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Everything speaks—conversational patient experience tools power innovative digital front door strategies

Aug '19

By Chris Edwards, Chief Client Experience & Marketing Officer, Conversa

All major industries have embraced the idea of a “front door,” or the place where a brand comes face-to-face with its customers. Traditionally, the front door meet-and-greet resembled a customer walking through the literal front door of a brick-and-mortar location to be greeted by a sales associate or, similarly, talking with a customer service representative at a call center. 

Nowadays, hospitals and healthcare facilities are refining their approach to the idea of a front door by adopting a digital-first focus. Part of the philosophy guiding this shift to a digital front door is a principle known as “everything speaks.” This concept takes into consideration how nonverbal messaging can leave a lasting impression on consumers. Simple things such as the images used on your website or the ease of navigation and access to information all communicate a set of expectations to consumers.

Chief digital officers are now looking at the successes other industries have had in examining customer journeys, personas and archetypes to drive acquisition and care retention efforts. However, one complication is how best to create a digital front door when a provider’s system is dispersed across different hospitals, clinics and physician offices. 

The good news is that we know consumers are willing to engage with healthcare providers, especially if a trusted relationship already exists between the clinician and the patient. In fact, new research from Ernst & Young shows that a whopping 93% of patients are willing to share data with their physicians if—and the word if is key here—they can save money, make care more convenient, reduce wait times and gain access to digital records.

Enter a second complicating factor in developing innovative front door strategies: Most provider websites and health system portals are not adequate front doors by themselves. Although patients may say they are willing to use them, 70% have not used portals to make an appointment or pay a bill. 

This is why more health systems and their chief digital officers are dedicating resources to answering the following: 

  • How do I create a digital front door that I can leverage to acquire new patients? 
  • How can I increase incremental revenue?
  • How do I retain patients? 
  • How can I create patient experiences that delivers as much value as the experiences they have in their “consumer life”? 

chatbots are helping health systems turn prospective patients into loyal customers

To find these answers, providers need to nurture customers on their healthcare journey more efficiently. More and more healthcare organizations are looking toward intelligent, automated patient engagement tools to start vital conversations and help patients navigate the path. The patient engagement tools can be used on a health system’s website home page or can be promoted through social media posts, TV, radio, or print. 

Specifically, a health chat approach adds value to a revitalized digital front door strategy for two compelling reasons:

  • Consumers prefer the convenience of mobile messaging.

Mobile messaging is the way we now live, work and communicate. Ninety percent of consumers spend time on messaging platforms. Think about how you live your life with the people you care aboutyou likely use your mobile devices to message and chat with them and like and comment on their posts every day. You also likely respond to emails, comb over your calendar or even schedule your dog’s vet appointment while watching TV, on your daily commute or standing in line at the grocery store. Mobile messaging’s ease and accessibility is another level of convenience that consumers crave. The healthcare industry has begun to leverage this preference for mobile communication by adopting tools that enable automated, personalized conversations with their consumers.

  • Intelligent patient engagement tools speed campaign velocity.

In most current hospital marketing campaigns aimed at driving customer engagement, there may be as many as 15 time-intensive steps from the time a health system attempts outreach to the moment a patient successfully schedules an appointment. Not only is that process highly inefficient, but it also can spur annoyance and lead to a poor customer experience.

That’s another reason why we’re seeing innovative providers create a more relevant digital front door strategy. For example, one health system is using mobile chat in their marketing and offering the consumer the choice to simply text “Hello” to begin a real-time conversation. From there, the consumer fills out a health assessment form via chat, eliminating the need to download tiresome, four-page questionnaire forms and starting them off on a more efficient journey with the health system.

Similarly, mobile consumers can schedule and confirm appointments, receive reminders and even talk to a virtual physician all via automated chat—dramatically improving the speed from the initial point of outreach to a successful appointment. This enhanced velocity is a valuable benefit across the system, providing a more timely experience for the consumer and slowly helping to improve provider acquisition and incremental system revenue, too. 

The Bottom Line

Many forward-thinking healthcare providers are adopting an innovative digital front door mindset, adopting technologies to help them meet consumer expectations and deliver on the “always on, instant access” consumer-oriented value experience.

Every other major industry is using the transformational power of digital-facing, customer-first strategies to instill greater trust and engagement between brands and their consumers. In this crowded and competitive industry, health systems who don’t embrace this approach risk being left behind.