Get the right first impression in healthcare through intelligent commitment to preventive care

As the saying goes, “You can’t make a second first impression.” And in no industry does first impression matter as much as in healthcare.

Healthcare providers make a big request of their patients – they ask patients to trust them to manage their most valuable resource: their health. So that first touch has an impact that goes well beyond this interaction—it affects how patients view the healthcare system and how likely they are to remain loyal to it or look elsewhere for more personalized care.

In addition, it also influences the perception of the quality of actual patient care. one clinical study showed that patients with a good first impression of their provider evaluated their communication approach much more positively, while a negative first impression tended to inhibit future interactions.

We operate in a new environment for healthcare providers – one where the consequences of a poor first impression are more severe and the rewards for frontloading a seamless and personalized patient experience are greater, both immediate and long-term.

The effectiveness of a first touch, whether it’s through a web page, voice call, text message, or face-to-face interaction, can build or break affinity and loyalty in an instant. This means providers have a new mandate: to create the best possible “digital front door” through pre-care engagement to ensure first touches are targeted, meaningful and contextually appropriate.

First, let’s take a look at some of the new and emerging factors making first impressions more important in healthcare:

Rising consumption in industry

Even before the pandemic, individuals were taking greater control of their own health benefits and healthcare decisions, prompting the healthcare C-suite to place greater emphasis on patient involvement. The pandemic kicked the trend into high gear, with an explosion in types of healthcare delivery and the breaking down of geographic barriers to healthcare. In addition, we are seeing an increasing ‘application’ of healthcare – ie a replication of the healthcare industry’s ease and seamless interaction of patients with brands through consumer-grade apps and interfaces in other industries.

An abundance of choices and an industry heavily focused on experience means that when a patient is faced with a subpar first contact with a healthcare provider, they now have more agency and confidence to shift gears and seek a provider find one that really fits their lifestyle and preferences.

The lasting effects of deferred care

Hospital admissions for non-Covid related conditions during the pandemic dropped dramatically, although the actual occurrence of these diseases – such as appendicitis – probably has not changed. As patients missed appointments for fear of contracting Covid-19 in a hospital or doctor’s office, new and existing health problems had the opportunity to develop and worsen.

Although some patients have found it safe enough to return to healthcare providers for screening and other elective procedures, the more than two-year inertia of countless other patients must be overcome. We are already seeing hospital capacity being strained by non-Covid cases, many of them from preventable conditions that have been made worse by medical malpractice. To prevent a problem from escalating into a crisis, healthcare providers must resort to pre-care outreach practices to build engaged and trusting relationships with patients.

Employee burnout

For almost all medical professionals, the last two years have been the most challenging in their memories. At the peak of the pandemic over a third of nurses were determined to be emotionally drained, and medical professionals have been leaving the industry in droves, leading to historic staffing shortages in hospitals across the country. Beginning of the year, as much as 22% of hospitals reported critical staff shortages.

This leaves fewer resources for patient intake and pre-treatment contact, often resulting in patient experience gaps.

To recap, healthcare systems grappling with unprecedented staffing shortages must address a growing public health crisis of deferred care — while meeting radically shifting customer expectations to remain relevant and competitive. It’s a tall order in every way.

Solving the first-touch problem through technology

High order or not, it is clear that the early stages of the patient journey are some of the most important when it comes to building affinity and loyalty. To meet this need, leading hospitals are harnessing the power of effective pre-treatment to make the first steps as automated, personalized and intelligent as possible. Additionally, by using seamless multichannel approaches that not only meet patients where they are, but also collect and process conversational data, providers can optimize touchpoints at all later stages of the continuum of care.

So what does an effective pre-care engagement look like? It should contain at least these core elements:

  • Appointment confirmation and reminders: Automated messages at preset times before appointments and at the time of scheduling ensure patients are aware of their appointments and can easily import them into the calendar of their choice. These messages should also encourage patients to confirm, reschedule, or cancel a few days before their appointment to reduce no-shows.
  • Scheduling: By allowing patients to help themselves with scheduling appointments—either via text message or web link—patients can manage their schedule on their own terms and in their own time, while further reducing no-shows.
  • Precautionary screening and data acquisition: Providing screening surveys and patient forms to fill out and import into recording systems before appointments can reduce check-in time.
  • Conversation feature: Conversational interaction through chat functionality across a variety of channels can add new levels of personalization to initial interactions.
  • Appointment scheduling and procedure preparation: By letting patients know what to expect upon arrival, whether special safety protocols apply, and whether they need to make any preparations before an appointment, not only will check-in time be reduced, but patients will also feel better prepared and prepared to feel comfortable.

The lasting effect of a good first impression

The trifecta of increased consumerism, staff burnout and deferred care is a fundamental and new challenge facing every healthcare provider in the country. The tools and solutions used to address the issues meanwhile must address them across the continuum of care. But the solution must begin at the very beginning of the care journey, when a patient is still forming their opinion about their provider and the care they are likely to receive.

For this reason, the true essence of the pension commitment is so much more than the sum of its parts. Not only does it set the tone for the patient experience, it also serves as a valuable first way to get to know a patient; Gain insights from conversation data to personalize and improve every single interaction that follows.

Photo: Mykyta Dolmatov, Getty Images

Comments are closed.