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Why mobile is the RX to the ailing patient experience

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Robert Tabb, Healthcare Practice Director, Phunware

With legislation like HCAHPS tying patient satisfaction directly to provider reimbursement, today’s providers are highly incentivized to deliver exceptional patient care. According to Advisory Board, more than 1200 graded hospitals were penalized in 2015 alone – making patient experience improvements critical to the bottom line. But rising costs, dwindling margins and over­taxed resources have providers struggling to keep up.

The good news is that the remedy lies inside the pocket of nearly every patient. In 2015, Pew Research Center reported that nearly 70 percent of all U.S. adults own a smartphone, and Yahoo’s Flurry Insights reported that consumers spend 90 percent of their mobile time using apps. For healthcare providers, each of those millions of mobile devices is an channel to provide a useful, branded experience for engaging with patients and and improving their experience before, during and after their appointments.

For many patients, remembering or rescheduling an appointment can be as much of a headache as the appointment itself, and many types of appointment reminders feel like unwelcome intrusions or an added item on a to­ do list. Postcard reminders can easily get lost in stacks of mail or thrown away without action. Email reminders and text messages don’t yield better results. Clickthrough rates for medical services emails average just 16 percent according to Constant Contact, and text messages are often quickly forgotten.

The trick lies in reaching people the way they prefer. In an industry that has to solve an ailing patient experience, mobile apps are proving to be the perfect course of treatment.

For example, through mobile apps, healthcare providers can send patients push notification reminders directly to their smartphones. Each notification can be easily synced with the provider’s scheduling system, allowing timely and accurate reminders. And since push notifications must be interacted with in order to be dismissed, providers can configure each reminder with “confirm” and “reschedule” buttons. This gives the patient the ability to immediately choose the option that works best for them, and directly interact with the provider’s scheduling system with the tap of a button. With research from Xtify showing that the average push notification open rates range from 30 percent to 60 percent, compared to the average open rates for email at 20 percent, providers can actively engage and remind more patients through an easy and non­intrusive platform.

A hospital mobile app also has the ability to help patients get to their appointments on time and without confusion. During a time when many patients may already be feeling nervous, navigating complex hospital layouts can cause more anxiety or frustration – hardly a prescription for a positive hospital experience. But an app with up­ to ­date hospital mapping and way finding technology can easily guide patients back and forth from any location, to the correct parking lot for their appointment, all the way inside to their destination. Following a blue dot like in the mapping applications they’re used to, patients can navigate hospital corridors to find the appropriate clinic or waiting room. An app allows hospitals to engage with the patient step ­by ­step, creating a convenient and effortless experience, helping reduce stress and anxiety, and setting patients up for a more positive visit from the start.

Finally, hospitals and clinic waiting rooms usually aren’t places patients look forward to visiting. Often filled with boring magazines, noisy televisions or other anxious patients, waiting rooms can be dreadful. While healthcare providers can’t necessarily eliminate the entire waiting process, they can offer an engaging and value driven experience. For example, hospitals and other healthcare providers can load a branded mobile app with content that ranges from informative videos to health­check quizzes, even games. By providing engaging content, that wait turns into productivity that not only makes the time go by faster, but makes patients feel welcome and appreciated.

Today’s abundance of smartphones and innovative technology gives hospitals and other healthcare providers the ability to actively engage each patient before, during and after their appointments. Since every feature can be deployed either one at a time or in tandem, healthcare providers can create more positive, consistent experiences that fit seamlessly into the lives of each patient. By offering valuable features, the healthcare industry can reduce or potentially eliminate some of patient’s biggest frustrations, generating an entirely improved experience that helps both the patient and the provider.

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