Creating a comms plan for a new health business - in person vs. phone vs. written

Jamie Frew
Jamie Frew
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Flexible, visual communication: A key to healthcare business

When it comes to healthcare, patients are becoming more and more tech-savvy, and are recently demonstrating a stronger desire to communicate with practitioners online. Four out of five smartphone users have indicated an interest in mobile health that allows for a larger patient role in the clinical process. Having personal ways to manage medical records, as well as schedule appointments and receive reminders, all contribute towards a self-managed role in healthcare. Whether this is through a patient portal or otherwise, patients strongly advocate for communication channels that allow effective and productive action through automation and messaging components. Implementing these features in a flexible format will greatly elevate the quality of your service, and support you in prioritizing patient needs, and delivering medical solutions in a way that is accessible to all. 

How do patients want doctors to communicate with them?

Convenience is key when it comes to communication between healthcare physicians and patients, with patients wanting a more streamlined approach that allows for easy interactions. While communication preferences can vary depending on age, income, and education, there are still ways to identify which communication channels patients prefer. Capitalizing on this will ensure higher patient satisfaction, as well as a higher quality of care for patients. 

  1. Patients prefer reminders concerning appointments and medication schedules. This way, there is a higher chance of turning up, and a minimized risk of costly no-shows. 
  2. Almost 80% of patients prefer online contact through phone or email messaging means. This can reduce wait times when visiting in person.
  3. Patients appreciate being asked what communication channel best suits them. It indicates that their needs are being listened to, and that their feedback is valuable.
  4. A leading health communication strategy that patients advocate for is patient portals. Accessing a variety of information from one place allows for an integrated space that supports self-management processes and systems for patients. 
Doctor feedback

What are the 3 general modes of communication between patient-doctor?

There are three central modes of communication between doctors and patients, including:

In person - Patients can visit doctors and healthcare physicians at their clinical facilities.

Telephone - Calling over the phone can prove an efficient way to quickly sort out healthcare issues.

Written - Emails and messaging services, often through patient portals, can provide good documentation and clarification of health issues that specifically need addressing. 

Doctor-patient communication on the telephone: Benefits vs challenges 

The telephone has been a prominent method in healthcare practices for communicating between doctors and patients ever since its invention. As a traditional tool, telephoning does pose equal benefits and challenges for practices.

Benefits

  • Telephone consults can handle clinical issues effectively, without the need to schedule an in-person visit
  • They are usually brief, meaning that time can be used for other business processes

Challenges

  • Effective communication skills are needed, as telephone encounters eliminate the personal aspect of visiting and consulting in person. Staff must accommodate for this, and ensure they convey information effectively.
  • Many patients call for advice, rather than for administration and treatment reasons, and these conversations can be particularly heavy to deal with. This also takes up time, when patients should be scheduling appointments for these situations. Such calls can cause immense frustration, and clog up the phone line from receiving calls concerning more imminent matters. 

In-person communication with patients: Benefits vs challenges

In-person communication is the most common method of contact with patients, and for many, it is the most effective way to consult and discuss healthcare issues. However, like anything, there are positives and negatives to its use. 

Benefits

  • In-person communication is a great way to build trust and rapport between clients, as it is easier to convey and conduct genuine conversations. Patients feel more heard when seen in person, and there is also greater sensibility when it comes to clinical issues. Body language and non-verbal cues can minimize miscommunication errors.
  • In person visits can develop leadership skills amongst practitioners in senior positions, as directing the organization in person is a key component of team-building. Consultations that are in person can provide healthcare professionals with the skills and ability to recognize what it takes to manage health teams. 

Challenges

  • Many patients may present an inability to travel to appointments and meet in person, due to busy schedules, or living in a rural area. This can make in person consultations inconvenient, and simply not a viable option. 
  • In person visits may lead to long wait times which can deter patients from making appointments, as well as returning to your clinic. 

Written communication through emails/patient portal: Benefits vs challenges

Emails and patient portals both use online technology for practitioners and patients to communicate with each other, and also present various benefits and challenges. As we see rapid technology developments, we also witness growth in the use of these softwares, making them an increasingly common healthcare practice. 

Benefits

  • Online technologies allow for easy communication, where messages can be composed and information can be viewed at any time. This way, practitioners and patients can respond according to their schedule, which also fosters a breathable space for doctors to answer difficult questions. 
  • Patient portals, in particular, allow for more accurate information, as patients can view their medical record and identify any areas that need updating or amending. It enables a self-sufficient method for patients to play a larger role in managing their health. 

Challenges

  • Like with most online platforms, the data stored within business process systems may be vulnerable to hacking or data leakages. Extra care must be taken to ensure that online information is encrypted, with security protocols in place to prevent potential breaches.  
  • It can be difficult for patient buy-in to use patient portal and online services, and many perceive it as too complicated to use. Although this doesn’t have to be true, patients are less inclined to use newer technology. 

In person vs. phone vs. written: Which communication plan is best for your new healthcare business?

Depending on the needs of your healthcare practice, one communication plan may be best suited to prioritizing your clients' concerns whilst strengthening your professional relationships. 

In person communication plans are the most common, as many patients prefer to be seen through face-to-face contact. This allows for a greater sense of being heard, with patients able to gauge body language, verbal and non-verbal cues to altogether better understand what is required of them. Patients feel their healthcare issues are being listened to, with the social aspects providing a typical communication experience. However, in person visits can sometimes provide highly inconvenient, especially in the current COVID-19 climate where physical distancing is in place, and face-to-face appointments aren’t a viable option. Further, those in rural communities may find it difficult to make in-person appointments, especially if they require specialist healthcare. Telephone calls are also very common and are mainly used as an avenue to book and schedule appointments, as well as any other administrative tasks. They are great for tidying up loose ends, and for the most part, calls do not take up too much of the practitioner’s time. However, high communication skills are needed, and calls are not always a reliable service. 

In light of the evidence, patient portals are the best way to contact patients, as the advanced software technology allows patients to connect with their physicians regardless of where they are, and at any time. Those in rural communities can easily access information, with no need for physical restrictions through online communication methods, and time can be used more efficiently. Practitioners can take care of patient needs while prioritizing other important business processes. Not only this, but healthcare management software designed for new businesses can provide a variety of consulting, medical document storage, and billing and coding processes to create a streamlined communication platform. It is the perfect way to meet client needs and grow your practice.  

Take home message

There are various health communication strategies you can utilize within your practice, to ensure that client needs are being met and heard. In person visits, telephone, emails, and patient portals all present their own advantages and challenges, however, when it comes to your business needs, patient portals are the best way to go. Companies, such as Carepatron, design online patient portals in collaboration with healthcare professionals, to provide you with a system that can handle all your medical needs. With a user-friendly interface and integrated workflow, you can store important documents, access essential healthcare information, and communicate with patients from anywhere in the world. 

Health business software

Further reading:

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