The Doctor is (Virtually) In: COVID and Telemedicine Experience

I recently talked about COVID-19’s effects on hospital visits and how the pandemic has reshaped patients’ healthcare facility expectations. But this isn’t the only experience arena that the Coronavirus is impacting.

Many patients—especially those at high risk—prefer virtual visits and consultations with their doctors. As a result, there’s been a sharp uptick in telemedicine over the course of this year.

Of course, just like hospitals themselves, virtual consultations face new experience challenges amid COVID. Therefore, healthcare brands must address those challenges directly in order to build trust with their patients. Those challenges, and their solutions, are the focus of this article.

Consultation Considerations

The telemedicine experience is dramatically different from a walk-in visit, especially when it comes to collecting feedback. A virtual visit presents more immediate opportunities to collect feedback from patients, though this poses a new challenge: healthcare brands need to avoid inundating patients with countless questions.

The best approach for hospitals and providers to take here is to provide feedback opportunities at the beginning and end of virtual visits. This gives patients an opportunity to voice their expectations at the start of the consultation and follow up on how well those expectations were met. This one-two strategy strikes a careful balance between survey frequency and patient comfort (which is obviously key to building a great experience for them).

Telemedicine Experience Checkup 

It’s important to remember that anyone who submits feedback expects brands to act on it. This is especially true for hospitals, which means it’s vital that healthcare brands parse through virtual visit feedback carefully. An experience platform that can ingest and analyze feedback, especially unstructured data, is key to this end. Hospitals can succeed by considering their audiences, designing their listening programs around those audiences, then executing an action plan.

Taking action on patient feedback is especially important these days. Healthcare customers have always expected providers to act on their concerns, but the pandemic has sent that expectation into the stratosphere. Thus, patients are paying especially close attention to their virtual visits—and how hospitals respond.

To recap, hospitals can ensure that their patients are receiving the best telemedicine possible by:

  1. Designing their listening program around tangible goals and important audiences
  2. Listening carefully to those audiences
  3. Ingesting feedback, especially unstructured data, to heighten patient understanding
  4. Applying subsequent learnings to the wider organization
  5. Achieving a better virtual experience for patients

Healthcare providers that stick to this strategy will not only make it out the other side of this pandemic, but also do so in a far better position for themselves and the patients for whom they provide quality care.

To learn more about the lasting effects of Coronavirus on the patient experience, check out this full article by Jason Macedonia here.

How COVID-19 Has Impacted Patients’ Hospital Perceptions

The Coronavirus has upended patient experience (PX) as we know it, infusing the world of hospitals and healthcare brands with just as much (if not more) uncertainty than that currently facing restaurants, brick-and-mortar storefronts, and other types of businesses. More specifically, the pandemic has altered patients’ perceptions of everything about hospitals, including how they move through the facility and interact with its employees.

Today, we’re going to quickly review how exactly COVID-19 has impacted patients’ hospital perceptions. We’ll also review what healthcare brands can do to accommodate and overcome the challenges associated with these changes, especially as the virus’s spread continues to accelerate.

Keeping Things Clean

COVID-19 has put patients on high alert when it comes to hospital and healthcare facility cleanliness. Hospital hygiene has always been important to most patients, of course (especially those who were already anxious about doctors’ appointments), but even healthcare customers who are usually more relaxed are now closely scrutinizing hospitals’ adherence to cleanliness guidelines. How well healthcare brands stick to those guidelines may very well determine whether they make it out the other side of this crisis.

Because of this acute awareness, hospitals and clinics must not only adhere to the most stringent cleanliness guidelines and CDC guidance, but also make that dedication visible for all patients to see. This means that hospital staff must continually (and visually) reassure patience that hygiene is being taken seriously. Signage, protocol reminders, and other visual cues are vital to maintaining patients’ trust in their healthcare experience and that their facility is ensuring safety in the age of COVID.

Beyond Clean Surfaces

Healthcare customers’ heightened scrutiny of cleanliness goes beyond wiping down counters and doorknobs (though that’s certainly important as well). COVID-19 concerns run much deeper than that—many patients are now paying much greater attention to their every physical move in a hospital. Whether it’s entering the facility, moving through it toward a doctor’s office, or picking up a prescription, healthcare customers are paying close attention to how their movements within hospitals may present any sort of COVID-19 risk.

Hospitals and other healthcare facilities must respond to this acute concern for physical wellbeing the same way they do concerns over cleanliness: aggressive visual cues. As I mentioned earlier, signage and other visual reminders are a huge help here, but the next step is for staff to physically carry out cleanliness measures in front of customers. This approach has been adopted by every business from restaurants to grocery stores over the course of the pandemic, and it’s a proven tactic for reassuring customers that your healthcare brand is taking COVID-19 seriously.

Continuous Assurance

One of the biggest challenges with measures like these is making sure that employees are continuously carrying them out. Many of these strategies, especially carrying out facility hygiene in front of employees, can’t just be set and forgotten. Hospitals must take care to keep these strategies going and keep them highly visible. Perhaps more importantly, they must use PX listening programs to tune into their customers’ safety concerns and how those concerns evolve over time. This tactic empowers hospitals to continuously demonstrate their commitment to patient safety, achieve meaningful improvement, and be in a much stronger position than the competition when this pandemic finally ends.

Click here to read my full Point of View article on how COVID-19 has forever changed patient experience. I take a deeper dive into the pandemic’s full effects on patient experience and how healthcare brands can respond in these unprecedented times.

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