3 Ways to Boost Patient Confidence with Real-Time Contactless Communication

How to Boost Patient Confidence with Real-Time Contactless Communication
Ford Blakely, SVP & GM, Medallia Zingle

Although the vaccine’s rollout is slowly underway, Covid cases worldwide are continuing to reach all-time highs as new mutations make the virus even more contagious than ever before. Not surprisingly, patients’ concerns about visiting their healthcare providers in the midst of this global pandemic persist, pushing demand for telehealth solutions that allow patients and their doctors to communicate without the need for in-person visits. 

In fact, a recent report from McKinsey found that physicians and other health professionals were seeing 50 to 175 times the number of patients via telehealth than they did pre-pandemic, and that going forward, these types of virtual visits could account for $250 billion (or about 20%) of what Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial insurers spend on outpatient, office and home health visits. This of course is good news for the providers of these technologies. However, the same can’t be said for healthcare facilities’ own revenue streams. 

The truth is, healthcare practices have been under immense pressure financially since the onset of Covid-19. A recent MGMA report found that 97% have experienced a negative financial impact related to the pandemic, and over half (55%) saw a decrease in revenue in the early months of the crisis. But with the vaccine’s rollout set to scale in the spring, and thus require those receiving it to visit their doctor’s office in-person for what might be their first time in over a year, it’s vital that providers find ways to instill enough confidence in their patients to get them in through their doors. 

After all, a recent report found that 64% of Americans are concerned about the risks of contracting COVID-19 while waiting in lines or crowded lobbies when getting any vaccine shot this season.

With that said, here are three ways healthcare providers and the broader healthcare ecosystem can boost patient confidence with real-time and contactless communication, to not only make them feel comfortable enough to receive their vaccines but to encourage them to visit their doctor in-person when they need arises. 

1. Connect with Patients Through Two-Way Messaging

Over half of Americans say that they’ve postponed or skipped an in-person doctor’s appointment because of health and safety concerns since the pandemic began. Even 40% of providers’ most vulnerable patients (individuals 65 and older) are putting off appointments. It’s clear that the shifts in consumer behavior that have stemmed from Covid-19 are as prevalent in the healthcare space as they are in any other industry. And while telehealth has been a successful solution, research shows that in ordinary times patients typically only retain about 40% of the information that’s communicated to them in a healthcare setting. 

With that in mind, the ability for healthcare professionals and patients to communicate via text in real-time becomes much more valuable. For example, something as simple as a pre-arrival text message that communicates the facility’s new health and safety standards can go a long way with building confidence amongst patients. While post-appointment, questions relating to medications, billing, and other health-related concerns can solve the problem of lost information. 

This type of safe and instant contactless communication can act as a lifeline for patients experiencing increased anxiety around COVID-19, and ease their worries about visiting their doctor during this historic health pandemic. Something that holds tremendous benefits for both practice and patient.

2. Design Long-Lasting Channels for Instant Communication

Delayed communication between patients and their providers is a well-known pain point in the healthcare industry. While practices have instituted patient portals in recent years to allow patients to message their doctor directly, for many the experience is one of delayed responses and frustration.

Further, studies show that consumers delete most apps within six days of download, making SMS text messages with open rates above 90% a much more effective option in many cases. With this in mind, it’s hardly a surprise that a resounding 73% of Americans said “yes” when asked, “If you had the option to communicate with your doctor or healthcare provider via text, would you do so?”

In fact, despite its simplicity, SMS has already been labeled the “digital health tool of the century”. A pre-Covid research survey of 770 hospital professionals and 1,300 physician practices even indicated that secure texting was fast becoming the first choice to send information while keeping sensitive data secure. Its benefits are obvious in today’s environment that’s dominated by demands for everything contactless. 

But even in a post-Covid world, patients and providers benefit from text as it improves patient satisfaction, drives medication adherence, and empowers patients to be more actively involved in their health and wellness — all factors that massively contribute to their overall confidence in their healthcare provider.

3. Create Time for Better Patient-Provider Relationships

It’s no secret that administrative burden and physician burnout have reached all-time highs since the pandemic began. Facing unparalleled surges in urgent inquiries from patients to the configurations of their practices being turned upside down, healthcare professionals’ admirable sacrifice has understandably led to high-stress levels on their part. And now, with hospitals at max capacity and workers working overtime to help them fight this virus, the reality is that they don’t always have the bandwidth to prioritize patient relationships.

However, a communications strategy that incorporates real-time and contactless communication can help them solve this problem, and assist in the management of workflows and optimization of patient-centered communication. For example, automated messages around health and safety protocol updates, appointment reminders, and test results are not only more efficient but result in a more personalized patient experience. And when a more empathetic, human approach is required — for example, in cases where extra sensitive patient information is involved — team members can step in and take charge. 

Research published in the Applied Clinical Informatics Journal asserted that this type of approach had the potential to improve clinical collaboration, communication, and operational efficiency. Meanwhile, experts have written about the impact of healthcare’s digital transformation on productivity and satisfaction, with automation, in particular, yielding positive outcomes when it comes to reducing errors and improving work processes. 

Of course, what all this leads to is happier team members and more confident patients, as healthcare professionals can reallocate time towards building positive relationships with their patients, and thus ensure them that even in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, their providers are just a quick text away.

