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Why the digital patient experience matters for HME providers

Once almost an afterthought, the digital patient experience has now become a priority in healthcare. The need to meet patient demand is big part of this. But it’s also a result of more care providers realizing that a superior digital experience can also improve patient engagement, a long-standing goal for businesses looking to boost revenue with better outcomes.

And that benefit holds true for HME providers just as surely as other healthcare organizations. Because it helps drive positive outcomes, a strategic digital experience can help boost revenue for HMEs, too. It can also promote efficiency by automating tasks that currently require considerable diligence, while improving the accuracy and consistency of those processes.

Meeting patient demand for a better digital experience

What’s behind this demand for a better experience? Today’s patients behave like consumers. And in recent decades, eCommerce and app-based shopping have raised customer expectations for convenience, speed of delivery and diversity of choice, while also offering the chance to research options before making a decision. As a result, patients have grown more demanding.

Other industries are already working to meet this demand by emphasizing convenience, ease of use and quality of service in what’s known as the customer experience (CX). This strategy is also known as user experience (UX) design in digital settings, and patient experience in healthcare—which, given the dual demand for telehealth and convenience, is digital by nature.

To some extent, patients are already immersed in a digital experience. Almost 3 in every 10 pay their bills online. Many choose their doctor from a list on their insurer’s website, where they’re rated like Yelp reviews. Or, they may find a new primary care provider, or insurer, from a Google search, while looking for something that better aligns with their preference or budget.

With all this in mind, it’s more important than ever for providers to meet and exceed today’s expectations for a best-in-class digital patient experience. In a difficult market, making the patient journey more pleasing and more enjoyable for the people who depend upon it could well be the differentiator that decides long-term success and viability.

How mobile apps fit into the digital patient experience

“The world of HME is all about patient relationships,” writes David Kopf in the intro to a discussion we shared on the HME Business podcast. “Maintaining patient relationships and maximizing patient engagement results in improved compliance and increased referrals. And it turns out the key to making that happen might be a lot more common than we realize.”

So, what’s the best way to give patients a better experience? Job #1 is keeping patients up to date, rather than in the dark. Think of Amazon. When you order something, you know exactly where it is at all times. And after it ships, it’s easy to track its movement on an app or website. That kind of visibility soothes anxiety and helps promote engagement and satisfaction.

At a time when most people block unfamiliar numbers and it’s tough to reach patients via phone, mobile apps have emerged as an effective way to establish contact and communicate. Apps offer connectivity and security, including the use of fingerprint detection and built-in, camera-based scanning to easily upload insurance cards and other important documents.

But there’s a downside to this approach. App fatigue is real, and may act as a deterrent against mobile app adoption for some patients. Although ultimately it does lead to convenience, there is some inconvenience involved in getting started. People have to download the app, set up an account, choose a password and security questions — a big ask for busy consumers.

Preparing for the next generation of the digital patient experience

With phone contact so difficult and enthusiasm for mobile apps waning, how can you provide patients with notifications they’ll actually see? How can they be engaged when they’re so hard to reach? Answering these questions is the basis of a new digital patient experience that’s being embraced by healthcare providers as an effective way of actually getting patients’ attention.

From customized text messages to population-wide and individual-specific push notifications, text messaging represents the next and best iteration of the digital patient experience. This simple and direct method of outreach covers the critical points of contact, while giving patients a measure of convenience and privacy that’s not available with a phone call or a mobile app.

Text messaging is also a method of outreach that’s minimally intrusive, with no need for prior registration or software installation — just the patient’s initial consent, which can also be acquired via text or email. It’s a simple, direct and reliable way to reach people with the messaging that’s critical to their care and satisfaction.

These can be simple messages, but also interactive. By clicking on embedded links, patients can access info quickly and with a minimum of effort and inconvenience. It can work for almost every touchpoint that can be automated, from device shipment status to setting up new appointments. And it’s firmly aligned with what today’s customers expect and demand.

The capacity for automation is key here, and is particularly effective when integrated with the healthcare provider’s EHR system. Specific reports can be generated that send different messages to different populations at key times — welcome messages for new patients, for instance, or reminders sent 24 hours in advance of each appointment.

In addition to helping ensure that patients can be reached at critical times, without error or delay, automation can also save valuable labor and time. And that can have a major bottom-line impact. Think of the inefficiency and wasted time of a team member calling every person on a long list of patients, for example, compared to sending them all automated texts.

Mapping out your plan of action for a better digital experience

Powerful as text messaging can be as an outreach tool, it isn’t designed to stand alone. It will function best in coordination with an app or web portal, which patients can access for a more comprehensive, hands-on digital patient experience that more securely communicates sensitive protected health information (PHI).

But in this context, texts can absolutely provide invaluable ongoing support, giving patients key info and keeping them engaged and happy throughout their journey. So, instead of wondering whether a device will be covered by insurance or where their shipment is at any given time, texts that are brief and non-invasive keep them informed and up to date.

This kind of interaction helps boost engagement, too, which has been shown to lead to better outcomes. And that benefits HME providers, who can bill based on compliance rates, and who could see more referrals as a result. It also helps bolster revenue with payment reminders and resupply notifications, complete with click-through options for ordering and paying.

At the end of the day, then, offering a superior digital patient experience isn’t just a necessary task, but a highly attainable goal. With a text-forward strategy, patients will receive all messages, and they’ll get to engage at their convenience — over the weekend, in the middle of the night, or whenever they’re most inclined to engage.

At Brightree, we’re proud to be an innovator in the digital patient experience for the HME space. And with the release of Brightree Digital Experience (DX), we’re offering a solution that leverages the best benefits of text-based messaging while promoting compliance.

Learn more about how Brightree DX can help your organization achieve a superior patient digital experience, and start reaping the rewards to your business: Learn more about Brightree DX here.

James Yi

Director, Product Management – Digital Connectivity and Patient Experience

James has over 21 years of experience in application and database development and is responsible for the product lifecycle of Brightree’s Patient Experience solutions, including Brightree Digital Experience, Patient Hub, and MyForms. He has been with Brightree for 12 years, also working with Brightree Patient Collections and Revenue Cycle Management initiatives.

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