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Healthcare consumerism is starting to look a lot like retail. Engagement with a patient now starts even before their first appointment.

Consumers look to websites like Yelp or Tripadvisor to read reviews of a restaurant before they go out to dinner, and patients are doing the same thing as they choose their care. It’s no longer just about whether a provider is in their insurance network and close to their home. According to a recent study from Press Ganey, ratings and reviews are the top factors when patients book an appointment.

We’re past the point of technology being a Band-Aid to get practices through a pandemic. Modernizing healthcare is the way of the future. US-based digital health startups recorded $29.1 billion in funding in 2021, nearly doubling the $14.9 billion from 2020. Investing in the right digital tools can help practices attract new business, get them paid faster and provide better patient care. Let’s take a deeper look at how that’s possible and the benefits your practice could see from adopting such tools.

Front-end communication can ease back-end burden

The latest buzz is about the “digital front door.” This phrase may mean something slightly different to each person you ask, but it encompasses the use of technology to communicate with your patients at the very start of the care journey.

Essentially, before a patient arrives at your practice’s physical front door, they have already engaged digitally. Usually, the conversation about a digital front door is centered around appointment booking or intake. It could even extend to text message or email reminders asking the patient to confirm an appointment. This means that administrative staff doesn’t have to make those reminder phone calls or manage paperwork when a patient fills out registration forms in the office. The patient also benefits from the streamlined experience and doesn’t have to waste time in the waiting room.

In addition, a digital front door can save time at the end of an appointment. Patients can make secure payments on their phone or computer as they’re used to doing in retail. This kind of digital portal makes payment easy for both the patient and the administrative staff, the latter of which may otherwise have to send bills in the mail and wait for a written response, thus delaying payment capture.

According to a recent study by US Bank, 44% of surveyed patients report paying medical bills faster when they receive digital or phone notifications about billing, and 49% would pay by text if available.

A blueprint to get started

As you look to modernize your practice and create a more connected experience for your patients, an online payment portal is the best place to start. Many practices find the best return on investment from digital payment capabilities because these tools get them paid faster and in a manner that patients expect.

The next step in the adoption journey is digital communications. A text message or email reminder to a patient to pay a bill can further improve your cash flow and revenue cycle. Using these communication methods also alleviates the burdens of following up, playing phone tag and managing mailed payments that weigh down your administrative staff. The response rate of text messages is 209% higher than a phone call.

Once you have a handle on digital payments and communications, it’s time to tackle automating payments by using a card on file. Patients that keep a card on file don’t have to worry about physically swiping each time they come into the office to settle their copay. A secure, automated system for payment plans also allows patients to get the care they need and pay over time. Plus, it saves your administrative staff time over using a manual spreadsheet.

A patient is more willing to accept the care they need if a payment plan is available to them. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “half of US adults say they put off or skipped some sort of health care or dental care in the past year because of the cost.”

Implementation doesn’t have to be daunting

We’ve covered a lot, and it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect a practice to adopt everything overnight, particularly if that practice hasn’t ventured too far down the digital road yet. But implementing these digital tools typically isn’t as difficult as a practice might think. Find the right partner that will work with your administrators, who are most likely to set up and use these tools on a daily basis.

According to a survey, 35% of bridge millennials and younger patients are willing to switch healthcare providers for better digital management tools. There is a strong business incentive to make these investments, but the icing on the cake is that healthcare consumerism benefits both parties. In addition to improving care for your patients that want a more connected experience, digital tools can create operational efficiencies for your practice and increase revenue.

Photo: designer491, Getty Images


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