Digital media advancements have not simply added more ways to connect healthcare providers to their patients; they have transformed expectations of the medical community. The traditional components making up a doctor-patient relationship—such as phone calls, appointment scheduling, in-office visits and waiting rooms—have become unnecessary. Convenience on-demand has become the new norm.
Many practices and healthcare businesses are catching on. Whether they have implemented patient portals in their EHRs or generated an online support group for patients who share similar ailments, businesses are recognizing the need for change in order to keep up with the instantaneous service patients have grown accustomed to.
As for those healthcare professionals not associated with a practice or hospital, HCPs have joined independent programs, such as Text-a-Doctor, to jump into these digitally advanced ways to connect to their patients.
Regardless of their business setting, there are many ways practitioners can utilize digital communications to enhance their patient relationships. Below is a list of new technologies being implemented in the healthcare environment that the modern-day patient has come to expect.
1. Virtual House Calls – Remember when the actual house call was considered a convenient privilege? Well, it gets even more accommodating today—with video conferencing allowing a Doctor to perform house calls from anywhere in the world. Pair this “visit” with a digital stethoscope and specialized otoscope to see inside a patient’s ear, and we’ve officially banished the need for an annual check-up.
According to AdAge, “two-way telemedicine helps health-care centers like Children’s Mercy give patients in rural areas greater access to specialists. It also allows hospitals and clinics to extend their geographic reach and offer more services.”
2. Social Support Groups – One of the most powerful forms of medicine comes from pure support and understanding. Social support groups have made it easier for those diagnosed with special illnesses to find and connect with others going through similar problems. They also allow patients to share similar experiences, coping mechanisms and offer tips and insights one might not find through just their doctor.
In addition, studies have found that offering digital communications versus traditional office visits has allowed practitioners to more accurately diagnose their patients. Reason being, face-to-face admission of one’s lifestyle choices has been regarded as an intimidating discussion to have with a healthcare provider. Yet, a virtual setting dissipates anxiety a patient may experience during a physical visit. The CIO of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, David Chou, has concluded that social media “is rapidly becoming a preferred medium for patient-to-physician, patient-to-patient, and physician-to-physician communication.”
3. Immediate-response Text Programs – Healthcare providers are extending themselves through mobile communications as well. Programs such as “text a doctor” allow patients to upload photos of injuries or describe symptoms to receive an immediate diagnosis from real doctors. This saves on time and cost for the patient and expands the customer base for the healthcare professional.
Companies are capitalizing on this efficient way of avoiding the office visit. First Opinion boasts no appointments necessary and is available 24/7. Every user is matched to a doctor, who promises to respond within 9 minutes.
4. Online Patient Portals – Refill reminders, insurance information, prescription instructions, and historical patient data are just a few of the options that online portals from medical practices are offering. Depending on the provider, preventative healthcare is also encouraged through web-based educational campaigns.
5. Smartphone Apps – Apps made specifically for healthcare professionals serve as a great tool for provider-to-provider communications. As some give the search ability to look up any other medical professional across the US, correspondence between all healthcare facilities is expedited. These apps may also allow signing sensitive documents or prescriptions and can even give CE credits for simply reading articles.
How have you utilized digital media to expand your patient base?