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How Patient Engagement is Changing

Posted by Dr. Glen McCracken, Mar 27, 2015

As physicians with full schedules and busy staff, we spend much of our time trying to meet patients’ needs but sometimes feel like we’re falling short. We’re competing online and in real life for the attention and compliance of our patients and we don’t always have the time or know-how to help increase their engagement. It can sometimes feel like we are up against a wall without any good solutions.

However, I think something that’s key to increasing patient engagement is understanding the changing technological landscape and how it’s affecting what patients really want.

From there, we can implement better automated solutions that increase our quality of care without taking much time or cost. Telemedicine and digital health tools in general present us with an exciting opportunity to improve healthcare and address the changes we’re seeing in patient engagement.

How the Mobile Landscape has Changed Everything

We are now more connected than ever. There are almost as many cell phone subscriptions as there are people on earth and those numbers do not show any sign of slowing down. In fact, most countries now have more mobile lines than landlines.

This means that people are online, connected via mobile, and looking for solutions that integrate with the way they live. This connectedness directly impacts their expectations about consumption and access, including how they engage with their healthcare.

When used in the right ways, new technology and our increasing connectedness can benefit us, as physicians, and our patients. It creates greater efficiency, higher customer satisfaction, and increased patient involvement. In essence, it completely changes the landscape of patient engagement in our healthcare system.

Your Patient’s Expectations

Patients are looking for healthcare options that value their time and resources. In fact, a recent study found 41% of patients would actually go with a different doctor to reduce their wait time! They’re tired of the normal doctor-patient routine with strict office hours, long wait times for appointments, missing work, and turning to urgent care or the ER for after-hour urgent health problems.

Today’s patient wants easy access to their physician, whether it’s through email, texts, video calls, or phone.  As we already know, patients are looking for greater accessibility to us—their doctors—but want to spend less time in an office. They’re looking for more convenient ways of communicating that ultimately benefits both them and us.

Patients are also accessing our information online. They’re on their phones, browsing websites and reading reviews. In fact, many expect that a physician’s practice is as accessible online as it is in person. They want to be able to find contact information, office hours, and available services.  They will even make quick assessments about a practice based on their web experience.

True Patient Engagement

As physicians, most of us already know many of these patient expectations. Although, I’ll admit it’s sometimes hard to believe how quickly all patients are coming to expect greater connectivity and accessibility to their physicians, not just those tech-savvy millennials.

But most of us are already overwhelmed with patients, with keeping our practices afloat, preparing for ICD-10, and staying healthy ourselves. The problem usually isn’t knowing what our patients want, but knowing how to best meet their expectations without breaking the bank or becoming another burned-out physician.

Luckily, with new telemedicine and mobile health solutions available today, there are finally tools to help physicians offer the care they’re passionate about providing.

Related post: 10 Secrets to Get Patients Using Patient Portals

Whether you’re able to incorporate virtual visits, secure email messaging, a customized patient portal, or even automated appointment emails, you’ll be making huge strides to better meet patients’ needs. Even by adding online appointment booking, you’ll be taking steps in the right direction. In fact, according to one study, 77% of individuals wish to book their appointments online. Online booking is a perfect example of one solution that can save both the patient and doctor valuable time, and it doesn’t need to break the bank. We now even have systems available to allow ancillary staff to assist patients in meaningful ways. Through these methods, we have the potential to decrease urgent care and ER visits simply because we now have ways to effectively engage with patients after-hours.

When we truly engage our patients, we offer them an elevated standard of care. We help them fully understand their diagnose or treatment options and partner with them in their recovery. However, rushed visits and limited office hours can impede our ability to offer this type of involvement. It’s time to implement some solutions.

The Practice of the Future

The practice of the future respects people’s time and understands patients’ needs. It is a practice that’s not confined to four walls and strict hours, but offers opportunities for connectedness, transparency, and dialogue. While it may not involve as many face-to-face interactions, that doesn’t mean the care provided is any less effective.

The type of technological advancements that enable such a practice were not available ten years ago, but they are available today. It’s an exciting time in healthcare because we can finally begin to interact with patients in a way that saves time and money, while creating a more open and accessible dialogue between patients and their providers.

Patient engagement is essential. We can make it a priority by incorporating simple tech solutions (like eVisit) that increase accessibility and convenience. And as we all know, engaged patients are loyal patients.

What are you doing to better meet your patients’ needs and keep them engaged?

Topics: eVisit Blog Posts, Patient Engagement

Dr. Glen McCracken

About Dr. Glen McCracken

Dr. Glen McCracken is President of eVisit and a practicing ER physician with over 20 years of experience. You can connect with Glen on Linkedin.

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