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Peak Practice Performance: Patient Engagement

Peak Practice Performance: Patient Engagement

A dizzying number of technology partners claim they’re the silver bullet to improving your patient engagement. Keeping track of these “solutions” while still caring for patients and managing your practice would be a herculean feat. Now that so much of patient engagement happens outside the office, that job becomes even more difficult.

There’s bad news and good news: Sadly, there’s no magical technology solution. However, by educating yourself about online presence, online reputation management, and patient feedback surveys, you can optimize your practice’s patient engagement.

Online Presence

What online tools do you use to streamline and improve the patient experience?

Online presence sounds vague, but it boils down to digital visibility and presenting yourself in a way that fosters easy access and communication with patients. The three arrows you should have in your quiver are:  

  • Patient Portal: Start with a patient portal that allows patients to schedule appointments and pay their bill. Millennial patients especially demand this capability; two-thirds are willing to abandon a provider who doesn’t offer online scheduling. Research shows that portals give patients a feeling of autonomy and empowerment that is correlated to positive health outcomes. Furthermore, making bills easier to pay can help you collect more of every dollar you’re owed.
  • Telehealth: Seventy percent of healthcare organizations offer telehealth visits, and 77 percent of consumers are interested in these virtual visits. “Telehealth lets you meet them where and when they have the ability,” says Teri Culp, senior manager of customer experience at Privia Health. If you’re not quick to adopt this service, you may lose patients who prefer the convenience and accessibility of telehealth visits. Parents of young children, people in rural areas, and elderly patients especially benefit from telehealth options. Not only does this option save your patients time, hassle, and money, but providers can avoid racking up accounts receivable as telehealth apps charge a simple, upfront fee.
  • Social Media: Leveraging social media allows you to connect with your patients and share your expertise with them in between visits. When you establish yourself as a thought leader, you broaden the scope of your practice and increase your credibility. Eighty percent, or 93 million of America’s healthcare consumers, research their physician online, and social media is one of the latest decision-making tools to do so. This will especially help you with millennial patients, many of whom use social media as a resource to find a doctor and gain health information.

Want to get started right now? One of the best steps that’ll reap the benefits right away is posting forms online. Forms such as insurance information and medical history allow your patients to fill these out ahead of time. What if they forget their insurance card? What if, because they’re rushed and sick, a patient forgets to identify a critical procedure in their medical history that affects your diagnosis? When you post these forms online, you permit easier access and ensure greater accuracy.

Online Reputation

What tools do you use to measure how you are presented online?

Online reputation management, in short, is the process of crafting and implementing strategies online to influence public perception about your brand, company, or organization,” says Steven Piccione, digital marketing manager at Privia Health. Healthcare-specific sites like Vitals and Healthgrades, as well as non-industry companies like Yelp, are popular domains for patient reviews and ratings.

In one survey, 95 percent of respondents deemed online reviews and ratings reliable while three-fourths said the ratings had influenced which physician they chose to visit.  You may have a great online presence, but if your reputation is not maintained and monitored, then all your hard work might actually work against you. This is where online reputation management (ORM) comes in. Highly visible negative reviews will turn away potential patients, making it hard to gather new reviews that would up your rating.

What can you do to ensure your reputation is well-managed?

One way to protect your online reputation is by using programs such as Binary Fountain. This software scours the internet and popular review sites – Google, Yelp, Healthgrades, etc. – and then uses a natural language processor to analyze each review. This “sentiment analysis” uses data to form an opinion of your practice, then recommends out actionable items to improve your digital image. Platforms like Binary Fountain also allow office staff to engage with reviews online to make sure that the patient knows he or she is being heard.

“[Online reputation management] really boils down to how you build loyalty with your patient base,” says Andrew Rainey, executive vice president of strategy and corporate development at Binary Fountain. “How do you build a more meaningful connection and engagement touchpoint with those patients? How do you make sure your physicians and your brand are appropriately represented online so … you can guide that digital journey.”

Patient Feedback Surveys

What tools are you using to proactively and reactively assess your patients’ experience?

Online reputation is a must, but why wait for a reaction when you can proactively address the problem? Patient feedback surveys allow you to nip problems in the bud. This is a great way to gather immediate impressions and prevent a negative online review down the road. Many medical groups use services like Press Ganey to ask pointed questions about the patient experience. Often patients are asked to rate their experience prior to leaving the office as it is easier to rectify a poor experience before the patient has left. Alternately, you can send a survey 20 to 60 minutes after checkout to ensure that the feedback is immediate and not impacted by other external factors. When you ask, you’re more likely to get a level-headed response. Having patients feel heard is a vital component of the doctor-patient relationship, and patient feedback surveys help to foster this.

One example of an improvement made by using patient satisfaction data is parking. To use a real-life example, one practice noted that patients were chronically late to appointments. After reviewing survey results, the practice concluded the delay was due to mid-day traffic and congestion that made parking difficult.  In response, the practice posted parking instructions online as well as in the patient-reminder materials. This simple, data-backed action resulted in a drastic reduction in late appointments. Other factors surveys help measure are bedside manner and wait times, but the possibilities are endless.

Improving your online presence, utilizing ORM techniques, and implementing patient feedback surveys are three ways you can optimize your patient engagement. Learn how revenue cycle management, full-time equivalent status, payer contracts can increase your bottom line with earlier blog posts from our “Peak Practice Performance” series.

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