Do your patients know you care? It could improve their health

 

How much does empathy matter in healthcare? A lot, it turns out.

A study published in 2019 found that patients’ perception of empathy among their care providers was strongly correlated with patient satisfaction, which influences adherence to treatment and contributes to a better doctor-patient relationship.

Effect of empathy on health outcomes

A randomized clinical trial published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that patients who perceived their healthcare providers as “most empathetic” lost 7 pounds more than the patients who rated their providers as “least empathetic.”

The effects are present in other areas of medicine as well. A 2013 review of 964 studies said empathy in the patient-physician communication is of unquestionable importance.

“There is a good correlation between physician empathy and patient satisfaction and a direct positive relationship with strengthening patient enablement” the study’s authors noted. “Empathy lowers patients’ anxiety and distress and delivers significantly better clinical outcomes.”

Empathy alone isn’t enough

It’s not just empathy but the perception of empathy that matters. For example, a doctor may feel empathy toward her patient, but unless she demonstrates it in a way that her patient understands and receives, she’s missing the mark.

It helps to understand what patients actually want from their providers. A patient survey published in 2019 found that patients want providers who acknowledge their emotions, listen well, have a positive disposition, and are trustworthy.

How to communicate with empathy

At WELL, we help our customers communicate empathetically with their patients. Here’s how:

  • Text your patients: Demonstrating empathy starts by communicating with patients in a way that works for them, which is often texting. Four out of five patients prefer to text their doctor than to receive a phone call or email.
  • Use first names: When your patients get messages from you, do you address them by name? Or does your text look like something out of a script, “Dr Smith: Your appointment is on June 5 at 5PM.” Instead, it could look like this: “Thanks for confirming your appt, John! Dr. Smith is looking forward to seeing you soon. Please text back if you have any questions.”
  • Talk to your patients, not about them: Instead of saying, “Talitha has an appointment at 9AM with Dr. Roth,” say, “Talitha, you have an appointment at 9AM with Dr. Roth.” It’s a subtle difference, but it sets the tone for the interaction with your patient.
  • Be brief: You are busy. So are your patients. Show them you “get it” by being brief. Text messages that work best for WELL clients are brief and include only the necessary details. If patients want more info, they can ask. We have friendly auto-responses to common questions, such as “Where are you located?” Of course, your staff can also chime in when they need to.
  • Show emotion: You’re not a robot. Express emotions in your communication. “Hello Betsy, Dr. Smith is looking forward to seeing you tomorrow…” and “Robert, we’re sorry that you missed your appt with Dr. Smith…” Exclamation points further convey warmth and friendliness!

Empathetic patient outreach delivers better results

We know you feel empathy toward your patients. It may be a large reason why you’re in medicine. Our client success representatives help you demonstrate it in your communication.

One WELL customer recently saw its appointment confirmations triple after meeting with one of our client success representatives who helped them implement these and other strategies for communicating effectively and with empathy.♥

8 surprising ways to improve patient scheduling with technology

 

How does your staff schedule care?

Effective patient scheduling is one of the most important elements of practice management — resulting in happy patients, increased revenue, and a streamlined medical office schedule.

Make patient scheduling a priority

A study conducted by the University of Utah in 2017 found that 39 percent of patients said one of the most important things in healthcare is the ability to schedule a timely doctor appointment.

However, more than one in three adults with an urgent condition reported that they couldn’t schedule medical appointments when they needed them, a study cited in JAMA found. Researchers said that problems were usually the result of “unplanned, irrational scheduling and resource allocation” not an actual lack of resources.

How to schedule patients effectively

Some effective scheduling techniques include scheduling from noon, prioritizing appointments, and creating a patient wait list. But these all add work to your already overburdened office staff.

Instead, leverage technology to improve patient scheduling without adding to your workload. Here’s how:

1. Confirm appointments with text or email reminders

Automated medical appointment reminders reduce no-shows, increase appointment confirmations, and ultimately increase the number of patient visits through better slot-utilization.

When you select an automated appointment reminder software, be sure to look for one with truly bidirectional functionality — when you’re texting patients, make sure they can text you back. Also, if you’re sending a confirming appointment email, use two-way email so patients can reply.

Riverside Medical Clinic, the largest physician-owned practice in California, implemented WELL’s two-way appointment reminder system. In just one month they saw a 33 percent reduction in no shows along with an increase in appointment confirmations to an impressive 94.5 percent.

