Using Both Technology and In-Person Care to Improve the Patient Experience

As healthcare continues to evolve, so do patient preferences and expectations. The patient experience in 2022 encompasses far more than interactions with a doctor in an exam room. It also includes telehealth encounters, time spent in virtual waiting rooms, conversations through patient portals and more.

In an article for Physicians Practice, Zach Zettler explains that convenient communication and user-friendly technology play an increasingly important role in the patient experience. “The challenge for practices now is how to continue meeting evolving patient expectations and improve the patient experience in a post-COVID era, while optimizing revenue and protecting their team from burnout,” he says.

In the piece, Zettler mentions results from a recent poll highlighting the importance of technology in the patient experience:

  • 55% of U.S. consumers cite convenient communications like secure text and patient messaging as being most important when it comes to having a good patient experience, closely followed by user-friendly technology at 51%.
  • Half of consumers cite secure information sharing as a key component of a good patient experience.
  • 39% of respondents expect their provider to conduct communications virtually, such as via video calls, texting or emails.
  • Technology solutions patients consider most important include online appointment scheduling (54%) and patient reminders (65%).
  • 53% of consumers said they most prefer to update or provide their patient information to a healthcare provider through online forms accessible via mobile phone, email, or a patient portal.
  • 41% of patients expect their healthcare provider to offer telehealth appointment options going forward.

However, despite major advances in technology and telehealth, providers must remember that the physician-patient relationship plays a central role in the patient experience and can have a major impact on care. According to Physician’s Weekly’s Erin Finelli, this personal connection is more important than ever: “With the increasing popularity of patients using technology to inform themselves of everything from healthcare services to condition-specific diagnoses, quality healthcare can fall to the wayside without the existence of a solid partnership between patients and their physicians,” she explains.

Nurturing patient education and engagement—through both virtual and in-person interactions—encourages patients to be more proactive in their healthcare, which could lead to better clinical outcomes.

When considering strategies to improve the patient experience, reframing the concept of a patient may help. John Glaser’s Harvard Business Review piece emphasizes that it is important to think of patients as consumers. “Healthcare providers have traditionally been concerned with patients but not with consumers,” he writes, noting that some providers previously avoided the words “consumer” and “customer” because the terminology was believed to cheapen medical skills and knowledge. Instead, many providers emphasized the technical aspects of care while neglecting consumer aspects, such as convenience, cost and friendly service. He encourages physicians and healthcare facilities to optimize the entire patient experience, which begins with interactions at the “digital front door” and extends beyond the actual appointment to convenient and timely follow up.