What kind of first impression are you making with your patients?

April 25, 2018
Chris Seib Chief Technology Officer
and Co-Founder,
InstaMed

Smartphones have become so ubiquitous to the 21st-century that it is hard to imagine what life would be like without them at our fingertips. However, smartphone proliferation has only taken shape and gained momentum in the last decade. Three-out-of-four consumers now own a smartphone—up from 35% of consumers in 2011, when the survey was first conducted.1 Despite this rapid consumer adoption of smartphones, the potential of this technology has largely remained untapped by the healthcare industry.

As smartphones have helped to empower consumers with putting the world in the palms of their hands, the healthcare industry has increasingly faced dissatisfaction from consumers over the lack of convenience and simplicity throughout an encounter. When consumers are dissatisfied, healthcare organizations feel it through patient attrition and decreased revenue. In fact, 88% of consumers would switch providers without hesitation if dissatisfied according to a survey by Kelton Global.2 Additionally, hospitals with excellent HCAHPS consumer ratings had a net margin of 4.7% compared to just 1.8% for hospitals with low ratings.3

Healthcare need only look to recent announcements from tech and retail giants for inspiration to revolutionize the consumer experience. New offerings on the horizon, from such consumer-centric companies as Apple4 and Amazon5, promise to deliver a better, more convenient experience in healthcare. There is evidence they will gain considerable traction, too, as 75% of U.S. consumers said that technology is important to managing their health.6

Prime for innovation: The patient check-in experience

There is an old adage that says first impressions are lasting impressions, meaning that someone’s reaction to how they first encounter a person or organization is very hard to overcome, especially when the impression is negative. With this in mind, is the first impression consumers get from checking into an organization really the best impression possible? Unfortunately, probably not.

The current check-in experience includes filling out forms, verifying insurance eligibility, and possibly collecting a copay, all of which takes considerable time. This process works when consumers are early and prepared with the necessary items for their visits, but that is a best-case scenario. Instead, think of a parent who has to fight traffic to get to pediatrician visits for three kids who have energy to burn after a full day at school or in daycare. The odds are it’s not going to be a convenient or easy process for that parent to check in. Anecdotally, I have heard of a pregnant woman in full-blown labor having to fill out check-in papers for the hospital while her partner parked the car. Those may sound like extreme and isolated incidents of bad experiences. However, even a mundane inconvenience, like filling out the same paperwork every visit, can leave a bad impression on the consumer.

It should be noted that there are some providers who have already started to offer a “mobile” check-in solution to consumers. However, the current solutions available are not truly mobile as they require providers to purchase new devices for the check-in, which can be expensive and time-consuming to implement. There’s also the risk of the provider-owned devices transferring germs, bacteria, and viruses between consumers that use the device. After living through the worst flu season in a decade,7 is passing provider-owned devices from consumer to consumer a risk that provider organizations want to take?

Why patient BYOD is the future

Instead of investing time and money into buying and deploying new devices, why not leverage the smartphones that consumers already have? Healthcare can look to how the airline and hotel industries now allow consumers to complete the entire check-in process via a mobile app on their smartphone, which can be done in just minutes, days, or weeks ahead of time. While these mobile apps may not solve long TSA lines, the apps empower consumers to take control of their experience. If healthcare adopted similar technology, consumers could conveniently and easily check in for visits before ever stepping foot into the provider’s office—eliminating the frustration of traditional paper-based, time-consuming check-in processes.

However, to truly be convenient, a robust mobile app must do more than just collect demographic information from consumers. To save time and offer convenience, the payment experience will need to be integral to checking in on an app. Right now, it is estimated that poor billing and payment experiences cause satisfaction ratings to fall by more than 30% after a provider visit. By adding payments to a mobile check-in app, providers have the opportunity to ease the payment conversation overall for both staff and consumers, including verification of consumer insurance eligibility and convenient payment options for future balances.

Beware of the BYOD downside

Late last year, headlines revealed a major data breach impacting 57 million consumers from one of the most popular mobile apps that includes payment functionality—Uber, the popular ride-sharing service. As mobile payment technology has grown nearly as fast as smartphone adoption, consumer payment information is at risk of exposure to a data breach. In healthcare, the risks are significantly higher as healthcare payments straddle two heavily-regulated and targeted industries. Healthcare organizations should only work with vendors who have been independently certified and audited to the highest levels in both the healthcare and financial industries to ensure full data protection.

References

  1. http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/mobile/
  2. https://www.televox.com/downloads/west_prioritizing_patient_experience.pdf
  3. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/life-sciences-health-care/us-dchs-the-value-of-patient-experience.pdf
  4. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/13/apple-ceo-tim-cook-can-make-significant-contribution-in-health-care.html
  5. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/27/amazons-moves-into-health-what-we-know.html
  6. https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insight-new-2018-consumer-survey-digital-health
  7. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/26/health/flu-rates-deaths.html

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