3 Common Misconceptions About Patient Engagement
Brett Paepke, OD
Director of ECP Services, RevolutionEHR
Creating bonds between your practice and your patients has never been more important than it is today. Local competition has always been a consideration, but today’s eye care consumer is subjected to forces outside of your area. Social media and online vendors have a much wider reach and potential influence. Thus, efforts to keep your practice top-of-mind and engaged with patients between visits can be highly beneficial.
One way that many do this is through the use of patient engagement technology. There are a number of different products available in this area, but most offer a suite of similar services such as appointment reminders, automated recall, order readiness notification, birthday messages, and more. The capabilities of these systems are so impressive and helpful that more than 75% of RevolutionEHR customers have adopted one.
If 75% have implemented a patient engagement solution in their practice, high-powered mathematical work would suggest that 25% have not. And it might surprise you to know that the rationale for why they haven’t can be broken down to three key misconceptions.
Misconception 1: “It’s too expensive”
Obviously, the notion of something being expensive is subjective as what one person considers to be a bargain could be viewed as pricey by another. But the notion that a patient engagement system simply costs money can be flawed. Here’s why: consider the amount of time and resources your team allocates to appointment reminders and recall now. If you’re unsure, ask.
Next, consider your primary value proposition to your patients. For some that answer will be “We treat patients like family”. For others, “We provide the best patient experience in town”. Whatever your answer, it’s safe to say it won’t be “We’re the best at appointment reminders”. However, any time your team is spending on those tasks is time that they aren’t spending promoting that primary value proposition to your patients.
As an example, let’s say your focus is patient experience. When a patient leaves the office, you want them so thrilled with their visit that they don’t even consider doing business elsewhere and they tell all their friends. Now imagine a new patient walks through the door and isn’t greeted immediately or enthusiastically because the front office team is deep into confirming tomorrow’s appointments. That’s undoubtedly not the initial impression you aim for and we know how important first impressions can be. That missed opportunity early in the visit already makes the patient less likely to make a purchase from you, less likely to return in the future, and less likely to recommend you to friends.
Yes, patient engagement systems have a cost associated with them. But when assessing that cost, be sure to consider among other things a) how much staff time is invested in your current process, and b) the opportunity costs (missed greetings, assistance, sales, etc. because attention is elsewhere) that go along with it. You’ll likely find a patient engagement system to actually save you money.
Misconception 2: “I have many older patients and they won’t be able to receive a text message or email”
While there are certainly exceptions, it’s time we do away with the notion that older adults haven’t embraced technology. A recent Pew Research Center study found that 91% of Americans age 65+ own a cellphone and 73% use the internet. Overall, 96% of Americans own a cellphone and 90% use the internet making electronic practice communications a very viable, and quite often preferred, method of communication for patients of all ages.
Misconception 3: “My staff and patients are used to our current recall process”
There’s an oft-quoted business proverb that says “You can’t do today’s job with yesterday’s methods and be in business tomorrow”. That’s because today’s consumers recognize that technology makes many aspects of their lives easier. So while it’s completely understandable that a long-standing process is comfortable for the practice, that objection is not putting the proper parties’ comfort at the forefront of the decision making process.
Ultimately, whether it’s keeping patients connected to your practice, improving practice finances via improved recall and reduced no shows, or providing your team the freedom to focus on the patients in the office, a patient engagement system can offer a wealth of benefits to your practice. Consider investing a small amount of time in exploring the options to see if one would be a good fit.
Your patients and staff will thank you.