4 Post-pandemic Changes in Healthcare Communications
Is the pandemic over? Offices are reopening, my kids don’t have to wear masks at school, and people stand a little closer in the checkout lines. We are trending back to what feels “normal.” But a lot of things have changed permanently. Here are four significant changes in healthcare communications.
1. The Care Journey has Changed
Healthcare has tilted significantly in the favor of people searching for care and are driven by kitchen-table economics to find affordable providers.
Determining the balance between care and cost is nothing new. Everyone wants access to the right care, yet no one wants to be bankrupted by healthcare bills. Then the pandemic arrived and forced us to master how to shop online, which has had profound implications.
For example, my 80-year-old mother is now comfortable shopping online, so we’re in quite different times. This jump in internet savvy among all demographics is a major shift that extends beyond retail. And it’s an important development in harnessing control of the care journey.
Previously, the care journey began in the primary care physician’s office. Now, the care journey starts with Google. “Millennials and Gen Z trust Google more than their doctor,” as Tom Kiesau of The Chartis Group healthcare advisory firm said at a 2022 healthcare conference.
2. Healthcare Will be More Retail-like and Social
People look at healthcare solutions with the same mindset as shopping for a product or service. They educate themselves online first for advice. This is why many experts are now using the term healthcare consumer instead of patient.
Healthcare consumers are also leveraging social media. This social outreach typically occurs in communities, whether local in nature (e.g., Who’s a good dentist around here?) or condition based (e.g., autism). These communities attract participants in need of insight and empathy that can come only from others with shared experiences.
Once educated, the healthcare consumer decides who will provide the care that aligns with their terms. The consumer is in control.
3. The Digital Front Door is Key
Consumers expect providers and payors to have digital front doors that are welcoming, informative, and a click away from connecting to a prepared healthcare representative. This requires a digital-first strategy that carefully considers how healthcare consumers interact with you.
Crafting your website to simplify self-education and encourage social commentary will satisfy their needs. When consumers are ready to commit, conversations begin with a retail-like expectation of convenience. Conversations can start on channels including voice, video, chat, and others.
In its survey of pandemic trends, Frost & Sullivan noted that voice became a lower priority for patient conversations. Whereas voice commanded 56% of patient outreach to healthcare providers before the pandemic, it dropped to 37% in the middle of the pandemic as people adapted to other digital channels. Voice may never be the dominant channel again.
But channels aren’t independent. When a consumer moves from one channel to the next, they expect the context of their conversations to go with them. It’s frustrating to state a healthcare problem repeatedly, then get stuck on hold, get transferred, or request a callback that never happens. A poor experience will send the consumer back to the internet in search of a different provider.
4. Conversational AI is Ready
AI for consumer service has been around for a decade, but it hasn’t been that great. Fortunately, the next generation of AI — let’s call it conversational AI — can improve communication and efficiency.
AI-powered chatbots can provide self-service at all hours and at a fraction of the cost of a live representative. Furthermore, AI can expedite the intake process, handle scheduling, follow up on billing, send medication reminders, and facilitate many other applications along the care journey. When healthcare consumers want to speak with a live representative, AI can make the connection as frictionless as possible using conversation-based routing.
Being empathic — so critical during the care journey — is much more effective when your staff is prepared. AI can also assist by listening in real time and providing coaching based on the context, capturing and inserting the transcript and call summary, and prompting your staff with relevant reminders.
The pandemic forced a lot of change, including accelerating key changes in healthcare. The new retail-savvy healthcare consumer has the upper hand and will insist on improved patient experiences at better costs. Healthcare providers who ignore their digital front door and the power of AI will lose business or continue to struggle with operational costs.
For more information about these exciting new technologies, visit Five9.com.