2. Automate responses to routine questions

Your staff doesn’t need to respond to every patient message. With an advanced patient reminder system that includes keyword actions, you can send automated responses to both routine patient scheduling phrases such as “confirm,” “cancel,” and “reschedule” as well as the less-than-obvious scheduling phrases, such as “I’ll be there,” “different time,” or “can’t make it.”

3. Improve medical call-center operations

Some patients prefer to speak to a live person rather than to schedule doctor appointments online or via text messaging. Improving the operations of your call center by reducing call volume can dramatically improve patient scheduling.

Santa Monica Orthopaedic Group reduced call volume by 20 percent using WELL, allowing 85 percent of patients to reach a live person when they called to schedule an appointment.

4. Use data to identify trends and opportunities

In an article for Physicians Practice, healthcare consultant Judy Capko advised providers to use data to identify trends and the root cause of scheduling and patient-flow problems.

“This information is critical to digging deeper to evaluate specific incidences and determine what causes the bottlenecks and work-flow problems in your practice,” she said.

Data from patient scheduling software is a good place to start for tracking appointment times, arrival times, time to be seen by a physician, and other key metrics. Additionally, patient communication platforms may include analytics on confirmation and no-show rates and allow you to determine the ideal timing for sending messages.

5. Use broadcast messages to reach a group of patients

When a provider is sick or there is inclement weather, send a broadcast text message to all of the patient appointments you have scheduled for the day. This saves your office staff a couple hours of phone calls and ensures patients arrive at their appointments on time.

Patient Nino Palmiro* was scheduled for a major surgery and received a text message from the hospital alerting him to construction in the area. Because of the alert, he left two hours ahead of time and arrived right on time.

“If I hadn’t received that text, I would have completely missed my surgery,” Palmiro said.

For Palmiro, the text was life saving. For the hospital, it prevented lost revenue. Rescheduling the surgery would have been costly. Every hour of unused operating room time costs roughly $3600 in 2018.

6. Use patient self-scheduling — especially to reschedule appointments

As many as 20 to 30 percent of patients cancel or reschedule their appointments. Calling patients to reschedule creates a lot of administrative work. Instead, implement a patient self-scheduling system that integrates with your patient communication platform. This way, when a patient texts, “I can’t make it!” the software can automatically suggest alternative open times.

7. Use automated patient recalls for scheduling patients in the future

You don’t want to schedule patients a year out from their annual screenings or physical exams. Instead of sending them a self-addressed appointment reminder card in the mail, use recalls sent in the patient’s preferred medium — texting, email, or phone. Ideally, the platform will integrate with your EMR to mark the recall as scheduled to close the loop.

8. Use referral appointments system for patient scheduling

When your specialist offices receive a list of referrals, scheduling patients requires staff to call each patient individually — time consuming to say the least. Instead, use a referrals system that sends all referred patients a message asking them if they would like to schedule an appointment. This way, your staff can save time by following up only with the patients who actually intend to complete the referral. With WELL, the scheduled patients will automatically receive appointment reminders as well, reducing no-shows and keeping your office staff free to do what they do best — care for patients.

WELL leverages technology to improve patient scheduling. It is a fully integrated patient communication platform that enables enterprise health systems, private practices, and vendors to communicate with patients securely across any channel, including text messaging, email, telephone, and live-chat.

*name changed to protect patient identity

9 reasons to focus on patient experience in 2020

 

When Colleen Prescott woke up, she noticed that the muscles on the left side of her face were weak and drooped.

A week earlier, she had undergone major abdominal surgery and was still heavily sedated with pain medications. She didn’t want to spend half an hour on hold trying to reach her doctor. She needed an answer and fast.

Her provider had recently implemented WELL, allowing her to easily text the office. Moments later, a nurse responded and urged her to go to the emergency room because her symptoms mirrored those of a stroke.

“I wouldn’t have called my doctor and sat on hold for half an hour — I probably would have just ignored it,” Prescott* says. “Texting allowed me to reach out quickly and get an answer right away.”

Patient experience begins before the appointment

Patient experience begins before an appointment even occurs — for Prescott, it happened while she was still at home in bed.

A 2017 study conducted by the University of Utah found that patients value the ability to schedule a timely appointment, convenient access to their provider, and a reasonable wait time significantly more than actual time spent with their provider, the availability of specific treatments, and the actual quality of care (e.g. absence of medical errors).

“In focus groups and in survey feedback, patients told us they don’t necessarily want to spend more time with their provider — they want to be heard,” the study’s focus group observed.

