Justin Jacobson

Rethink the patient experience—starting with the first digital interaction

July 25, 2022
By Justin Jacobson

We’re all accustomed to the simplicity and convenience of the digital interactions we have every day. So much so, that we barely even notice how simple and convenient they are.

When people change a flight reservation, they’re only a few clicks or taps away from booking a new one. When they plan an event with friends or family, a group chat on a messaging app makes it simple to keep everyone in the loop. But when patients interact with their healthcare provider, they’re often thrown back to the old days of waiting in a queue to speak to someone.

The trouble is, the first experience a patient has with any organization sets the tone for the entire relationship. So when they have slow, disjointed, frustrating experiences just trying to book an initial appointment, there’s already a breakdown of trust. That lack of confidence has a corresponding effect on patients’ engagement with their care—and care outcomes.

This is where AI technologies can have a powerful impact, creating a “digital front door” that brings empowerment and efficiency to the patient experience to build loyalty, increase engagement, and improve outcomes. As a bonus, it saves clinical and support staff a lot of time and effort.

A warm welcome at the digital front door
Modern, AI-powered patient engagement technologies enable healthcare organizations to create a great first impression by delivering the frictionless experiences patients expect.

Intelligent automated assistance enables patients to schedule appointments or find answers to questions in their most convenient channel—increasing satisfaction and reducing staff workloads.

Automated appointment reminders allow patients to confirm, cancel, or reschedule in real-time on the same channel as the notification—reducing no-shows and optimizing schedules to increase patient access.

Digital registration and orientation let patients provide intake information and prepare for appointments anytime, anywhere—helping them feel welcomed and valued.

While good first impressions are critical, it’s also essential that the digital front door stays wide open throughout the patient journey.

For example, automated support for FAQs and routine inquiries like patient portal account activation or password resets makes life easier for patients while making Patient Access Center and help desk staff more readily available for complicated or sensitive issues.

Proactive outreach can also extend far beyond appointment reminders. AI-powered solutions can send helpful communications about preventive care, visit follow-up actions, and care plan adherence, helping increase patient engagement and accountability.

Self-service options for basic tasks like prescription refills and bill pay can enhance the patient experience while reducing staff manual work.

Automation is vital—but it’s just the beginning
There are many use cases for automation, but the ones that increase satisfaction and improve care outcomes take things a step further.

New possibilities open up when intelligent engagement solutions integrate data from EHRs and CRM systems. When patients arrive at the digital front door, they’re recognized and heard. Natural language understanding (NLU) technology determines what they want to accomplish, engaging patients in natural conversation and offering relevant, personalized responses that resolve inquiries without human intervention. The best technology can even predict patient needs based on the context of the current interaction and their patient profile — recent medical history, historical behavior, lifestyle, etc.

Not every patient wants to—or is able to—use the internet to access their provider. So organizations must enable the same intelligent, conversational experiences no matter the contact channel.

However patients choose to get in touch, the AI must maintain the context of the conversation as they move between channels, so patients don’t have to repeat details or give background on their inquiry.

Stronger relationships and better outcomes
Delightful patient experiences set the tone for the patient-provider relationship from the first contact, helping healthcare organizations deliver the same efficiencies patients enjoy when interacting with the biggest digital brands.

Unified, personalized, automated interactions with ready access to support and information make it easier for patients to take control of managing their own care.

Clinicians and care teams benefit too when common inquiries bypass live assistance, easing work responsibilities, reducing burnout, and freeing time for patient care.

Patients arrive for visits better prepared and actively participate in their care plans. Clinicians have more headroom to focus on the patient before them, strengthening their partnership in the pursuit of good health.

About the author: Justin Jacobson is vice president and general manager of patient engagement solutions at Nuance Communications.