Patients are Demanding More, and We Can Deliver

You would think that having such a vast network in healthcare would mean that I am spot on with all health maintenance appointments. Nope. In fact, receiving regular mammograms is not my core area of competence.

About a year ago, I significantly procrastinated in scheduling my annual mammogram. I was on vacation and something within my circle of friends put some renewed emphasis behind the importance of the test. I went online and picked a different imaging center than I normally go to. Why? Simply because I could schedule the appointment while sitting at my in-laws on a Sunday afternoon without picking up the phone. The imaging center allowed for online patient self-scheduling.

Patients’ needs are constantly changing, and we are sitting in a healthcare environment that isn’t managing the changes well. But, the technology is there. We have tools that allow new patients to be appointed, established patients to schedule follow ups, and all sorts of options for forms completion prior to arriving at the clinic. So why are we finding that many of our healthcare providers are not adopting the technology? I think the answer comes from a few things:

It isn’t perfect.

If a patient schedules their own appointment, there might be some clean up that has to happen after the fact. Maybe there are some obscure provider preferences that are not going to be followed if a patient is allowed to schedule. I say “that’s okay.” It’s okay for your staff to make small tweaks to appointments after they have been scheduled. The important thing is that the patient got scheduled and your clinic captured that new patient visit!

It isn’t magic     

Patient’s don’t magically find out about your portal, your secure messaging, your online prescription refill, your ability to schedule online or pay their bill online. It can be a huge internal marketing undertaking for your practice.

Each and every one of your employees should be promoting these tools with every opportunity. Have a t-shirt made for every front desk and check out person that says “ask me about our online appointment scheduling.” Each day of the week it could display a different online tool. I am kind of kidding, but kind of not. As an example, I am a patient of a neuro-spine clinic. I am 98% positive that they have a portal, but in the five years that I have been their patient, NO ONE has ever told me about it. That’s a shame. And shame on me for not seeking it out (I always forget until I need it later).

It isn’t free.

Nothing worthwhile is free and technology companies are in a tough spot. If they charge you for each individually, customers feel nickel and dimed. If they package it all together, customers might be paying for technology that they do not utilize.

Practices are not going to be able to continue to be a viable business as our younger generations become adults if these tools are not better utilized. I have daughters ranging from 18-25 and they have little to no tolerance for picking up the phone, let alone manually filling out paperwork.

If patients have access to these tools, it is almost like they become an unpaid employee of your practice. And they like it!

Something we should certainly take away from the pandemic is that offices which already had all of these technologies in place were not nearly as negatively impacted by COVID-19 as ones without. Take this time to evaluate options and see what types of technology further augment your practice. It also might be a good time to perfect the ones you have.

Posted in: HIPAA, Patients, Scheduling