Not all patients prefer the same type of doctor. Some like a physician who has been in practice for at least a couple of decades and works in a solo practice, while others want to receive care from a younger doctor employed by a medical group with multiple providers.
This, of course, is just one example of patient preferences, which refer to the specific activity, treatment, and provider conditions they desire for their healthcare experience. Such preferences are driven by beliefs, attitudes, and personal values. Others are affected by things like social determinants of health (SDOH).
Whatever the reasons for patient preferences, it is important for medical groups to not only understand them but also meet them—if they want to be operationally and financially sustainable. It’s an essential component of healthcare consumerism, spurred by a variety of factors, such as the expectation of convenience, rising out-of-pocket healthcare costs, and a lack of price transparency.
Understanding the Patient Access Journey
Patients want to actively participate in their own healthcare more than ever before. As with other consumers, they’re increasingly accustomed to companies prioritizing their experience. As we mentioned in a previous blog, a negative patient experience has the potential to cost your medical group through a lower retention rate and a damaged reputation. It also is strongly associated with decreased practice profitability.
If you’re unsure of popular patient preferences, look no further than Kyruus’ Sixth Annual Patient Access Journey Report, which includes the following statistics:
- Forty percent of consumers prefer online booking.
- Fifty-five percent of Millennials prefer online booking.
- Consumers are extremely or very interested in the ability to complete pre-visit tasks online, including finding location information (79%), providing insurance information and confirming coverage (76%), completing pre-visit questionnaires (72%), and making payments (65%).
- More consumers would prefer communication from their provider through digital options like text messaging (26%), email (26%), and mobile app notifications (13%) instead of the telephone.
Probably the most salient number included in this report is of those who prefer to book their medical appointments online, half would switch providers for the ability to do so. Patients want to be able to access healthcare when and where they need it — and how.
Why Most Patients and Providers Prefer Digital Health Tools
The majority of the United States population now uses smartphones, so it makes sense that a growing number of patients equate a good digital experience to a positive provider encounter. Patients aren’t the only ones who prefer to utilize digital health tools in their care journey. According to the AMA Digital Health Research survey, physicians are increasingly seeing the advantages of digital health solutions: the percentage of physicians who feel digital health tools are an advantage for patient care grew from 85% in 2016 to 93% in 2022.
That sentiment is echoed in Kyruus’ Provider Perspectives on Digital Access report, especially for online scheduling. Nearly half (48%) of surveyed providers say online scheduling helps keep existing patients in-network, while 46% believe it provides greater convenience for existing patients. They also recognize benefits such as attracting new patients (42%) and enabling them to self-schedule their own appointments (43%).
The advantages of digital health tools go beyond patient and physician preferences, though. In addition to having the potential to improve healthcare quality and patient outcomes, appropriate use of digital health has been demonstrated to reduce human and medical errors and improve comprehensive care coordination and monitoring and surveillance of patient data over time.
As with other healthcare technologies, digital health tools that meet patient and other end-user preferences are better able to streamline clinical workflow, increase access to care, improve satisfaction, and reduce clinician burnout — all leading to lower healthcare costs. A bonus of many of these resources is that they help automate patient engagement to decrease the administrative burden on physicians and their staff.
Recommendations for Medical Groups
How can you be sure your medical group is meeting the preferences of your patients, whether for communication and outreach or scheduling and office environment? One of the first steps is to listen to what your patients want — an essential element of evidence-based practice.
Crucial to improving the patient experience and clinical care, patient feedback enables medical groups and other healthcare providers to understand what’s expected of them. You can procure such information via more traditional methods like paper questionnaires and phone calls or through more convenient options, including in-app surveys, automated email surveys, or CAHPS® Clinician & Group Surveys.
Patient feedback gathering does not have to be formal. You can ask members of your staff to share input from patients, whether they hear it in the waiting room, on the way to the exam, or at check-out.
Once you better understand your patients’ preferences, tailor your care strategies and outreach accordingly. If you fail to do so, you risk a lack of patient-centered care. Keep up with these preferences, and modify your overall strategy if necessary.
Healthcare workers cite factors critical to the adoption of digital health tools by both clinicians and patients as ease of use, integration with workflow, evidence of positive impact on patient outcomes, interoperability, and data security. Be sure to ascertain your patients’ use of digital information technologies and preferences for obtaining health information and patient education. And, ensure they’re easy for older and less educated adults to use.