Patients are the lifeblood of any medical practice. They're also a source of frustration and stress for doctors who feel like they spend too much time dealing with patients' needs that have nothing to do with their actual health. But there's a better way to approach this problem, and it starts by using technology and other tools to empower patients to participate in their own care. Here are four ways physician practices can start empowering patients today:
Provide your patients with a patient portal.
A patient portal is a secure place where patients can access their medical information, such as test results, schedule appointments and request refills. Patients tend to be more willing to participate in treatment plans if they have the tools and knowledge required to do so. A patient portal allows you to empower your patients by giving them easy access to this information from anywhere at any time. This will allow them to be more involved in their own care which will lead to better outcomes for everyone involved!
Make sure your patients receive confirmation of appointments.
It's important for patients to know what’s going on with their appointments, and confirming appointments is one of the easiest ways to do so. In fact, research shows that just sending an appointment confirmation email can improve patient satisfaction by up to 20%.
The first step toward effective communication is making sure patients receive your appointment confirmations and reminders (or non-appointments). With this goal in mind, we recommend:
Using a scheduling tool like Calendly or Appointment Reminder. These tools allow you to provide a link that allows patients/clients/customers enter their information into your scheduling system and receive an automatic email confirming their appointment or reminder. You should also include links where they can cancel or reschedule appointments if necessary.* Sending appointment confirmations via text message.* Using automated follow-up calls for those who miss multiple appointments without communicating with the practice about them (this will likely require using an outside vendor).
Communication is a two-way street.
The ultimate goal is to communicate in a way that empowers patients as active partners in their own care. But how does a physician practice foster this sense of partnership?
Patients should be able to ask questions, give feedback and provide consent for treatment. They should also be encouraged to tell you about changes that have occurred in their lives—whether positive or negative—and the things they would like to see different from what’s currently happening with their healthcare experience or office visits.
In addition, patients can help by providing information about other aspects of your practice: what works well, what doesn't work well and why (if there are issues), and which specific physicians they prefer working with most often.
Don't wait for a patient to come to you with questions about their medical care.
Don’t wait until the patient has a problem or health concern before communicating with them, and don’t wait for the patient to ask for help from your staff. Start conversations about what's important to them, even if it's not directly related to their current care plan.
Ask patients how they are doing today. If possible, follow up later on in the day or week with another check-in question (e.g., “How did your appointment go yesterday? Any questions or concerns?”).
Schedule regular office visits that aren't necessarily associated with a specific issue (e.g., "We'll just touch bases next week"). This gives both parties an opportunity to discuss anything else on their minds as well as establish trust between one another—which will make it easier when something does come up later down the line!
Physician practices need to make it clear that they have the tools to help patients better understand the healthcare process.
The portal should be easy to access and shouldn’t require any login details—it should just be there when you go online. Patients should also feel comfortable using it, so if they have questions about using their portal or need help navigating through the site, encourage them to ask their doctor or nurse practitioners if they can assist with any problems they may encounter while trying to access their information.
In the end, the goal of all of this is for patients to become more empowered about their own health. It’s our job as healthcare providers to help them take control and feel confident in their ability to do so. In order to do that, we need to give them access to information and resources that will allow them to make informed decisions about their care—and that starts with empowering patients with the right tools. If your practice wants more information on how we can help you achieve these goals, contact us today!