Nevertheless, according to research published by Sage Growth Partners, a Baltimore-based healthcare consultancy, only 39 percent of health system C-suite execs report using text messaging to improve patient experience. Even fewer are texting patients with truly conversational bidirectional messaging, so patients can actually text you back.

Better patient experiences lead to better outcomes

Research consistently confirms that positive patient experience correlates with better health outcomes. A study published in the journal Circulation in 2010 found that patient satisfaction was positively correlated with 13 of 14 measures of success for treatment of heart attacks. Additionally, for every 25 percent increase in patient satisfaction scores, there was an equivalent 25 percent change in predicted survival.

The researchers concluded that patients are good discriminators of the type of care they receive — when they don’t have a good experience, they don’t fare as well.

Results are similar for patients with chronic conditions. For example, diabetic patients who report better communication and overall experience with their providers also have better blood sugar control and fewer functional limitations, according to a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Better patient communication yields better experiences

When Prescott landed in the ER, she was quickly diagnosed with bell’s palsy, or idiopathic facial paralysis. It’s not as serious as a stroke but not something to ignore either — in some cases it can result in permanent contraction of the facial muscles. The sooner it’s treated, the better the prognosis.

“If I hadn’t texted my doctor and received treatment immediately, I could have a permanent nerve damage and a lifelong facial deformity,” she says. “Being able to reach my doctor quickly made all the difference.”

Patient experience is good for business

Cultivating positive experiences makes sense for patients and for providers. Here’s why:

  • Patients are five times more likely to select a practice where they had a positive experience than one with a strong consumer marketing presence, according to a 2018 Press Ganey report.
  • Hospitals with better patient experience ratings tend to have 50% higher profit margins than average hospitals, Accenture research found.
  • Similarly, a 2016 Deloitte study found that hospitals with excellent HCAHPS scores had an average net margin of 4.7%. Hospitals with low scores had average margins of just 1.8%.
  • A Vanguard Communications survey found that 96% of online patient complaints center around customer servicenot quality of care.
  • 72% of patients use online reviews to guide them to a new doctor, a Software Advice report states.
  • 51% of patients would switch healthcare providers if it meant they’d receive great customer service, according to an Accenture report.
  • Good patient experience is associated with lower medical malpractice risk. On a scale of one to five, with one being “very poor” to five being “very good”, every point increase in score reduces the risk of malpractice by 21.7 percent.
  • Efforts to improve patient experience also improve employee satisfaction and reduce turnover. Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago launched a patient satisfaction program that resulted in improved staff satisfaction, productivity, internal and external recognition, and a 4.7 percent decrease in employee turnover.
  • Positive experiences contribute to increased patient retention. Happy patients are three times more likely to remain in your practice than patients who have the poorest quality relationships with their providers.

For Prescott, being able to quickly and easily reach her provider not only resulted in a better health outcome but also yielded fierce patient loyalty.

“The experience was so positive — just what they were able to do for me without me really lifting more than a finger to reach out — I’ll be loyal to them forever,” Prescott says.

*name changed to protect patient identity

Ten Ways to Save Time with WELL’s New Keyword Actions

 

Once you’ve set up the WELL platform, your patients will start texting you. A lot. That’s why we developed Keyword Actions, an intelligent new tool that acts on patient messages so you can respond as efficiently as possible.

You decide which keywords to look for and how the system will respond. Keywords can trigger an auto-response, alert a team that a message needs immediate attention, confirm appointments, or set a channel to close. And you don’t have to choose just one; a single keyword can trigger multiple actions at once.

Don’t worry: the Keyword Actions feature isn’t designed to replace personal contact with patients. It’s just WELL’s newest way to offload your most basic procedures, so your staff can focus on the interactions that really matter.

10 Ways to Save Time with WELL’s New Keyword Actions

 

1. Scheduling: We’ve got the keywords “confirm,” “cancel,” and “reschedule” covered elsewhere. But you can set WELL to be on the lookout for less-than-obvious scheduling phrases like “I’ll be there,” “different time,” or “can’t make it” to automatically confirm or cancel an appointment!

2. Administrative: A message containing a provider’s name can open a new channel, tag the medical assistant, and let the patient know you’ll respond soon—all at once!

3. Prescriptions: Keywords like “prescription” and “refill” can open a channel. If you frequently see the same medication names over and over in patient messages, it’s worthwhile to make those keywords as well.

4. Billing: Money questions can be quickly and easily answered over text. Set keywords like “owe,” “statement,” or “balance” to alert your billing team that attention is needed.

