One-click ordering. Same-day delivery. Curbside pickup. Real-time price comparisons. Today’s consumers are conditioned for instant gratification. Given these expectations, it’s no surprise that many healthcare consumers are drawn to the convenience provided by retail health clinics. According to a study by Scrapehero, there are approximately 2,000 retail clinics located in major pharmacy and retail stores, and the number of retail clinics is projected to increase in the coming years. In fact, a leading global retailer has publicly stated it would scale up to 1,500 locations by the end of 2021 and replace primary care physician services with a better, tech-enabled experience.
For your health system to combat the onslaught of new entrants and compete with these growing retail clinics, you must ensure a seamless patient experience. Here are four strategies to improve your patient experience and beat out retail clinics.
Utilize an Online Scheduling Solution
Patients want the convenience and ability to schedule an appointment at your healthcare facility today. When you provide patients with the digital infrastructure to schedule appointments quickly and with multiple time slots, you can be much more competitive. Your health system can create this type of patient experience by utilizing an online scheduling solution. Consider also providing contactless check-in and payment or virtual waiting rooms to further improve your patient experience and minimize the amount of time patients must spend in your office.
In addition, an online scheduling solution allows you to triage patients before they arrive based on their self-reported symptoms. Even more, your health system can direct them to the best venue of care based on their symptoms. For example, if a patient specifies that they are having trouble breathing as one of their symptoms, you can alert the patient to seek their closest emergency department rather than scheduling an appointment with their physician.
Provide Personalized Communications
Patients are accustomed to receiving personalized information and recommendations in their daily routines. For example, Netflix provides customized suggestions on what to watch based on your individual interests, and fitness wearables provide physical activity recommendations based on tracked lifestyle habits. Patients expect this same type of personalized communications from their providers.
Your health system can create personalized communications by tailoring your messaging to their patient profile data—including demographic information, medical history, and patient preference. Even more, you can use non-patient-specific details such as appointment type, location, cost, and more either independently or in conjunction with patient information to customize content, communication channels, cadence, and context.
Create an Efficient Referral Management Process
Retail clinics may shine in episodic care but tend to fall short when considering the entire patient journey. Without access to a patient’s full medical history or the ready ability to speak with referring physicians, retail clinics lose sight of the continuum of care and the patient’s full spectrum of health. For example, if a patient visits a retail clinic for flu-like symptoms and their flu and strep test come back negative it’s likely the physician will tell the patient to follow up with their primary care physician. In situations like this the retail clinic adds another step in the patient’s journey, which can become frustrating for the patient.
Your health system can create an efficient referral management process by utilizing a referral management solution. By doing so, you ensure that patients are proactively escalated to their next step of care and engaged in managing their health. Even more, your staff doesn’t have the burden of managing referrals, which means they have more time to complete other tasks.
Continue to Innovate
Your health system should frequently map your patient journey to identify areas that you can reduce or remove friction. By doing so, you create an opportunity to become creative and offer a more innovative patient experience. For example, healthcare consumers are drawn to retail clinics because of their ability to provide care during non-working hours. To compete, consider offering early morning or late evening appointments to accommodate today’s consumers.
In addition, your health system can ensure patients don’t miss routine vaccinations, such as chickenpox, flu, or MMR, by creating a curbside or drive-thru vaccination clinic. Since COVID-19, there has been a decrease in the number of non-urgent in-person routine visits. Postponing or canceling routine vaccinations for children and adults leaves individuals vulnerable to infections from vaccine-preventable diseases. Even more, your health system can utilize this same strategy to vaccinate patients with the COVID-19 vaccine.
Healthcare consumers have no patience for sub-optimal patient experiences. It’s time for health systems to improve the patient experience to make the patient journey more consumer-friendly. If you’re unsure where to start, consider implementing one strategy, such as online scheduling.
This article was originally published on Stericycle Communication Solutions and is republished here with permission.