Imagine you are a patient rather than a healthcare provider at your practice. Now, complete the following sentence: “I wish my healthcare team would communicate more clearly about…” What was your response?
Patients have strong feelings about what healthcare teams are and are not getting right when it comes to communicating with them. Understanding patients’ wishes helps healthcare teams create better care interactions and support patients both during and in-between appointments. Of course, knowing what patients expect when it comes to communicating about their healthcare can be challenging. But, when healthcare providers understand what patients want and expect from healthcare interactions, they can do a better job of creating healthcare experiences that satisfy patients.
West, a patient engagement communications provider, recently surveyed 1,036 adults and 317 healthcare providers in the United States to learn more about patients’ communication preferences. Survey findings identified 10 types of communication that patients say are important to them. Their communication wish list revolves around themes of prevention, disease management, and billing transparency.
Patients prioritize routine and preventive care outreach
Patients say they want more support from their healthcare providers between appointments so they can better manage their own health at home. West’s survey showed patients think it is important for providers to make communications more prevention focused by helping track lab results (77 percent); recommending and scheduling preventive tests and screenings (71 percent); sending text messages and participating in online chat sessions (60 percent); and using automated text, voice, and email reminders to encourage prevention and promote routine health management. Here’s a closer look at the prevention-focused communications patients want:
Updates about lab tests – Routine screenings and lab tests are an integral part of preventive care. Depending on the circumstances, waiting for lab results can range from mildly annoying to downright nerve-racking. It is not uncommon for patients to experience anxiety, worry, or fear when they are waiting to get their lab results. West survey data revealed nine in 10 providers (91 percent) agree that it is very or extremely important to communicate with patients about the status of their lab results. Healthcare providers can make the wait for test results less stressful by using their patient engagement technology to send patients messages so they know how and when test results can be retrieved.
Recommendations for preventive services – Patients rarely know when they are due for preventive exams or what screenings they need. Worse, many aren’t receiving guidance from their healthcare team. More than one in three patients (36 percent) report their healthcare team does not proactively recommend preventive screenings or they do a poor job communicating which preventive services are needed. Sending automated messages to let patients know they need to make an appointment for an annual exam or preventive screening, such as a mammogram or colorectal cancer screening, is simple and creates awareness about preventive care.
Text Messages – In the past seven years, patients’ interest in texting with providers has doubled. Texting is a widely popular form of communication, so providers shouldn’t be surprised that patients want healthcare professionals to text them. However, many providers have been slow to adopt texting. Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of patients say they do not receive text messages from their healthcare team. Using patient engagement technology, providers can easily send patients mass or one-to-one text messages about routine care and prevention.
Health management advice – Patients welcome tips and information they can follow at home to maintain their health. A reminder to get 30 minutes of physical activity daily, recipes and healthy eating tips, or an invitation to join a smoking cessation program are just a few examples of the types of automated communications providers can send patients to encourage prevention and wellness. Although patients say they want to receive automated text messages, voicemails, or emails with prevention-themed advice, 21 percent of patients don’t currently receive these communications from their providers.
Disease management support is in demand
Approximately half of adults in the United States face the daily struggle of having to manage a chronic illness, and they don’t want to do it without help from their healthcare team. More than three in four chronic patients say it is very important for providers to give them personalized disease management recommendations based on their specific needs (78 percent) and help them understand their current and target health metrics (76 percent). Sixty-four percent of patients with a chronic illness want to receive medication reminders while 53 percent want providers to administer surveys or check-ins to monitor conditions, assess health risks, and help manage their chronic conditions. Here are examples of how providers can offer patients communication to support disease management:
Personalized recommendations – Nearly all (95 percent) healthcare providers agree it is important to give patients personalized—not generic—recommendations targeted to their conditions. Fortunately, sending disease-specific communications on a mass scale is easy for providers who leverage their patient engagement technology. For example, staff can send a series of emails with tips and information on lowering blood pressure to all of their patients who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure.