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The Future of Healthcare: Enhancing The Digital Patient Experience

November 4, 2019

It’s no secret that the healthcare industry has an urgency to create a patient experience that encompasses both offline and online, no matter the device or channel. As we move further into the digital age, can healthcare providers expect younger generations to book appointments by phone or pay bills using direct mail? They can – but it probably won’t go as smoothly as in the past.

In the era of the connected consumer, a positive experience is what will differentiate those in the healthcare industry (not just their medical capabilities). Digital technology has the means to create a simple, personable experience for patients, but its execution will matter most moving into 2020.

Meeting Patient Expectations

What exactly does a seamless patient journey look like? Well, almost every patient has a smartphone, and they’re doing their research. In fact, five percent of all Google searches are health-related. To attract and retain patients, digital transformation in the healthcare industry is paramount. With zero mobile accessibility, healthcare providers limit their functionality and immediately inconvenience patients who are on the go. That’s why healthcare companies with consistent digital and physical patient experiences certainly have a competitive advantage against those who don’t.

Patients nowadays expect quick communication and easy access to their health information. Historically, healthcare providers had a lot of control over information, only sharing it during in-person appointments. Many patients now have access to online data and content about their specific health needs when they want it, on whatever platform they want it.

Without integration between the digital and physical worlds, patients are left to deal with a lengthy process when it comes to simple things like data, billing, and appointments. These touchpoints are vital and must be understood to connect for a better experience.

Once data is accessible across all platforms in a unified system, providing more personal care to patients becomes simple. A modern platform with an integrated foundation reduces the possibilities for error, providing a safer way to manage information. An integrated digital platform also allows marketers in the industry to deliver content in a personalized, effective way – making patient-provider relationships that much stronger.

Showing The Social Side of Healthcare

Social media is an essential medium to connect with patients in an authentic way. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other networks offer healthcare providers the opportunity to use social channels for content marketing and two-way communication.

Social media messaging trends (and apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat) are on the rise, with nine out of 10 consumers saying they would like to use messaging to communicate with businesses. Social media messaging really is becoming the preferred method of customer service communication. Healthcare companies need to be prepared with a matrix of approved responses, a process for monitoring and responding, and a list and schedule of people who are handling this vital part of the customer service process. Oftentimes, communications teams take on this role but it should mix in the expertise and experience of those responsible for the brand’s overall customer service.

Facebook is still the dominant platform audience-wise, and because of the emphasis they’re putting on Facebook Messenger and the push for people to privatize conversations on social media, messages on the platform between people and businesses have increased 2.5 times year-over-year compared to 2018.

If a younger audience is the target, Instagram offers a fast-acting, engaging channel to reach them. And direct messaging on Instagram is also on the rise, so that’s another platform that requires oversight from a customer service perspective. The bottom line is that no matter the demographic, social platforms have prospective and existing patients waiting to engage and be serviced.

Addressing patient needs on social media helps build credibility. Sharing valuable, creative content that educates as well as entertains is an effective strategy for healthcare providers in the digital age. Many patients research providers by checking social media reviews and comments. With engaging social content that resonates with patients and spotlights your staff as expert thought leaders, providing comfort and familiarity to the patient-provider relationship is an invaluable strategy in the quest to be top-of-mind with your target audience. 

One other valuable – and often overlooked – component to social media is your staff. Ninety percent of people trust recommendations from family and friends. It’s crucial that you engage your employees to be your advocates and supporters on social media. This works best when you’re giving staff content to share and being transparent with your news and updates; sometimes, an organization can even benefit from incentivizing social sharing.

For a strong social presence, video content and paid ads help enhance the overall brand and feel of a provider. Knowing who your audience is and providing visual, informative content that reaches their feeds will give healthcare providers a leg up. Interacting with patients on-page and on the back-end using platform messaging can greatly enhance the patient experience, leading them to become advocates for the brand or organization.  

The Future Is Now

Patients now expect to browse healthcare options like an e-commerce website and have the ability to access data, schedule appointments, and pay directly from their smartphones. While online prescriptions, consulting, and patient portals already exist, their functionality can often be improved.

Moving forward, connected devices will be a more common tool for doctors and providers to use throughout the patient journey, enhancing payment and scheduling technologies, all while providing a personalized approach. What can we expect in the near future for patients to have access to? Virtual content, augmented reality, AI, voice search, and privacy will certainly be trends to watch in the healthcare marketing field.

In an industry known for its innovation, digital transformation should be the next step for healthcare providers who haven’t caught up—but the focus needs to be on the patient, and how to best serve them on the platforms they’re using.

For further guidance from our team of experienced healthcare marketers, send us an email today.

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