rooms: A good place to start is in the waiting room. When a person is waiting to be seen by a care provider, that is a perfect opportunity to communicate and reinforce messages about online information access. TVs, printed brochures and pamphlets, and posters can all point to the benefits that are available with 24/7 access to health records. Be specific, and highlight the advantages of employing these technological advances, such as convenience and more transparency. Using multiple avenues of communication is a great way to reinforce this message.
- Reception: Speaking of using multiple avenues of communication, the entire admin team should be trained on how to tell patients about relevant technology. Whether this involves helping patients check in at a kiosk or asking if they need assistance getting started with the portal, receptionists and front desk personnel can entice patients to engage with online tools — and teach people how to use them.
- Exam rooms: When nurses, doctors, therapists and other healthcare providers see patients, they can also talk about online records and how to access them. Likewise, when patients see providers looking up information in the portal during the exam, it shows how relevant the online tools are to their care.
Essentially, the benefits of technology and a focus on engagement should be consistent from the moment the patient enters the office to the instant he or she leaves. In fact, think bigger and go beyond the walls of your building. Whenever you send an email or reminder, encourage patients to use the convenient tools at their disposal. Ideally, every digital and physical interaction with your practice should emphasize the same message.
How to Get the Message Across to Patients
Providers have a lot of influence in getting patients to interact with apps and/or portals. Knowing when to speak about portals and online records is key. Also important is knowing how to talk about engaging with healthcare tools on the Internet. Medical professionals should:
- Keep the messaging simple. Whether it’s in brochures at the front desk or conversations in the exam room, the simpler the message, the more easily it gets transferred. Patients have a wide range of literacy levels and technology skill. The best instructional information should be clear enough that a sixth grader could follow it.
- Directly encourage online access. As illustrated in the touch points above, the more ways an office communicates about portals, apps, etc., the better. Each member of the care team should know how to discuss the value of technology use.
- Demonstrate how to use technology. Because some patients will not know how to access information online, healthcare providers need someone on the team who can walk individuals through logging on, finding info, etc.
- Be prepared to explain the benefits. The truth is, most patients will be naturally interested in online records when they realize they can see test results, request prescription refills, book appointments, see billing statements, set health goals, track symptoms, make online payments and more through the portal. Communicating these opportunities is no-brainer.
For more information about improving patient engagement, take a look at the accompanying resource. It features statistics about how people are utilizing the Internet, apps and patient portals today, as well as a visually friendly breakdown of six key tips for medical providers on how to use technology to connect with patients.
This infographic was created by Specialdocs, a physician practice consulting group.