Like me, you’re probably tired of hearing about how COVID-19 changed the landscape of… well, everything as we know it. The whole situation makes me think of the lyrics from a classic song from 1958: “Rock n’ roll is here to stay. It will never die.”
Much like this new strain of music from the 50s, the virus is here to stay.
How does that translate to healthcare?
Aside from the obvious reasons of wanting to be as safe and healthy as possible when we go about our daily lives, personally and professionally, what else has changed for us as healthcare consumers? What exactly is it that we now want from our healthcare providers that we didn’t want (or demand) before COVID?
As I conducted research about what today’s healthcare consumers want, I inevitably ran across this new tenet again and again: We’re living on a planet where the threat of COVID is invisibly lurking around every corner, and that includes doctor’s offices and medical facilities across the globe.
As scary as that thought may be—the fact that we may actually catch COVID while trying to visit a doctor to keep ourselves healthy—we still need healthcare. We still want to get expert advice about everything from asthma to psychiatric care in this so-called new normal.
8 important insights to operate a patient-first practice
In my own quest to navigate life with these nondiscriminatory airborne particles, I compiled a list of things that you might also find helpful as you traverse your way through this uncharted landscape.
Below is a list of eight of the most common things people like you and I want from our healthcare providers, along with some of the trends we’ve been experiencing since 2020.
If you run a practice, telehealth services, or any other type of healthcare facility, this list can help you gain some insight as to which direction to take your business and which types of adjustments you need to make to grow and thrive in 2022 and beyond.
1. Acceptance of seeking mental health services
Since COVID lockdown and schools being shut down for extended periods of time, mental health and overall well-being have come to the forefront for many of us. It’s much more mainstream than it was just two years ago to talk about going to therapy and getting the mental and emotional help we need to manage these ever-evolving circumstances. After all, being locked in with your family for months on end may have brought unforeseen behaviors and new challenges in relationships front and center, no longer to be ignored.
If you operate a mental health practice, either in person, virtually, or a combination of both, you want to make sure you’re ready for the influx of new patients you will undoubtedly continue to see who want help and aren’t afraid to ask for it.
2. Telehealth services and virtual care will continue to grow, expand, and offer more options to patients
As you probably know, the demand for telehealth services grew beyond what anyone could have predicted during the pandemic. A virus catapulted technology into the future at warp speed. As a healthcare provider, were you ready for the abrupt jump, or are you still struggling to catch up? Now is a great time to expand your practice to offer telemedicine if you don’t yet offer any type of virtual visits.
3. Convenience and easy access to healthcare
The rise of the minute-clinics at grocery stores, pharmacies, and big box stores have made it easier than ever to get tested for COVID, fill a prescription, get your blood pressure checked, and to get advice from the medical provider on duty. With so many healthcare options now available, making it easier than ever before to get a same-day appointment, if you operate a traditional office, you have to set yourself apart to compete for new patients, and to keep your current ones.
One way to do that is by offering an exceptional patient experience—one they can’t get at an in-and-out clinic. Take steps to build relationships with your patients and they’ll keep coming back and referring you to their family and friends. There’s a lot to be said about a personalized healthcare experience where the patient feels like they are more than a customer standing in line, waiting to be seen by the next available employee.
4. Automation, automation, automation
Did I mention that you need to automate things like online scheduling, appointment canceling, and filling out new patient forms? If you’ve gone to a restaurant lately, you know that there’s a staffing shortage. Hospitals and healthcare facilities are no exception, and often even more understaffed than your favorite, local diner.
As a result, digital apps, website portals, physician locators, and automated online reviews are some of your best assets. Any type of office task you can automate means less work for your staff so they can focus on caring for patients and providing excellent customer service.
Today, in a world where more than 70% of millennials prefer to schedule an appointment digitally instead of by phone, and patients of all ages want to be able to text their providers, patient satisfaction practically depends on how technologically advanced you are.
Think about it from a hygiene standpoint, too, and get rid of germy clipboards. Give your patients the ability to fill out forms electronically, so they never touch office pens or paper. That eliminates a lot of work for your team, too, and keeps everything more sanitary.
Does your office need to automate more of its daily tasks, or are you on track to handle the new, largely digital workflow?
5. Personalized care and attention
I’ve mentioned this a few times already. Personalized care and attention never go out of style. Even though today’s healthcare consumers demand more digital access to your services, and a pleasant online experience, it doesn’t mean we no longer want personalized medical care and attention to detail. We just want a streamlined process to get us into the office or logged-on to our virtual appointment. Then, we want an unhurried appointment with time to ask questions and be seen as the unique individuals we are.
6. Easy access to online health records
This one goes along with our desire to streamline processes and not have to take time out of our day to make phone calls to the physician’s office. We, the healthcare consumer of 2022, just want to sign in to a patient portal with an all-access pass to our HIPAA-compliant health records. See Number 4 above.
7. Healthcare mobile apps
Does your practice have its own mobile app? Are you considering one? Healthcare apps are a big deal because they let patients make appointments, access information, and communicate with office staff anytime, anywhere. Again, it’s all about convenience and a streamlined patient experience that’s also mostly automated and digital.
If you run a large organization and schedule virtual visits, and need to communicate with a large volume of patients, a healthcare mobile app could be the feature that sets you apart from your competitors. It may also be the reason a new patient chooses your practice.
8. Text messages help patients communicate with care teams remotely
A precursor to the healthcare mobile app, perhaps the ability for two-way texting is just what you need to help patients manage their care remotely. Not everything requires an office visit, and not every patient can get to your office every single time they have a question, a checkup, or need monitoring. Two-way texting lets your staff easily communicate with patients when and wherever they are. It also cuts down on office visits, which is a good thing, especially since you’re probably short-staffed.
Like rock n’ roll, the Coronavirus is here to stay. How you fine-tune your practice to offer healthcare consumers more of what they want is a huge factor for your longevity.