Patient communications with their doctors

screenshot_553KEY TAKEAWAY: Patients want to communicate online with their doctors, but we shouldn’t mistake the key benefits of online communications, appointments, Rx renewals, with the need for an HCP to physically examine and diagnose patients.

Currently, 86 percent of consumers use their provider’s online portal, while two-thirds of patients whose provider doesn’t offer portal say they want one. The numbers for mobile apps are even higher, with 91 percent of healthcare customers taking advantage of them when offered. But does that mean the future of the physician and patient relationship is online? No.

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Patients want online access to their doctor or nurse practitioner, but only to make/change appointments or to renew Rx’s.

Doctors are learning that in an age when many providers struggle with customer satisfaction ratings, there’s a clear link between consumer satisfaction and the availability of digital communication channels.  Patients want a better relationship with their doctors and they are demanding new services, such as online appointments, as well.

Is the answer mobile apps?

Over the past two years, nearly one-third (31%) of consumers have used a healthcare mobile app to communicate with their provider in real-time about a specific condition. Eighty percent of this group prefers mobile to a traditional office visit, underscoring the notion that, for many patients, the definition of a doctor’s appointment is evolving.

Millennials – those between the ages of 18 and 35 – are leading the charge for digital-based provider communications. Across the board, Millennials are much more likely to use digital channels to communicate with their provider than their Baby Boomer (52-70 years old) counterparts. The contrast is particularly striking for mobile apps, which Millennials are more than four times as likely to use for provider interactions.

One reason for the mobile app discrepancy between Millennials and Baby Boomers is a matter of awareness: 60 percent of Baby Boomers don’t know whether their provider o ers a mobile app. Rectifying this gap could have nancial implications for providers that currently service elderly patients in-person, particularly in situations where mobile solutions could o er a viable and cost-saving alternative.

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Among those whose annual salary is more than $75,000, 92 percent prefer mobile “visits” to in-office appointments. By contrast, only 60 percent of consumers with salaries below $50,000 prefer to engage with their provider via mobile. Part of lower- salaried workers’ preference for in-office over mobile could have to do with a lack of exposure to these platforms: Only
21 percent of consumers making under $50,000 said their provider offers a mobile app compared to 55 percent of those making more than $75,000.

So…

Given the high percentage of people who download and delete apps, including health apps, investing in the development of a mobile app could be a very high expense.  Rather, HCP’s should invest in the online portal experience to ensure that patients are happy with the accessibility and user experience.  Last year, during some research for an online healthcare portal, we found that patients were not happy with the user experience and found that logging on “was a big problem,” when they forgot their user names or passwords.  Remember, patients don’t go to access their health portal every day.  They are only going to access it when they need an Rx renewal or to make an appointment.

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