Our connections to other people are felt in every aspect of our lives. We are social beings, after all; we depend on strong relationships to help us thrive. This is especially true when it comes to an area like healthcare, where relationships are central to providing the best possible care to every person – a patient in a hospital or doctor’s practice or a member of a healthcare insurance program.
So, how can today’s healthcare organizations continue to build strong connections to their patients and members? And what does that look like in a far-flung digital world that values convenience and efficiency? How does healthcare adapt to a new, more digitally savvy ‘consumer’? In other words, how can healthcare providers keep building personal and trusting relationships, even when we aren’t physically together?
Live engagement – replicating in-person interactions digitally and connecting virtual and in-person customer experience – builds and maintains strong relationships, even when people aren’t in the same physical space as one another. In the healthcare field, the growing use of live engagement solutions has been one of the most exciting trends of the past few years. Going digital and the advancements in telemedicine have allowed more and more patients to access and receive the most up-to-date information and the best possible treatment and advice wherever, whenever they need it.
The power of visual engagement
We build trust through face-to-face interactions – that’s human nature. It’s vitally important for patients to be able to sit and talk with their healthcare providers, in as comfortable a setting as possible.
These personalized conversations in which healthcare providers can listen to the words, but also see facial expressions and body language can help them fully understand each patient’s unique situation, medical history, and healthcare needs. Being face-to-face also helps patients develop the confidence to make the best healthcare decisions for their own future which is critical in a patient-centric care plan. Over time, highly personalized conversations create strong, close relationships, increasing patients’ motivation to remain loyal to their healthcare provider.
Adoption of digital healthcare
More and more, healthcare providers, insurance organizations and pharmaceutical companies are turning to digital solutions for telehealth and telemedicine to provide better information quickly and to achieve closer connections to their patients and members. The global pandemic has accelerated this trend with Frost & Sullivan forecasting a sevenfold growth in telehealth by 2025.
Telehealth, the use of electronic information and telecommunication to provide care when a doctor and patient are not in the same space, includes talking to a doctor live, sending and receiving messages, and using remote patient monitoring technologies. These communications technologies can include anything from a voice or video call or chat, to a chatbot that provides initial patient triage or member qualification, to live text messaging that allows patients to communicate privately with their provider on sensitive topics via their mobile phone.
A recent study looking at the impact of the pandemic on patient behavior shows that adoption of virtual health channels is accelerating. For example, from 2019 to the beginning of 2020, patients using virtual visits increased from 15% to 19% and then grew rapidly to 28% in April 2020. (3) This trend will only continue. Interestingly, though 80% of patients using virtual visits would choose to have another, the experience of the virtual visit is mixed. Deploying the right technology is imperative to ensure a successful patient experience.
Live face-to-face video engagement
One of the most exciting advancements in healthcare today is the use of live video engagement. Live video chat enables one-way or two-way live video conversations for healthcare consultations and enhances the patient experience using websites, patient portals, and online educational and support resources. When done right, live video engagement provides the kind of immersive environment that patients and providers need to build personal and trusting connections.
To deliver a successful patient experience, a video chat platform must give patients the flexibility to tailor the engagement to fit their needs. With the right solution, patients and members can chat face-to-face with their healthcare provider in real time, on any device including smartphones. Additional healthcare specialists or other family members can easily be invited into the discussion as needed. Also, the patient can choose a one-way video call so that they see the provider but they aren’t on camera themselves. These kinds of options leave patients with a greater sense of control of their own healthcare decisions and contribute to a greater overall positive patient experience.
Achieving a digitally connected environment
In addition to live video chat, other digital engagement tools can help build online connections between patients and their healthcare providers. AI-driven chatbots can provide answers to common questions 24/7, provide initial patient triage, and seamlessly transfer a patient or member to a live assistance text, voice, or video chat when the need arises.
Sharing technologies such as co-browsing can be used to guide the patient’s journey on the website, or share educational materials such as post-op care and insurance plan information. Both the patient and provider see the same information as the provider guides the patient’s journey to make sure the right information is shared easily and accurately. Co-form fill allows patients to get real-time help from a provider while they fill out forms. Both the patient and provider can enter information into the form to ensure forms are completed accurately. And, secure form fill allows confidential information to be seen only by the patient. This digital hand-holding creates huge efficiencies for both the provider and patient and increases patient satisfaction as this typically arduous process is streamlined.
In addition, other documents can be shared with secure file transfer which enables both patients and providers to share documents with each other securely and within the single engagement. So, there is no need to chase faxes or search for promised emails that never arrive.
When appropriate, online scheduling technology that allows a patient or member to schedule a personal appointment with the click of a button can be very convenient. And, most importantly, all of this must be done via a platform that is built with the highest levels of security and privacy compliance including HIPAA and GDPR.
As the future of healthcare delivery evolves and patient and member engagements with their providers go online, healthcare organizations will be tasked to deliver access and connection across multiple digital channels and formats. But, healthcare providers, insurance organizations and pharmaceutical companies are finding and will continue to find that transitioning to live digital engagement is helping them develop better connections and deeper human relationships with their patients and members than ever before.