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5 Ways to boost patients’ clinical experience

Patients’ expectations from their GPs is changing rapidly, particularly as technology such as smartphones and wearables are already facilitating a highly personalised, engaging and real-time experience in other aspects of their everyday lives.

MedicalDirector’s latest Patient Engagement Survey 2018, conducted in partnership with online appointment and eHealth platform, HotDoc, found a number specific ways patients want GPs to leverage technology to enhance their clinical experience.

1. Have an online booking system

Surveying over 2,000 patients across Australia, MedicalDirector’s research revealed 62% of patients saw an online booking system as extremely important for improving their clinical experience.

This means patients expect their GPs website to help book their appointments online, and a more seamless booking experience for busy, time-poor patients. This can also alleviate any frustrations should your reception be busy and the patient can’t get through via telephone.

According to Dr Charlotte Middleton, GP and Chief Medical Advisor at MedicalDirector, it’s all about personalising and helping the patient’s journey, where they can make their own appointments easily and get reminders before they even walk in the door.

“We have an online booking system at our practice, and we regularly get compliments from patients who recognise its value in improving their experience, especially if the receptionist is very busy and the patient can’t get through via telephone,” Dr Middleton said. “It removes any frustration before they even walk in the door, and saves time for everyone.

2. Offer text reminders for appointments

Over half of the respondents in MedicalDirector’s research agreed that online bookings, text reminders for upcoming appointments was also extremely important for improving their clinical experience.

“I think text reminders are also key in reducing “no show” rates in practices,” Dr Middelton said. “Patients often forget or get the time wrong. They would definitely benefit from text reminders, and so would my practice.”

HotDoc CEO and Founder, Dr Ben Hurst, agreed, highlighting that technology solutions like HotDoc, are dedicated to enabling GPs with the right tools to offer the best possible patient experience through exceptional communication.

“We provide ways for practices to improve their efficiency, while also delivering a better experience with features like online bookings, check-in and repeats,” he said. “We can also help practices engage their patients more effectively with recalls and reminders.

“We believe that when patients have a positive healthcare experience, they are more likely to build a strong relationship with their doctor and take positive steps for a healthier version of themselves.”

3. Automate your follow-up reminders 

With continuity of care a key priority for patients in Australia, almost half of patients surveyed in the Patient Engagement Survey wanted their GPs to offer follow-up reminders, via text, phone or email.

Dr Hurst stressed GPs should consider their patient interactions more longitudinally, and realise that traditional ways of interaction such as phone calls or letters, may no longer be relevant in today’s highly digitised environment.

“Once upon a time, doctors had to write letters to patients if they wanted to make contact; the appointment-based model of healthcare was literally the most efficient,” Dr Hurst said. “But these days, SMS and digital technology allows for more frequent and engaging interactions with patients.

"This started with SMS reminders, but has since progressed to secure recalls and results notifications and educational material. Doctors are clearly underusing these tools, which could engage their patients more effectively and positively impact health outcomes.”

4. Text me my results

 The research also shows that most patients are keen to receive test results via text message. Over half thought communicating test results/diagnoses via text, email or phone was extremely important in enhancing their clinical experience, while a resounding 80% of respondents said they are ready to receive blood tests and radiology results on mobile devices, if done in a secure environment.

But while this innovation is important and the research shows there is clearly an expectation for it, MedicalDirector CEO Matthew Bardsley stresses we also need to respect the intricacies of a doctor-patient relationship and what it means to communicate in healthcare.

“We absolutely see a future where that is possible, but the doctor-patient relationship needs to be effectively managed to mitigate any risks to the patient on a case-by-case basis,” he explained. “Information always needs to be provided to patients with the appropriate support structures. That’s why the doctor needs to play an integral part in that communication, at all times.”

5. Transform the patient journey

Moving forward, the report found a patient-centric approach that leverages the right technology is essential in healthcare to establish better communication channels between practitioners, patients, and their families, in order to align healthcare decisions to deliver better patient outcomes.

“We need to transform every step of the patient journey, with a more patient-centric approach,” Dr Middleton said. “From booking to follow-up, many solutions exist to keep the patient engaged with the doctor, and informed through reliable, evidence-based resources. This should be part of every practice’s management plan.”

“Ideally, I’d like to be able to type out their diagnosis and management plan in their progress notes, and it instantly populates onto the patient’s phone with a number of links to relevant resources about their condition. That would be my ideal The amount of time I currently spend handwriting plans like this, would be far better spent engaging with my patients more seamlessly, using technology in innovative and efficient ways.”

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