Patients are increasingly swayed by high-tech convenience such as text payment service and telemedicine — and want to keep it
A 2020 study surveying 1,000 consumers across the U.S. found that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed consumer and patient expectations almost overnight. COVID-19 has changed how patients choose a chiropractic or health care practice, and payment options such as a text payment service.
The top influencing factor hasn’t changed — it’s price. But while before COVID-19, price was the most commonly prioritized factor by a landslide, it now only beats offering curbside and contactless services by less than 1%. This indicates an important shift in patient priorities from cost to experience with a growing expectation for safety and convenience.
Texting and text payment service on the upswing
Social distancing restrictions have made many patients more interested in texting with their health care practitioners office.
While texting was already the preferred communication method for 9 out of 10 patients, 42% of respondents said they are more interested in texting with local health care practices now than they were before COVID-19. More than 60% of patients reported having received or exchanged text messages with a health care practice within the last 30 days. And more than 65% of patients of all ages think that texting makes working with a health care practice more convenient.
This sentiment is not limited to Millennials. Texting is now the preferred communication channel of all age groups, including those over 60 years old. Additionally, the survey showed that patients are almost twice as likely (1.8x) to prefer texting over any other communication method that an office offers (including calling, emailing, website chat, and Facebook Messenger.)
Pandemic-friendly services here to stay?
Patients don’t want pandemic-friendly services to go away once restrictions lift.
Of patients who have taken advantage of services like curbside pickup, local delivery, and contactless payments, 80.3% want one or more of those services to continue post-COVID.
Almost 90% of patients say they are likely to return to a health care practice they first visited because of pandemic-friendly services, even after restrictions lift. And more than 50% report having avoided certain health care practices that do not offer such services, choosing to discontinue patronage or jump ship to competitors.
Next steps for local practices
What steps should a chiropractic or health care practice take to move forward successfully?
Effective patient communication channels — What companies need and what patients want during this time is secure, convenient ways of communicating to receive timely information.
More telehealth and communication options — With the exception of some rural areas, most patients are eager to access telehealth tools and digital communication where they can receive care from the comfort of their own home, when appropriate. Texting could enable chiropractors to communicate information such as appointment reminders, feedback requests, or a notice that staff is running behind and a patient could come in 15 minutes later.
Mobile text payment service — Collecting and paying bills can be a nightmare, from communication bounces between providers, insurance, and patients, to letters coming in the mail with confusing information about how much was charged versus how much a patient owes. This outdated system is something consumers have left behind in most other industries, yet still face in health care. Offering mobile text payment service can help reduce friction and increase patient satisfaction.
Meet patients’ digital expectations with HIPAA compliant tools — Patient demand is for simplicity and convenience. The HIPAA demand is for strict regulation of Protected Health Information (PHI) in transit. For patient communication centered around PHI, the answer is through mobile web-based browser sessions. Whether you’re communicating through an app or an online patient portal, you need to have control of what happens to patient data — and texting (about PHI, not necessarily for scheduling, feedback, or payments) does not meet HIPAA standards of security. Add in a few authentication steps and have patients opt-in to whatever form of messaging you use, and you can communicate with patients in a convenient and secure way.
Preventative chiropractic care via tech – Chiropractic and health care is historically reactive as patients visit when they’re injured or experience an ailment. But as the health care industry makes more of a digital transition, it’s possible that the tools patients already use could become more integrated into their future healthcare experiences. Wearable health trackers can provide intelligent recommendations (based on data) not just for patients themselves but for their providers interested in preventative health care. In the same way that voice assistants makes life a little bit easier in our homes and on our phones, or map apps uses data to estimate the time of your work commute, fitness trackers could contribute to more informed interactions for doctors of chiropractic and patients.
The face of chiropractic wellness and health care is changing rapidly and unprecedented challenges lie ahead. But if you work to keep a close eye on what your patients expect and need, you’ll be able to innovate and adapt quickly for success now and in the future.
JOSH COMBE is a freelance writer for Podium, a multi-product business review and text messaging platform that’s modernizing the way local business gets done, named “One of the World’s Most Innovative Companies” by Fast Company in 2019. To learn more, check out Podium’s State of Local Business in 2020 report at Podium.com.