As we discussed in the first blog of our series, How to Increase Awareness of and Access to Virtual Care, virtual care has seen a surge in adoption since the onset of the pandemic earlier this year. While it is very important for healthcare organizations to look for ways to market these services and ensure access to information about which providers deliver care virtually, it is just as important to look at the experiences patients are having with virtual care.
Why? With many states still dealing with high volumes of COVID-19 cases and officials predicting a second wave of the virus may coincide with the upcoming flu season, virtual care is here to stay. However, beyond the need to deliver safe and timely care, our recent report, Patient Perspectives on Virtual Care, found that half of patients would be willing to switch providers to have virtual care visits on a regular basis, indicating an opportunity for healthcare organizations to stand out to patients by investing in this area.
So once a consumer has found you and booked a virtual visit with your provider, how can you ensure the experience they have is positive and will generate loyalty? In this blog, we will focus on the virtual care experience, what patients had to say about it, and how you can elevate yours.
What Makes a Positive Experience
Like any experience strategy, it’s important to put yourself in the patient’s shoes. Ask yourself questions like “what makes a virtual care experience positive” and “what would make them (or me) schedule a virtual visit again?” According to our research, patients are overwhelmingly satisfied with their virtual care experiences, citing convenience, safety, and speed of access as the top reasons why.
Conversely, when asked about what detracted from the experience, patients noted things like the quality of care delivered over video, the impersonal nature of the experience, and technical issues. Therefore, it’s not enough to be a convenient, safe mode of delivering care, you must also look for ways to make it feel more like an in-person visit. For instance, work with providers to bring the connection back to the visit and partner with your IT team to address technical issues. Both can improve patient satisfaction and make patients feel less like technology is getting between them and the care they are receiving.
How Your Organization Can Elevate Your Virtual Care Experience
Last month, we invited two of our customers, Emory Healthcare and Banner Health, to a discussion on virtual care to learn what their virtual care programs look like and how they’ve evolved since the start of the pandemic. Here are a few learnings from the conversation to help you deliver a positive virtual care experience to new and existing patients alike:
- Launch A Marketing Campaign About Your Virtual Care Experience: For many of us, virtual care is completely new. And for patients who have seen the same provider at the same location for years, the idea of seeking care virtually may seem unnerving. At Emory, their marketing team recorded and shared a patient testimonial about a virtual visit to help patients understand what that experience looks like. However, beyond that, creating content, like a blog, or additional videos about what to expect from a virtual visit can help address fears of the unknown. It can also provide guidance on which types of appointments can be facilitated virtually versus which ones are better–or need to be–done in-person.
- Tell Patients What to Expect in Their Confirmation Email: The virtual care experience can vary by type of appointment and by department. Use the confirmation email as another opportunity to tell patients what they can expect and to provide clear direction on how to launch the virtual care platform. Sarah Kier, Emory’s VP of Patient Access, Physician Group Practices, said that when they first started offering virtual care visits, one thing that they found very helpful was re-assigning a subset of their call center agents and having them reach out to patients before their appointments to make sure they felt comfortable with the technology and how to use it.
- Provide Training to Your Providers on Virtual Visits: “For many, telemedicine did not come with a playbook,” noted Emory’s Associate Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Gregory Esper. Virtual care isn’t novel only to patients, for many providers, it’s just as foreign. Develop a training program to onboard providers and to establish a framework of what every virtual visit should look like. This will not only ease providers’ nerves, but also help create a consistent experience for patients. Additionally, share tips or guidelines with providers on how to personalize their virtual interactions to help both provider and patient feel more fulfilled by the experience.
- Have IT On Hand to Lend Support: Our report indicated patients used a variety of platforms, from healthcare-specific apps, like Amwell and Teladoc, to non-healthcare platforms, like Zoom, when seeking care, but that what they used didn’t have much of an impact on their satisfaction. However, their experience–and the provider’s–accessing it did. Emory shared that early on, some providers were spending 30 minutes out of a 45 minute appointment just trying to provide tech support to patients, preventing their organization from scaling their offerings. Make sure you have your IT team on hand, not only to support patients, but also to support providers, who may be struggling with technical difficulties.
- Send Post-Virtual Visit Surveys to Collect Feedback: How do you create a better experience? Start by understanding it and asking patients to share their impressions of their visit with you. At Banner, this listening helped them figure out how to provide a more closed-looped experience to patients. Sarah Kier also shared that gathering feedback and sharing it with other teams was a critical step in driving alignment and for helping their Clinical Operations team shift their clinical delivery model to meet patient expectations for their virtual visits.
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