We’ve known for a long time that patient communication is essential to ensuring optimal health outcomes. But are practices making the most of technology to give patients the best possible experience?
Communication is Critical in More Ways Than One
We’ve recently explored why effective communication is important. It builds trust, strengthens relationships, and empowers patients to proactively manage their health.
Effective communication between patients and healthcare providers is crucial for the provision of patient care and recovery.
Beyond the benefits of healthcare, patient communication is essential to the patient experience in your practice. As well as sharing information about the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of maladies, patient communication includes:
- Educating patients on general health
- Scheduling appointments
- Checking in and checking out of practices
- Billing interactions
- Practice updates that may impact patients
These small, but crucial interactions reinforce patient trust in your ability to deliver optimal healthcare and tailored patient experiences.
How to Improve Patient Communication
We have more ways to communicate with each other than ever before. Whilst most people won't expect to be DM'd about their appointment on Instagram, GP practices need to engage with new technology better to meet ever-changing patient expectations.
Use Telehealth to Your Advantage
Telehealth has transformed how patients communicate with their healthcare providers. It removes barriers of mobility, location, and lack of time that might restrict a patient's ability or willingness to engage.
We’ve all had a cough or an ache that worried us, but not always to the extent of needing to travel to our local GP surgery. Telehealth — employing video or phone calls for simple, remote diagnoses and advice — gives patients a quick and easy way to seek advice from a GP without the need to travel.
In some ways, the pandemic may have helped patients acclimatise to the idea of telehealth. According to the GP Patient Survey 2021, appointments at practices reduced, while phone appointments increased by a factor of three. If this trend continues, we can expect more remote appointments in the future.
Sharing online resources makes information accessible without being overwhelming. It gives patients control over the amount of communication they receive, allowing them to digest healthcare information at their own pace.
Thanks to telehealth, all patients have a simple means of getting trusted healthcare advice without resorting to Google.
Broaden Your Communication Channels
Text messaging systems improve patient communication and reduce the number of missed appointments, but practices can do more.
When patients can choose which channel they prefer you to use, they’re more engaged and happier to stay in touch. In addition to text messaging, more than a third of healthcare consumers want to use apps to engage with their healthcare providers. This doesn’t have to be your own application. Sending messages via a WhatsApp-style app can be enough. Others may prefer to manage their appointments via email, so they can automatically set reminders in their online calendars.
With so many channels available, it’s important to survey your patients to learn what works best for them. It’s also important to agree with your patients ahead of time on how you’ll be communicating with them. This can eliminate surprise or missed messages when you contact them via a new channel.
To support your teams in this endeavour, we recommend a cloud-based patient communication platform. It offers the best of both worlds – the variety of channels patients want, as well as complete visibility and simple management from a single system. Patient communication platforms create a single hub for patient information, communication tools, and reporting, so you can manage everything from one dashboard.
Listen to Feedback and Take Action
Patient communication is a two-way street and the best way to show that you’re listening is to act. From acknowledging the receipt of feedback to updating patients on upcoming changes, make sure you keep them informed about the things that matter most to them.
Even if you have no plans to make changes based on feedback, you should offer a reason why. This level of transparency in how your practice operates will further strengthen your relationship with your patients.
Digital tools will help you analyse survey responses and identify opportunities for improvement, but don’t rely on regular surveys alone. If your patient communication strategies are effective, you should be able to get feedback at any time, which you should capture and add to your survey data.
3 Top Tips for Great Patient Communication
- There are many forms of communication. This includes the type of communication (written or verbal), the channel you use (email, leaflet, SMS message), and the nature of the communication (diagnosis, practice update, check-in etc.)
- Patient communication isn’t limited to the patient. Friends and family are often privy to patient communication even though they aren’t the patient. You need to make sure that your communication is consistent (both in delivery and content) across everyone involved in a patient's healthcare.
- Communication is a two-way street. Listen to patients and respond appropriately. Ensure that you deliver communication within the context of what a patient tells you.
Keeping in Touch has Never Been Easier…
…and expectations have never been higher for practices. Communication is essential to both patient wellbeing and the success of your practice. Make sure that your comms strategy extends further than healthcare – to every single piece of information you send.Back to blog