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Whether your patients choose to call, email or text your healthcare organization, you can boost healthcare consumer engagement with a well-planned omnichannel communications strategy.

Even now, most people choose to call their healthcare provider for appointments and information but the number of alternative channels people also expect to be able to use is growing.

To continue to grow and hold a market leader position, healthcare providers, clinics and hospitals need to have a good omnichannel communications system in place.

In this article we look at the main ways healthcare providers are cementing their omnichannel services, what advantages each channel offers and what benefits the healthcare service provider gains.

Facilitate ease of access across multiple channels

Ease of access is a logical priority for users of healthcare services. This research shows that consumers expect to have cross-channel access to their provider:

chart

Source: Avtex

The two most preferred means by which consumers communicate with their healthcare providers both involve conversations with live agents. While this is highly desirable, it does create pain points for both the patient and the provider. When it’s busy, for example, live agents might not have time to deal with each patient. Or, patients might face long call waiting times for even simple transactions like making an appointment. This is where a good omnichannel system can help patients by offering alternatives that alleviate their pain points.

The expectation is for a frictionless customer journey where touchpoints combine into a seamless experience. Services using phones, bricks and mortar offices, online portals and apps should be connected and integrated. And consumers will only share their data with providers they trust.

Combine contact channels for better patient support

Each communication channel has its own strengths and weaknesses. What one channel does poorly might just be the strength of another channel which can then support it. 

When the communication channel is ‘switched’, customers want their information to come forward with the conversation. If you are having trouble, for example, completing a medical questionnaire online and you need to phone customer support with your questions, it saves time (and frustration) for the customer support representative to be able to see in the helpdesk software the information you have already entered. 

An omnichannel approach unifies the communication across channels. This distinguishes omnichannel approaches from multichannel approaches where the experience is not necessarily unified.

Let’s look at the main channels of contact for healthcare providers and identify processes that they support:

Walk in

Many people are still choosing to walk into a clinic to make appointments or get information directly from the reception staff. The walk-in experience should be well executed to reduce waiting times, offer on-site appointments with self-service kiosks while still allowing visitors to access reception staff easily. Ticketing systems are evolving and visitors can simply opt to get a text notification when the next agent will be free, allowing them to go shopping nearby while they wait.

Phone contact centers

For larger clinics and hospitals, having a call center is essential to manage the high volumes of calls across different departments. 

For smaller clinics, reception staff must usually share their time between answering calls and assisting patients in the reception area. 

The majority of calls by patients to healthcare providers are for appointments, billing inquiries, prescriptions and general enquiries about the healthcare provider. Phone is still the main channel of communication people prefer when contacting their healthcare provider.

Deloitte estimates that between 50-75% of key interactions of healthcare consumers with their providers were virtual and could be handled by an enterprise contact center.

Email

Most mobile devices offer email clients, helping email stay relevant where messaging apps are king. Many people still like to use email when contacting their healthcare provider, especially for formal correspondence, billing enquiries and longer form correspondence.

Patient portals

Patient portals offer an online service gateway where patients can access their appointments, billing information and FAQs on a largely self-service basis. 

Many people are willing to use patient portals for administration and appointments. But when there are problems, people still need to be able to get in touch with a human being. Once considered a ‘call center’ killer, it looks more like the case that patient portals and call centers must work hand-in-hand to offer the best possible patient experiences.

Mobile apps

More often than not, mobile apps are designed to operate as patient portals where patients can carry out self-service transactional activities with their healthcare provider. A well-designed app will be used by the younger generation but older patients, on the whole, will still prefer to call or visit their provider in person.

Health apps are now widely available from sports brands, lifestyle brands and insurers. Offering consumers incentives to stay healthy with apps to track our every movement and meal could become a big part of differentiated brand experiences offered by leading healthcare providers.

Chat

Internet chat services like WhatsApp, WeChat and Line have won the hearts of consumers with their convenient connectivity, low operating costs and speed. The challenge is to find a platform where all your customer conversations can be pulled together from across all the different platforms through which your customers reach you.

People want to use chat to make appointments, get reminders and notifications and have basic questions about the healthcare services answered.

Virtual contact centers

Virtual contact centers are somewhere between conventional contact centers and fully self-service patient portals. A virtual contact center makes use of voicebots and chatbots to handle the majority of patient calls using automation, offering human-like interaction with the voicebots and intuitive live agent escalation tools. It’s a best-of-both-worlds approach that offers the convenience of self-service over the phone with conversational AI-powered assistants who can perform a wide range of interactive tasks without the need for human support.

Read about automated medical reception service by Talkie.ai in this blog article.

What are the benefits of a well-executed omnichannel strategy?

Patients can choose how they want to contact you

Offer your patients the convenience of choosing their preferred channel and future proof your organization’s relevance against shifting generational behavior patterns.

You’ll save money and time – both yours and your patients

Having some key self-service options available means your patients can help themselves 24/7, 365 days of the year. With automation, you’ll also be saving a lot of your staff’s time on administrative tasks that they can use to do other things.

Your staff will be happier

Patients are happier. There are fewer calls they have to handle. Your staff can let software handle appointment management and other repetitive tasks. A good omnichannel communication system supports your staff and makes their life easier.

You’ll be offering better patient care

A good omnichannel communications system will mean your patients have easier access to your services and use them more often. 

Get a consultation from our experts

If you’re a healthcare service provider looking to improve your patient engagement, get in touch with our team of experts at Talkie.ai.

Talkie.ai is a leading provider of contact center automation solutions that improve your contact center efficiency, lower operating costs and deliver better customer experiences with artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistants to support your human staff.

Get in touch with our experts

Talkie’s experts can help you assess your communication channels and define priorities for development. Talk with our team today.