Blog post for digital strategists and operations

Virtual doctor visit or traditional office appointment? Urgent care clinic or hospital emergency room? Internist or specialist? And does anyone actually have a Saturday appointment available  this weekend? Patient access can be complicated for consumers.

The healthcare system is becoming more complex—creating confusion, uncertainty and anxiety for healthcare consumers. With this increased complexity, patients tend to delay their care or extend their decision-making process. These challenges undermine patient access to care as well as population health.

But when healthcare organizations use smart digital tools to navigate patients—and potential patients—to the right healthcare setting and the right medical provider at the right time, everyone wins. In this post, we discuss the digital tools that are necessary to navigate diverse patient populations to the right care.

Expanding Access Beyond Traditional Channels

Phone calls aren’t going away anytime soon, but patients expect to be able to use websites, text messages and emails to communicate with the healthcare system. Make it easy for them to access care by providing a variety of communication methods.

Must-Have Digital Tools for Intelligent Patient Access

Let patients access care via online channels they already use and trust. These channels include:

  1. Provider website – To capture and convert inbound traffic into new patients, the provider’s website is a crucial channel. To maximize this tool, websites should include find-a-doctor functionality, click-to-call CTAs to schedule an appointment, and the ability to book online appointments.

  2. Health plan websites and applications – Consumers are concerned with insurance acceptance when scheduling appointments. To meet this need, scheduling functionality should be embedded on leading health plan sites and applications.

  3. Search – There are a number of ways to extend access to the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). These options include: search engine optimization of provider profile pages; paid search ads offered by Google, Bing, and Yahoo! Gemini; or embedding scheduling functionality within a health center’s Google My Business location. We recommend a mixture of tactics to achieve greater share of voice (SOV) on the SERP.

  4. Social Media – ‘Book Now’, ‘Schedule an Appointment’, and other buttons and links can be added to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter company profiles. These provide yet another digital channel for consumers to access your providers.

  5. Accessibility – Patients with language barriers and disabilities want to communicate online, too. Make it possible by providing translation tools and voice-enabled capabilities.

  6. Virtual VisitsConsumers are demanding virtual visits according to an Accenture survey. 76% of survey respondents stated they would use virtual services for follow-up appointments. By providing virtual visits, providers can save costs while significantly expanding access.

Consumers are demanding broadened, digital methods for accessing care in a timely manner. Through intelligent patient access channels, consumers are navigated to the right care and are called to act on their healthcare needs. Healthcare organizations that deliver on these needs will reap benefits, while those who fail to keep up are putting their organization’s network integrity at risk.


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