A new report found that many providers are neglecting patient communication after emergency room visits, deploying online scheduling systems that users find confusing and are not paying enough attention to online reviews. Stericycle Communication Solutions, a company that sells a patient communication platform, released the report on Tuesday, based on an Ipsos-conducted survey that explored trends in patient engagement.
The survey collected information from 1,004 U.S. adults in July. The trends uncovered in the report lend themselves to some key recommendations that healthcare providers should consider, according to Matt Dickson, Stericycle’s senior vice president.
Get a better handle on post-ER communication
Over 90% of patients require follow-up care after they visit the emergency room, the report found. However, it also found that 34% of those patients did not receive a referral, and 33% did not receive any follow-up communication after their visit.
“That is a huge, huge gap where they’re not getting the information they need to know the next most appropriate step to take in their healthcare journey — especially coming out of an emergency room visit,” Dickson said. “There is so much emphasis now on reducing ER readmissions, you would think appropriate communication about next steps would certainly help with reducing readmissions — that’s one area where I think there’s a ton of opportunity for improved communication.”
Test your appointment booking platform for usability
Another key takeaway from the report is that less than half of patients reported booking their doctor’s appointments online. However, 54% of survey respondents said they would book appointments online if the experience was easier to navigate.
Although there has been an increasing adoption of online scheduling by providers, the way these scheduling systems are being rolled out “isn’t as intuitive as people may think it is,” according to Dickson.
“There needs to be a renewed emphasis on learnability when providers are deploying these solutions to at-home users so that they don’t feel they need specific training or they don’t feel it’s a confusing experience,” he said.
Don’t neglect online reputation management
Keeping tabs on online reviews is becoming a more and more critical part of capturing patient share, the report revealed.
More than half of survey respondents said that online reviews had a moderate to severe impact on their decision to visit a provider. This number increased to 72% among adults ages 18 to 34.
Most health systems have about 200 online reviews, despite seeing thousands of patients per day, Dickson pointed out. What’s even more of a problem is that online reviews are usually only written by “a small subset of angry people,” he said.
Dickson recommended that providers put more energy into encouraging patients to leave reviews, as these are becoming an increasingly important factor in patients’ decisions about where to receive care.
“I think health systems are relying on an old way of thinking for brand reputation, which is that word of mouth is what carries the day,” he said. “More and more, that is not the case for a younger demographic.”
Picture: Evgeny Gromov, Getty Images