“Patient-centered care” is one of the hottest buzzwords in healthcare right now.
Indeed, nearly all healthcare reform efforts — including the Affordable Care Act — seek to unite disparate health systems and providers under the common goal of ensuring that each individual patient receives the right treatment from the right practitioner at the right time. And in many cases, “right time” means “right this minute.”
Historically, though, providing patients with on-demand healthcare was all but impossible; even emergency room visits typically require a waiting period between arrival and examination. With the advent of telehealth, though, patients have the power of on-demand health care at their fingertips — and that’s great news for providers looking to improve patient satisfaction.
1) It enables faster care delivery — and thus, better outcomes.
With many conditions, the faster the patient receives treatment, the better the potential results of that treatment. In other words, when patients wait for treatment — either because they don’t want to go through the hassle of setting up an appointment or they can’t get on the provider’s schedule immediately — their ailments often worsen, which makes it that much more difficult for the practitioner to restore them to full health.
When patients seek treatment via telehealth, on the other hand, there are far fewer barriers to prompt care delivery — which means patients can get on the path to recovery before their conditions get any worse. That, in turn, leads to better patient outcomes — and higher patient satisfaction levels.
2) It’s easier on patient pocketbooks.
Research has shown that telehealth services are cheaper than healthcare delivered in a traditional setting—not only at the individual visit level, but also in terms of downstream cost savings. As reported here, “the estimated cost difference between a telehealth visit and a corresponding office-based visit is roughly $40, after adjusting for what happens after the visit.”
To reiterate my point from number one above, prompt care delivery prevents patients’ conditions from worsening, which in many cases helps those patients avoid the need for more complex — and more expensive — treatment.
And generally speaking, the less money patients have to shell out for healthcare services, the happier those patients are.
3) It makes patients feel like they are the priority.
No one likes to feel ignored or overlooked. And when a patient is sick or in pain — and he or she is told to sit tight in the waiting room until a doctor is available — it’s easy for that patient to feel like he or she doesn’t matter. As far as patient satisfaction goes, that’s a tough hole for any provider to dig himself or herself out of — regardless of how stellar his or her treatment is.
Telemedicine, on the other hand, allows patients to bypass negative waiting room experiences — which means they go into their patient-doctor interactions with a much higher baseline level of satisfaction.
4) It allows providers to see more patients.
In brick-and-mortar medical offices, a provider’s ability to schedule an appointment for the patient’s desired date and time is contingent on treatment room availability. After all, there are only so many rooms in the building — which means there’s a limited number of appointment slots on the calendar.
In fact, according to a study cited in this article, the average time new patients have to wait to see a doctor in 15 metropolitan areas across the country is 18 days. Telehealth eliminates those scheduling constraints, freeing up providers to see more patients — and create more satisfied customers.
Today’s consumers — including healthcare consumers — have high expectations. And for busy healthcare providers with limited resources, meeting those expectations can be tough.
But, in the current reform-driven healthcare environment, the importance of patient satisfaction will only continue to grow — which means providers can’t afford not to look for innovative ways to keep their patients satisfied.