This is an excerpt from the webinar "5 Ways to Master Modern Patient Communication". Watch the full webinar here.
Patient dynamics are changing and the disparity between the communication practices of the aging generation and younger, consumer-minded patients is growing. While the older generation may still prefer to be contacted via mail or by phone, the younger generation prefers web or text-based communication. As a result, it is up to the provider to figure out how to approach both so they can effectively serve and master communication for the modern patient.
Healthcare can be intimidating. In fact, 74% of patients say that they are confused by medical bills. Because of this confusion, the average number of statements typically sent before a full balance is collected is 3.3. This is often because the patients don’t understand their statements and aren’t being communicated with effectively. When considering the time and cost used to send a statement, and that it takes 3.5 months on average to collect on a bill, working to update and improve communication practices can be impactful for your practice.
To begin, it’s important to think about the categories of communication and where there might be room for improvement in each.
The first category are clinical communications which are done in the room with the patient, discussing things like symptoms, medical history, etc. During this type of communication the patient is building a connection with the clinician and the experience is humanized by face to face interaction.
The next category of communication is not always so personal, and surrounds the clinical conversation. These are the financial communications which include scheduling, registration, check-in, and balance collections. These are the types of interactions that can be improved most by understanding the ways that patients would like to be communicated with, and then harnessing the available technology to make effective communication happen.
Building trust with patients is crucial and transparency is key. Transparency in patient communications, especially around the financial experience, allows the patient to understand what their costs will be so they know what to expect when they receive a bill [For more tips on financial transparency, visit our blog post, Delivering an upfront patient cost experience]. Building patient trust also comes by training your team to be authentic and have a “do what you say mentality” that is committed to delivering on promises and expectations.
Two helpful models for building trust include:
A- Acknowledge (Acknowledge issues and questions.)
I- Introduce (Introduce solutions.)
D- Duration (Inform the patient of the time commitment involved with their appointment.)
E- Explanation (Explain the reason for or goal of the interaction.)
T- Thanks (Thank patients for their time.)
R- Rapport (Build a rapport with the patient.)
E- Empathy (Work to understand the feelings of the patient.)
S- Support (Offer support where possible.)
P- Partnership (Be a resource for the patient.)
E- Explanation (Be transparent so the patient knows what to expect.)
C- Competence (The patient should feel they are taken care of.)
As patient mentality changes and more become frustrated with the status quo, practices must work to make every interaction count. In 2019, 86% of statements were sent as a paper bill even though 80% of patients have reported preferring electronic payment options. As a result, it’s time to start focusing on the strategic delivery of patient communication.
The best place to start when evaluating the delivery of communication is with the patients themselves. Have you asked your patients recently how they would like to be communicated with? Would they like text messages? Emails? Access to an online portal? Once you have an idea of what they prefer you can work to find ways to support patients with more options for communicating.
Effective communication happens when providers are thoughtful about when and how they deliver each interaction. Here are some tips for making sure you are communicating at the right place and right time so your delivery will be most successful.
The following 5 scenarios are important to review when considering communicating in the right place at the right time. Each has a ripple effect that can be positive if implemented effectively.
Change can be difficult and finding ways to make communication easier for patients will increase patient satisfaction. When considering implementing modern communication platforms into your current processes, it’s important to look out for the following factors that could affect ease of use:
Whether your patients are older or young, authentic and effective communications will inform patients, treat them with dignity, and help to nurture relationships. They should be personal and offer solutions. Having an authentic interest in the patient experience is the key to successfully communicating and inquiring about satisfaction will allow you to adjust your process to meet the patients needs.
To learn more, watch the full webinar "5 Ways to Master Modern Patient Communication" here.