Self-service is fast becoming the standard across most industries. Customers check into their flights online before arriving at the airport; deposit checks electronically with the snap of a smartphone picture; and zip in and out of the grocery store self-checkout line with ease.
As usual, though, healthcare and physicians’ offices have lagged behind the trend. Instead of offering the quick, do-it-yourself tools that customers have gotten used to elsewhere, many physicians’ offices still require patients to interact with staff throughout their experience.
But COVID-19 has ramped up the already hot self-service trend even more, prompting consumers to expect—and even demand—contactless services.
Fortunately, physician practices can implement self-service options for nearly every aspect of the patient experience. Here are seven ways you can bring patient self-service into your practice.
Don’t leave your online reputation to chance. Patients rely heavily on rating and review websites when choosing a physician. A 2019 Binary Fountain survey found that 75% of healthcare consumers are influenced by online rating and review sites when selecting a provider, and of many turn to the hospital and/or facility’s website as a primary information source. Be sure to maintain detailed physician profiles on your own website, as well as popular sites like Yelp, Healthgrades, and Vitals.
Provide health info online: Americans often turn to the internet for health information, even before visiting a doctor. In fact, a Penn Medicine study last year showed that health-related internet searches doubled the week before patients visited an emergency department. However, 2019 research in the journal Public Health Reports shows that online health searches are often frustrating and don’t yield helpful information. Make your practice’s website a trusted, go-to source for reliable and easy-to-read information about some of the most common conditions that your practice treats.
Doing so will put your practice ahead of the curve and satisfy consumer demand, especially among younger patients. The 2019 Binary Foundation data shows that 29% of respondents have booked appointments directly from a provider’s website—a 100% increase from 2018—whereas making phone appointments has actually decreased by 45%. Follow the lead of Benefis Health System in Montana which allows online self-scheduling for a number of its clinics.
This is among the most popular and widespread patient self-service options. Offering preregistration expedites the patient experience on the day-of service (long wait times was a major factors contributing to negative provider reviews, found a 2020 Healthgrades and MGMA survey) and helps to ensure the accuracy of patient demographic, personal, and insurance information, which is a key component to ensuring proper reimbursement.
“How much will it cost?” is among the most common patient questions, but it’s also one of the toughest to answer. Look to vanderbiltHealth.com, which just launched an online tool that allows consumers to generate their own, personalized out-of-pocket cost estimates based on the selected service and their specific insurance information. Not only is providing online estimates good for patients, but it’s a reminder that practices shouldn’t wait for a government mandate to act on price transparency.
Instead of requiring patients to stop at the registration desk, enable patient check in via a mobile app or kiosk. Look to health systems like UPMC in Pittsburg, which uses biometric-enabled kiosks to speed registration and ensure proper patient identification. Kiosks can also help enable up-front payments and copays.
Hospitals and health systems like New York Presbyterian and Brigham and Women’s Hospital are partnering with wearable tech companies to incorporate remote patient monitoring data into patient EMRs. Adopting such practices on a smaller scale could help with patient health monitoring and improve patient satisfaction: 64% of patients said they would use a wearable health monitor if it meant reducing the number of times they had to physically visit a doctor or hospital, according to a 2019 VivaLNK survey.
A patient portal isn’t just a place to drop lab results. Practices can also add robust financial tools to their online and app-based offerings, and doing so can pay off, literally: An athenahealth study showed that “practices that increased portal adoption rates by 15 percentage points or more over 12 months saw a median increase in patient pay yield of nearly 5%.” Other athenahealth research showed a spike in the number of consumers making payments online, including via mobile devices. Among the financial self-service tools practices can offer: Allowing patients to set their own payment plan terms online (especially important in the era of high-deductible health plans); enabling online bill pay and automatic bill pay; allowing users to store their credit card data for future bills; sending electronic statements that link to online bill-pay platforms; and more.