Engaged patients are more likely to keep appointments and take an active role in their personal health. Providers that make it easier for their clients to stay engaged stand to gain more opportunities to retain current patients and attract new ones.

Practices should consider looking at their current engagement strategies to identify where new solutions can open up new avenues for growth. Here are a few strategies that can improve patient engagement and retention at your practice:

Streamlining pre-visit tasks

Engagement should begin before the patient steps foot in the office or clinic. From the moment they make their scheduling call, patients should feel comfortable with their provider. Automated pre-registration and visit preparation solutions ensure patients not only arrive on time, but also ready to have the most effective physician visit possible. Likewise, an automated solution gives the practice more opportunities to fill last-minute openings, therefore reducing financial risk.

“28 percent of patients have accessed their online health records.”

Advanced visit reminders allow patients to select the communication channel that works best for them. Whether a patient prefers texts, phone calls, emails or physical mail, they’ll receive a timely reminder prior to his or her next visit.

Patient portals likewise give patients an intuitive way to familiarize themselves with their own health data prior to speaking with their care providers. According to April 2018 data from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, approximately half of all Americans have been offered access to their online medical record and 28 percent have accessed that information at least once. While the numbers are still low, they have increased steadily over the past decade. As this technology becomes more user friendly and comprehensive, more patients will take advantage of patient portal technology.

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To further improve engagement prior to the appointment, practices should consider offering the option to complete registration forms online. The days of clipboards are fading fast, and digital tablets are only a stopgap measure. By making these forms available online, patients can arrive at the practice completely ready to meet with their providers. This reduces the likelihood that appointments will need to be rescheduled.

Optimizing post-visit engagement

Patients waiting on lab results want to see their information as soon as it’s available. An integrated patient portal makes it easy to deliver this information automatically. This is especially important in instances where the lab results can give the patient peace of mind regarding his or her personal health.

Patients may become disengaged after an appointment if they cannot see the immediate value of a follow-up visit. When it’s critical that patients return to see the doctor, an automated solution can track cancelations and alert patients when they need to schedule another appointment. This takes some pressure off patients who may have trouble staying on top of all their appointments. Patients who see several providers a month may rely on automated reminders to help them stay on schedule. From the provider’s point of view, this keeps patients engaged and active.

Automated solutions do not necessarily remove the human element from patient-practice interactions. In fact, follow up communications can make patients feel valued. For example, a provider could send out an email, phone call or letter to make sure the patient was satisfied with their appointment and let them know how they can ask any questions they may still have.

From an operations perspective, follow up surveys can generate useful data on how the practice can improve. After all, it’s difficult to make meaningful changes if you don’t know what patients want. Surveys provide powerful insights into where patients are running into roadblocks. With this data, stakeholders can enact meaningful change with confidence.

Online resources help patients stay informed and engaged.Online resources help patients stay informed and engaged.

Strengthening patient retention

For modern patients, many of life’s daily tasks are already handled online, or are available for them to do so. When a physician’s office has a poor online experience, it can feel like traveling back in time – and not in a good way. The fact is that patients don’t just want better digital healthcare experiences, they expect them.

In fact, a July 2018 survey conducted by Black Book found that 90 percent of patients do not feel obligated to stay with a provider that doesn’t offer a satisfactory digital experience. Furthermore, 88 percent of patients under 40 say they will choose their next provider based on a strong online presence.

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Essentially, practices that want to retain their current patients need to take steps to stay competitive. By providing excellent patient care with the help of advanced technologies, practices have more opportunities to attract new patients and keep existing ones.

For example, many practices still rely on printed reminders and manual phone calls to alert patients of upcoming appointments. These methods can be effective, but they require substantial time and resources to maintain. An automated, rules-based solution can contact patients and send recall notices until the patient responds. This frees up personnel to spend more time interacting with patients and focusing on growing the practice.

Automated reminders are just one way of engaging patients who are have not made a visit to the practice recently. To capture patient attention, email newsletters with health tips and education-related communications provides value outside of the care setting and keeps your practice at the top of readers’ minds. Likewise, this engagement channel can be leveraged as a method of keeping patients up to date regarding new services offered by the practice.

To support the continued growth of your organization, you can use an intuitive analytics suite to determine which patient retention methods have made the most significant impact on your practice. This will allow you to continually refine how the organization uses its resources.

Engaging and retaining patients is a resource-intensive challenge. Integrated technologies make it simpler to connect with patients at every stage of the care continuum. Today’s patients want to stay in touch with their care providers, and they want to do so in a manner that is unobtrusive and valuable.

To see how the Happe-Engage platform can build engagement at your practice or supplement your current strategy, contact the experts at Tangible Solutions today.