Conventional wisdom would lead practitioners to believe that patients value a provider’s reputation for quality of care above all else. But a recent study from NRC Health, conducted in collaboration with the MetroHealth System of Cleveland, discovered otherwise. More than half of the patients surveyed put convenience at the top of their wish list. Only 35 percent cited quality of care as their main priority. In fact, most patients said they’d switch providers to gain more convenience, even if they were satisfied with their current provider.
For healthcare professionals those are rather unsettling revelations. But they also represent an opportunity to do a better job of engaging and retaining patients by learning what they really want. Here are three of the main ways that patients value and expect convenience:
Patients have always voted for healthcare that’s closer to home. That is why walk-in clinics in convenient retail locations are such a popular option. About one out of every three consumers uses urgent care facilities or the kinds of retail medical outlets found in CVS and Rite Aid stores. Providers can also move closer to patients by creating a connection via telehealth technologies. Another effective way to make healthcare proximity easier is by providing a HIPAA-compliant online portal. There patients can view medical records and lab results, manage prescriptions, and find educational information provided by their doctor. Patients with this kind of tool can enjoy 24/7 access, every day of the year, from anywhere they happen to be.
Online portals can also empower patients to schedule their own appointments and fill out certain types of patient questionnaires and paperwork before office visits. That proactively addresses some of the biggest complaints patients have, regarding difficulty making appointments and excessive waiting room delays. It also lessens the workload of health professionals and administrators and reduces distracting phone calls. With more free time, providers can increase their interaction with patients when they do meet face-to-face. Investing time to cultivate rapport and a more complete understanding of the patient’s individual needs and goals always delivers a rewarding ROI.
One of the most prevalent trends in healthcare is increased payment responsibility shouldered by patients. Oftentimes they don’t realize that they are responsible for payments until the bill comes due. That misunderstanding leads to late payments and defaults and can destroy patient/provider relationships while undermining revenue. That’s why reducing friction in the payment process is more important than ever, for both patients and providers. Fortunately, secure payment platforms can remove this friction.
Automated systems can verify insurance eligibility almost instantly, giving the patient an upfront and clear understanding of their financial obligations. Advanced payment platforms can accommodate installment payment plans, too, and give patients multiple options for setting up a manageable repayment schedule. Patients can pay online, using their choice of different payment methods. They can also view and manage statements online, just as they are conveniently accustomed to doing while shopping at retail sites.
By understanding more about how patients define convenience, it’s possible to gain greater clarity around why it means so much to them. Then that type of convenience can be integrated into patient-focused quality care, to ensure that patients are healthy and providers remain sustainably relevant in patients’ lives.