How Does Communication Improve Patient Care?
Effective communication with patients is key to providing quality healthcare services. It supports building trust and rapport between practitioners and their patients and can increase patient retention rates. A November 2021 survey by Dynata and Redpoint Global indicates that 80% of healthcare consumers prefer using digital channels to communicate with their providers after the Covid-19 pandemic.
A well-rounded communication strategy entails reaching out to patients before, after, and between appointments. This is supported by research which shows that patient communication is linked to “patient adherence to medical advice, better clinical outcomes, improved patient safety practices, and lower utilization of unnecessary health care services.”
One of the primary ways to boost patient communication is by using practice management software like Power Diary. Such software makes it possible to conduct hassle-free and automated communication with patients.
In this article, we’ll discuss tips for enhancing your approach to patient communication, both proactively and responsively.
An essential aspect of patient care is proactive communication. It involves reaching out to patients before they even ask for help. It’s a way for practitioners to keep patients informed and engaged with their health and well-being. Proactive communication may include newsletters, clinic updates, new workshops, or changes to staffing, services, hours, or availability.
When you keep patients informed about changes at the clinic, helpful resources, and appointments, you can build trust, increase patient engagement, and ultimately improve patient outcomes.
1. Communicate Availability
A must for proactive communication is to communicate the availability of your practice. For example, practitioners should inform patients of new staff or an increase in available hours. By sharing updates about increased availability, you can not only retain existing patients but also attract new ones through word-of-mouth referrals.
One way to communicate availability changes is by sending out email newsletters to patients and including a link to Power Diary’s Client Portal. The Portal allows patients to book appointments quickly and easily, which can lead to increased patient satisfaction and retention. Additionally, make sure that your Stripe account is connected to Power Diary. Showing patients your immediate availability increases the likelihood that they’ll book online and pay for appointments on the spot.
2. Send Reminders
Patients benefit greatly from reminders about upcoming appointments or other important information, such as completing a form before arriving or bringing a specific item. Reminding patients with attendance challenges to arrive on time can also help reduce no-shows (which negatively impact clinic schedules and patient outcomes).
With Power Diary, practitioners can set up automated reminders for patients via email or SMS. It’s a simple way to keep patients informed and on track. Additionally, practitioners can require prepayment or confirmation of an appointment within a specific timeframe to avoid appointment cancellation. Overall, reminders for patients are an easy yet effective way to improve patient communication and outcomes.
3. Conduct Regular Check-ins
Check-ins are a proactive communication strategy involving following up with patients after an appointment to check their progress and well-being. Practitioners can set up tasks for themselves in Power Diary as a reminder to follow up with patients after a certain period.
These check-ins can help build trust between practitioners and patients, while also providing valuable feedback for future treatment plans. Check-ins show that the practitioner cares about the patient’s well-being beyond the appointment, which creates a positive impression.
4. Track Future Follow-Up Appointments
When you need to recall a patient three or six months after an appointment to check up on their progress, you can easily keep track of this in Power Diary by setting up a task, the same as with check-ins so that nothing falls through the cracks.
Responsive communication is another essential aspect of patient care that involves responding to patient inquiries, concerns, and feedback in real time. This type of communication is often a response to what’s happening at the moment, such as when a practitioner or patient is running late, cancels an appointment or there is earlier availability.
It’s essential for practitioners to respond to these situations promptly to ensure that patients feel valued and heard.
5. Communicate When The Practitioner Is Running Late
When a practitioner is running behind, it’s critical to communicate this information to the next patient to avoid confusion and frustration. Power Diary’s appointment panel provides an easy way for practitioners to communicate with their patients via SMS.
Practitioners can set up SMS templates in advance to save time and quickly send a message to the next patient, letting them know that the practitioner will be late. This creates a more positive interaction with the patient, rather than having them receive the message only when they arrive at the reception.
It’s especially important for sole practitioners to communicate this information, as they may not have a receptionist to relay the message. By taking 15 seconds to send a quick message, practitioners can ensure their patients are informed, increasing satisfaction and retention rates.
6. Communicate Earlier Availability for the Next Patient/Rearranging Schedule on Short Notice
When practitioners need to rearrange their schedules on short notice, it’s important to communicate this information effectively to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings. For example, if a patient cancels an appointment with just a few hours’ notice, the practitioner could contact the next patient and let them know about the earlier availability. If the patient accepts the earlier appointment, the practitioner could finish the day ahead of schedule!
Communicating this information is best done by SMS since it’s short-notice communication, and SMS eliminates misunderstandings that may happen from seeing a missed call from the office. By sending a quick SMS message, practitioners can ensure that patients receive the information in real-time.
7. Keep Snail Mail in Mind
In this digital age, it’s easy to forget the power of snail mail in patient communication. However, for certain patients, postal mail may be more effective than other forms of communication. For example, if a practitioner hasn’t seen a patient in a long time, receiving something in the mail may get their attention and encourage them to schedule an appointment.
Additionally, if there are patients that practitioners really want to reach, using a communication channel that isn’t used as much these days can be effective. Even though it takes a bit more time and effort, mixing it up and trying something different, like sending a signed letter, can pay off.
BONUS Tip #1: Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Newsletters
Sending newsletters is an easy, efficient, and low-cost way for practitioners to communicate with patients. It’s a well-established fact that newsletters are streets ahead of other means of electronic communication in terms of return on investment. Newsletters allow practitioners to share information in a concise and easy-to-read format while giving them the freedom to focus on delivering quality care.
Email communications are an important marketing channel for Power Diary, and the integration of Power Diary with Mailchimp makes it simple for practitioners to build their communication strategy too.
When you send newsletters regularly, you can keep patients informed about the clinic’s latest news, updates, and services. This helps build patient loyalty and increases engagement.
BONUS Tip #2: Send Patient Satisfaction Surveys
Sending patient satisfaction surveys is a compelling way for practitioners to collect feedback on the quality of their services. Feedback surveys allow practitioners to gain insight into patients’ needs and preferences and gather valuable information. In addition, patient satisfaction surveys help practitioners identify areas for improvement, ultimately enhancing patients’ overall experience with the practice.
It’s best to send out feedback surveys regularly to ensure the ongoing improvement of your practice. These surveys should be designed to be user-friendly and concise, ensuring that patients can complete them quickly and easily. By sending out patient satisfaction surveys and acting on the feedback received, practitioners can improve their patient communication skills and provide better healthcare services.
Don’t Forget Patient Consent!
Make sure you protect yourself and your practice by always ensuring that you’ve got a patient’s consent to communicate with them via electronic channels. An easy way to do this is to include a section with opt-ins for patient communications (including a distinct opt-in for marketing communications) in an onboarding form you send to clients after booking their first appointment.
Improve Patient Communication with Power Diary
Effective patient communication is a non-negotiable aspect of providing quality healthcare services. Using Power Diary’s features lets practitioners streamline their patient communication strategy and save time.