In recent years, patients have begun to take a more active role in their healthcare experience. As a result, more patients than ever feel confident in seeking alternative care when they are unsatisfied with their provider.
For your practice to be successful, you need to embrace this growing consumerism trend in healthcare. As you sit down with your staff and marketing department, keep the following tips and best practices in mind.
Here are the top 6 patient communication and marketing trends in healthcare in 2017:
1. The Growing Healthcare-Consumerism Connection
A consumer-driven approach to healthcare patient experience and expectation has been rising in the past decade, and it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. This year, patients will continue to fit more and more into the role of a customer.
A McKinsey study found that patients have the same expectations from healthcare companies as they do from non-healthcare companies. Patients expect both types of companies to:
- Provide great customer service
- Deliver on expectations
- Make life easier
- Offer great value
If patients don’t find these qualities in a healthcare provider, they may move on. Through online resources, patients can now research a facility or provider’s experience, quality, and ratings of patient satisfaction. Patients are using those factors to help them decide where they should take their “business.”
Some hospitals are taking the healthcare-consumer connection so seriously that they are shaping their facilities to look more like hospitality centers. Consider how you can use these trends in healthcare to improve your facility and redirect your patient experience approach to be more consumer-focused.
2. Increased Value on Providing Positive Patient Experiences
With a growing connection between healthcare and consumerism, it’s becoming more important to provide a positive patient experience at every touchpoint within your organization.
A positive experience leads to happy patients, which leads to a more loyal client base. Be sure to regularly review your office procedures and touch points to ensure that you’re giving patients what they want.
- What is the patient intake process like? Could you use patient check-in kiosks or online portals to quickly collect information from patients?
- How is the patient waiting experience? Do patients experience long waits in exam or waiting rooms before their appointment? Are there ways to decrease perceived patient wait time, such as installing educational digital signage?
- Are you providing an engaging and comfortable in-office atmosphere? What can you do to deliver more educational or entertaining content in your office? How can you improve your waiting room by focusing on the five senses?
- Are patients able to easily find their way around your location? Could they benefit from interactive digital wayfinding?
3. Mass Introduction of Millennials
A new generation is replacing Baby Boomers and Generation X. Millennials, those born between the early 1980s and late 1990s, are now the largest living generation. Practices need to prepare for the introduction of this generation as both patients (when they come in for their healthcare needs) and health care advocates (when they come in for needs of their parents).
Your practice should understand and know how to serve this generation of 75+ million people and the healthcare delivery trends they will create. According to a Kantar Health Report, a few big differences between Millennials and Boomers include:
- 37% of Millennials use and are satisfied with internet health resources (WebMD.com, MayoClinic.com) versus only 20% of Boomers.
- 35% of Millennials use and are satisfied with informal internet resources (blogs, forums, etc.) versus only 13% of Boomers.
- Only 41% of Millennials view a doctor as the best source of health information (compared to 68% from other generations).
A difference between Millennials and the generations that came before them is that they use and trust more online resources as a source of healthcare information. In 2017, your practice should focus on reaching patients through the digital content and tools they use and prefer, such as online articles and reviews.
4. The Increased Used of Wearables
Most people already have digital devices with them at all times. In a mobile-first world, users often turn to their handheld devices before using traditional desktop tools. That trend will continue as more users adopt wearable wellness devices.
Trends in healthcare will include more use of consumer-centric wearables like Fitbits and smartwatches as well as medical-device wearables like HealthPatch MD, which provide ways for patients to monitor their health from their own devices. Prepare to incorporate wearables as either a tool to recommend to patients or to incorporate into your patient wellness plans.
5. Increased Patient Engagement
With the growing availability of digital tools like wearables, patient EHR portals, and content libraries, patients now have more ways to get involved with their healthcare.
Your strategy should aim to improve your patient engagement resources and grow your patient portal adoption. Create plans to:
- Promote patient portals through in-office touchpoints such as digital signage, and during consultations and office visits.
- Promote patient portals through out-of-office touchpoints like on-hold messaging and website content.
- Provide a simplified registration and mobile version of your platform so patients can easily access the portal.
- Educate all of your staff on the value and the application of the portal so they can help encourage patient adoption.
6. Phone as the Core of Communication
Even with more ways to connect through digital platforms, the phone will remain the core of communication in healthcare offices in 2017. A Patient-Provider Communication Study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine found that the phone is still an important and patient-preferred communication method in healthcare practices.
The study showed that patient portals don’t decrease the number of incoming calls to a healthcare practice. Your practice must continue to put resources toward providing a positive calling experience that uses hold messaging:
- To educate and direct callers
- To keep callers on the line
- To avoid frustrating callers
Discover More Trends In Healthcare for 2017
The healthcare field is always evolving with changing administrations, technologies and tools. As you approach 2017, take these trends in healthcare into consideration as you make your marketing and communication plans. Get a more detailed action plan for these strategies and other major changes that will influence your healthcare practice next year by downloading our free ebook “2017 Guide to Outpatient Customer Experience.”
Don’t go into 2017 without this guide. Find out if your practice is fully prepared and ready to engage, serve, and get more patients in 2017.