The Smart Medical Practice

Patient Communications: The New Imperative for Physicians


The New Imperative for Patient Communication
We’re used to having multiple ways to communicate with family, friends, and colleagues. On any given day, we might use email, text, a face-to-face meeting/visit, a Facebook post, or a private message on LinkedIn, depending who we’re trying to reach.

Physician offices haven’t completely caught up with this societal shift, but with the right security in place, there are more ways than ever for practices to communicate with patients. In this post, we’ll look at all the potential channels provided by advanced medical office software, digging into the specifics of each in later posts.

Patient portals. The convenience of allowing patients to request appointments and prescription refills, download forms, view non-critical lab results, check current balances, and securely email with their physician has led to an explosion in the number of practices using the patient portal feature of their medical office software. Of course, portals do more than increase patient satisfaction—they free up front-office staff for important tasks such as eligibility verification.

As with all patient communication, it’s critical that your practice’s portal be completely compliant with HIPAA regulations. And don’t forget to make sure all your patients know the portal is available to them. Some practices assume older patients aren’t interested in this type of communication, but Catalyst Healthcare Research found that a whopping 93% of patients are likely to select a physician who offers email communication.

Office kiosks. There are a number of tasks a waiting-room kiosk can perform, whether it’s an actual kiosk or a mobile device (usually a tablet) handed out by the front desk. Patients can check in for their appointment, verify their insurance information, verify their DOB/address/emergency contact, and fill out any necessary forms while waiting for their appointment—all without waiting for front desk personnel to become available.

Instant messaging. SMS messaging is problematic in terms of security. Nevertheless, it’s so prevalent in the world beyond healthcare that it’s difficult for some practices to ignore. Those who take the plunge must ensure that patient data is protected (use a service that encrypts communications on both ends), messages are received by the intended party, and communications can be tracked and archived.

Medical CRM software. In the past, patients weren’t treated like customers, but those days are fading quickly. Today’s modern practices use customer relationship management (CRM) software to help them stay in touch with patients between visits, reach out to prospective patients, manage social media campaigns, and build deeper relationships with patients by anticipating their needs for preventive care and follow-up appointments.

Online reputation management.Increasingly, online physician reviews must be included when talking about physician/patient communication. Indeed, research firm Software Advice found that 84% of patients use online reviews to evaluate physicians, and 77% use them as their first step in finding a new doctor. Just as importantly, 60% of patients surveyed said it’s “very” or “moderately” important for doctors to respond to online reviews. Some practices use online reputation management (ORM) software to help them track their ratings, their customer satisfaction scores, and their social media results from within a single dashboard.

As with businesses in a wide variety of industries have already discovered, using a multitude of communication channels is key to success. For physicians, that means reaching out to patients and—more importantly—allowing patients to quickly get the information and services they need online.

Sources:

  1. “Getting the (Text) Message Out: Are Text Messages Secure?” PracticeSuite
  2. “Marketing Your Practice: Medical CRM Software Simplifies the Process,” PracticeSuite
  3. “How Patients Use Online Reviews,” Software Advice
  4. “93% of Adult Patients Want E-mail Communication With Physicians,” Beckers Hospital Review

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