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COVID-19 and Patient Visits: How to Bring Patients Back

docting wearing mask while checking patient's blood pressure

2020 has been quite the year, if only for one big reason: COVID-19. It’s the last word we want to think about, but the first thing on our minds, especially in the healthcare field.

As a result of the virus, providers have had a difficult time getting patients to return. Check-ups and shots are one thing, but when a patient is putting off taking care of serious health issues because of the virus, that’s entirely something else. In the first 10 weeks of the pandemic, emergency department visits were down for heart attack, stroke and high blood sugar by 23%, 20% and 10%, respectively, according to the CDC. By putting off dangerous health issues, patients can risk dire health outcomes.

While providers are eager for patients to return to bring revenue back to normal, the biggest concerns are these trends and how patients are affected long-term. If there was ever a time for patients to return to their provider, whether in-person or virtually, it’s now. But there are many roadblocks that providers must go through in order to make that happen.

As you look to bring patients back to your practice, here are some priorities to consider.

Emphasize Safety

While some patients have been eager to return to their doctor, others haven’t. It has resulted in less revenue for providers and also, as we noted, lower health outcomes.

Bringing patients back means reassuring their safety by requiring masks at centers, doing COVID-19 health evaluations at check-in, making waiting room seating socially distant, providing hand sanitizer and offering remote care options such as telehealth. You can also use a digital health platform to communicate safety protocols put in place to provide that update and extra reassurance. And if you use the PatientBond Digital Health Platform, you can integrate psychographic segmentation into that messaging to significantly increase the likelihood of receptivity and patient activation.

This is the most important step on how to increase patient visits. The safer they feel, the more likely they’ll remain loyal for return visits and the more new patients you’ll acquire.

Increase Simplicity

The best word to describe your patients right now is overwhelmed. Parents are having to navigate work, childcare and school while trying to keep everyone safe and healthy. Patients who are immune-compromised are at the mercy of caregivers, family and friends to get their essentials and to keep them safe. And those who have lost jobs are especially nervous to return to their doctor, not knowing what their medical bills could cost.

It is imperative to make your patients’ lives easier by incorporating doable changes like flexible bill pay, telehealth and other telemedicine offerings and virtual prescription management. All of this can be done on a digital health platform for maximum ROI and seamless ease of use so your patient has one less thing to worry about.

Provide Empathy

The phrase “We’re all in this together” has been heard on TV and written in content like this numerous times amid coronavirus. While we may be experiencing this together, not every patient is experiencing this time the same way.

During every part of the patient experience, patients should feel empathy from their healthcare provider. It isn’t enough for just the doctor to do this. Staff on the phone or at the front desk, including staff handling bill pay, nurses, technicians and other workers need to do their part to make patients feel cared for. This should be part of their mindset normally, but it is even more important now that patients are getting less human interaction in their daily lives due to social distancing. A friendly hello, light small-talk or actively listening to their concerns will go a long way to making them feel better mentally during this difficult time. Even virtual interaction can evoke empathy.

The way you make patients feel, especially during this time, will determine who they keep as their healthcare provider.

Integrate Psychographics

When you’re using communication tools to engage with patients, it’s easy to fall into the trap of sending the exact same messaging to everybody. When no two patients view their healthcare the same way, that becomes problematic.

That’s when psychographic segmentation should come into play. Instead of guessing what will resonate with patients to take action, psychographics help you understand their deeper values, lifestyles and personalities so that you can cater each part of the communication process, even the timing of messages based on what they’re about, to specific patients based on their psychographic segment.

This is how PatientBond stands out among other digital health platforms out there because it works exceedingly well. We have numerous case studies to prove it, including one where CRH Healthcare added over 325,000 patient touchpoints through an email campaign using psychographics. These results increase market share, bolster patient payments and save centers money in the long run.

Unfortunately, it will take time for patients to come back, even if they really need to come back. It is up to providers to make the necessary changes so that patients feel reassured about returning, and so that tools like the PatientBond Digital Health Platform make it easier to come back on their terms.

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