About Ford Blakely
Ford Blakely is SVP and GM of Medallia Zingle. As a frustrated consumer with an entrepreneurial spirit, Ford sought to figure out an easier and faster way to order his latte in the morning. He did – and in 2009 Zingle was born as the first two-way, business-to-customer communication platform. Zingle empowers businesses to engage, support, and respond to customers in more meaningful and impactful ways.

The Zingle platform combines artificial intelligence and machine learning with workflow automation and mobile messaging, allowing brands to deliver exceptional customer experiences in real time. Leading brands across different verticals, including healthcare, hospitality, food & beverage, retail, and more, use Zingle to increase efficiency, improve operations and delight their customers.

Transitioning from Traditional to E-Fax: How Healthcare Communications are Transforming Post-COVID

Telehealth After COVID-19: What's Next for the Healthcare Industry?
Michael Morgan, CEO of Updox

The majority of industries have decreased or eliminated their use of the traditional fax machine over the past decade, including aviation, retail, and even finance. While the healthcare industry is at the forefront of disease research and treatment, however, it is still heavily reliant on this aging technology. 

Traditional fax has become ubiquitous in healthcare. It worked for health systems for many years, but the overwhelming volume of patient data and paper documents the healthcare industry is now processing makes traditional faxing more challenging. In today’s environment, fax is no longer the most convenient, safe, or secure communications format but it is still an ingrained part of practice workflows. The good news is, there is no need to “axe the fax” in order to improve office communications and alleviate paper overload. By transitioning to electronic fax, healthcare providers can maintain their workflows and the benefits of fax, while incorporating it into their overall virtual communications strategy – further simplifying the business of healthcare. 

The Traditional Fax Challenge

The challenge with traditional fax isn’t new. In fact, in 2008 the Obama administration allocated nearly $30 billion to incentivize American hospitals and doctor offices to switch from paper to electronic systems. Since then, the industry has made small steps towards a more digitized system via fax servers and virtual patient communications such as secure text and broadcast messaging. While this solved part of the problem by making documents electronic and streamlining communications, it did not address the issue of inefficiency at its core, as practices are still printing, signing, and scanning paper documents. This inefficiency is causing a bottleneck when it comes to getting information transferred quickly, creates unnecessary costs for practices, and causes a lack of integration between health technologies across our healthcare system. 

A recent poll by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) found that 89% of healthcare organizations still use a fax machine, primarily to: 

  • Share patient records and lab and/or test results
  • Referrals
  • Payer communication
  • Pharmacy communication

This fragmented, outdated way of communication is not only inefficient and costly, it also impacts patient privacy and safety. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, one Texas health department received so many test results via fax in one day that it simply couldn’t keep up with the amount of paper being spit out – resulting in hundreds of confidential results being dumped on the floor. In addition, the vast differences between old and new technology being blended together are making it difficult to keep track of patient records, share data between practices or report to the government, and more, including important racial, ethnic and geographic data that the Trump administration required for COVID tests. In addition to these challenges, traditional fax eats up staff time that could instead be spent on patient care.  

Addressing Outdated Systems and Driving Transformation 

While on the surface the solution seems simple, actually addressing this challenge at its core is not as easy as it seems. Many providers and large health systems face barriers when it comes to implementing this technology, such as: 

  • Compatibility between systems 
  • Fear of competition and/or losing patients to other health systems if e-fax enables patients to easily share data with other physicians
  • Cost considerations
  • Regulatory issues around the transfer of data between providers/EHRs through electronic fax

Despite these challenges, the pandemic has highlighted the delayed, disjointed communications that exist within our healthcare system – and underscored the need for practices and health systems to adopt electronic fax technology. For example, a CNBC survey found that due to COVID-19 tests results coming in via fax in such large amounts, almost 40% of Americans had to wait more than three days for their results, which was too late to be clinically meaningful.  

It’s time to address this challenge industry-wide. Last year’s MGMA 2020 virtual conference theme, Rise Above, focused on giving providers actionable tools to navigate through the challenges COVID-19 has presented. The importance of virtual care solutions, including communications tools like electronic fax and forms, are unprecedented. Electronic fax technology can help alleviate the bottlenecks and inefficiencies that currently exist in healthcare. These solutions can: 

  • Reduce costs spent on traditional fax hardware, such as paper, ink, toner, etc.
  • Increase accessibility, allowing providers to view documents via mobile, etc.  at their convenience 
  • Improve practice workflow and efficiency, allowing practices to edit, organize, assign and complete patient forms online

Additionally, electronic fax should integrate seamlessly with other patient management solutions that practices are leveraging, such as video chat, SMS text, electronic forms, and a virtual waiting room, ultimately streamlining the entire patient experience.

Healthcare has transformed dramatically this year and will continue to do so — there’s a new expectation of patient care post-COVID. In order to improve patient communications, practice efficiency, system interoperability, and data sharing, practices must adopt an entire virtual care strategy, including electronic fax. Offering telehealth but still communicating via traditional fax will hold your practice back. It’s time for our healthcare system to ditch outdated systems and go completely paperless. This is how we will tap into the true power of the inbox, drive practice profitability and efficiency, and better serve patients. 

About Michael Morgan, CEO of Updox
With a successful track record in helping organizations use technology to transform the way healthcare is delivered, Mike has more than 25 years of healthcare leadership within software, behavioral health, and HIT organizations. Updox was named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies in America for the past six consecutive years.