After the appointment: new expectations for healthcare communication

Patient expectations have changed. And the new expectations don’t just center around the overall consumer experience in healthcare, they also focus heavily on communication.

Phone calls are frustrating and inefficient for patients and new demands for real-time communication are leading many practices to text messaging (a channel that offers multiple benefits for both patients and providers).

In a Podium-sponsored May Becker's Dental Review webinar, Josh Combe, sales director at Podium, and Lisa Blair, COO of Inspire Dental Group in Western New York, discussed strategies and outcomes for effectively using text messaging in a provider-patient relationship. 

Here are three takeaways from the discussion: 

  • Consumers are often dissatisfied with the service and communication they receive from healthcare providers.
    "Nearly all patient complaints, 96 percent, are linked to poor communication or service by office staff and physicians," Mr. Combe said, referring to an article in Becker's Hospital Review about a study published in the Journal of Medical Practice Management. In addition, one in eight patients left their provider in the last year, he said. It’s clear that patients want something different from their healthcare experience. 
  • Patients want their dental care experience to match their other consumer experiences.
    Patients are frustrated with long hold times on phone calls. Yet only 17 percent of patients are currently engaging with providers over text, Mr. Combe said. However, 90 percent of consumers prefer to speak with a business via text. "In today's world, the majority of us expect to text communication over a phone call," Ms. Blair said.
  • Five strategies can help dental practices meet new patient communication expectations. These strategies are: 
    1. Communicate in the right channel.
      Call volumes have risen between 23 and 52 percent across hospitals, urgent care and telehealth, Mr. Combe said, citing data from

      For many patients and situations, texting is the preferred communication channel. Texting not only allows asynchronous communication, but it also allows customer care to respond to multiple people at the same time, rather than making people wait on hold. "There are certain things you want to talk to your patient about," Ms. Blair said. "But other things can be handled really quickly" via text.

    2. Send appointment follow-up messages via text.
      Appointment reminders have been standard for years. But studies show that patients recall only about 40 percent of advice and instructions given during an appointment, and half of what they remember is incorrect.

      Mr. Combe said that nearly 70 percent of patients want more communication from providers after an appointment. "Providing that via text message can be powerful," Mr. Combe said. Ms. Blair's team also uses texting to request post-appointment reviews, which helps drive the organization's presence on the web.

    3. Make it easier to make a payment.
      Texting can also be used to provide a convenient and often faster way for patients to pay their bills via secure links. This fits with what consumers want; as shared by Mr. Combe, 83 percent of consumers want electronic payment options for medical bills and 80 percent want to use a mobile device.

      Ms. Blair said they had used text messaging to reach out on unpaid accounts. "We got a pretty big hit," she said. "And then COVID hit and of course we were using the Podium payments daily."

    4. Move follow-up scheduling to a digital conversation.
      Mr. Combe shared that the majority of consumers (70 percent) want to schedule appointments digitally. Text messages with a link to appointment scheduling can help drive that.

      Ms. Blaire said about one-third of their patients now schedule appointments online. Digital scheduling is a way to engage patients in an ongoing conversation.

    5. Use SMS marketing to increase patient engagement.
      Many people are overwhelmed by their email inboxes and often don't open or respond to email. In contrast, open and click-through rates are much higher with texting.

      Mr. Combe said that 98 percent of texts are opened and 95 percent are opened within three minutes. "Quick, concise, to-the-point messages can have great reach," he said. Texting can increase patient engagement and campaign response rates.

Dental practices can become more successful by modernizing their communication platforms and leveraging the power of text messaging with a partner like Podium.

To register for upcoming webinars, click here.

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