5. Problem-solving: A text with the words “issue” or “problem” can automatically open a patient’s channel, helping you respond to concerns more quickly—and foster a happier patient population.

6. Transportation: When patients miss an appointment, it’s often because they can’t find a ride. A keyword like “car” or “ride” can tag your transport team or respond with a link to Uber or Lyft. If patients frequently request your “address,” send them a link to a map!

7. Patient acquisition: Getting new patients established at your practice can be time consuming. Expedite the process by prompting a new patient to fill out an information form. Or increase your portal enrollment by auto-responding with a portal enrollment link.

8. Clinical: Let’s say you’re sending out a campaign encouraging patients to come in for their annual flu shot. Your campaign message might instruct patients to respond with “#flushot.” That keyword can then tag a scheduler and let the patient know that their request has been received.

9. Emergency: If a text includes words like “emergency,” “suicide,” or “urgent,” your system can instruct the patient to call 911 immediately—and tag a staffer to follow up.

10. Patient satisfaction: A patient’s “thanks” can prompt a friendly “You’re welcome!” And for any word of praise (like “awesome,” “amazing,” or “fantastic”), invite patients to fill out an online review.

These are just some ideas to get you started! Keyword Actions is an enormously flexible feature that can fit into your practice wherever you need it most. Don’t hesitate to call us if you have questions or would like more ideas!

How the best companies build delightful experiences

 

They may not always show up—or pay their bills— but our customers really want to talk to us.

Great customer experiences have become a major contributor to business success, impacting industries from retail to healthcare. But what makes a delightful experience? That’s changing too. Customers still expect their needs to be met…but they want the process to be easier and more human.

That’s why conversations have increasingly become the key to great customer experiences. Just ask Darcy Peters, a customer advocacy lead at Buffer, which helps individuals and companies connect with their followers over social media. “You build this rapport,” she said. “It increases that fondness on both sides.” And Buffer practices what it preaches, maintaining an active social media presence, a Buffer community Slack account, and regular Q&As with the company’s CEO. “We try to have as many genuine, authentic, and valuable conversations as possible,” Peters said.

Many of the most successful companies have invested in building genuine relationships with their customers, and we’ve been lucky enough to experience a few of them here at WELL. We recently started using TripActions, which differentiates itself by providing round-the-clock access to support staff through its app. TripActions employees will let you know if your flight is canceled or delayed, and they’ll sort out the details for you. Investing in communication is clearly paying off: the company just successfully raised $154 million in Series C funding. And I recently traveled to a Kimpton hotel, where they messaged me to let me know my room was ready, then graciously agreed to give the key to a friend waiting in the lounge. All via text. No wonder IHG, which owns the Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group, has snapped up 16% of global market share.

And these conversations have to take place where your customers are most comfortable. Much has been made of Gallop’s finding that texting is the most common form of communication for people under the age of 50. But customers want to reach out in many ways. A 2016 Radicati report tells us that email is still alive and kicking: by 2020, it will be used by 3 billion people worldwide. Zendesk found that customers were more likely to be satisfied by live-chat support than any other medium.

At WELL, we know how important it is to have great conversations with patients. That’s why we’ve just added two-way email functionality. From the beginning, we’ve had a simple mission: to connect patients directly to medical staff, revolutionizing the way people communicate with their doctors’ offices. WELL’s platform already allows patients and staff members to text back and forth, and that’s a great first step. But until now, email communications have only been one-way. Now, patients and staff can switch back and forth seamlessly between email and text, all in the same secure channel. In other words, even though it’s happening over multiple mediums, our system will treat it as one long conversation.

This is just the beginning. We’re working on support for many other communication mediums.

Now, let’s get those conversations started.

How texting helps the healthcare industry

 

Texting: It lets you cancel at the last minute, provide TV commentary in real time—and, increasingly, live a healthier life.

Over the past decade or so, text messaging has become a regular fixture in the healthcare industry, accomplishing goals as widespread as reducing no-shows and fighting the opioid epidemic.

And no wonder. Research conducted by the company Dynmark shows that 90% of text messages are read within three minutes of being received, and 98% are read at some point. According to a Gallop poll, texting is the primary way that people under age 50 communicate. And 80% of smartphone owners say that they’d like their healthcare providers to interact with them using their mobile devices, a FICO survey found.

Dr. Yifeng Hu is an associate professor of new media and health communication and the chair of the communication studies department at The College of New Jersey. She says text messaging in healthcare falls into three distinct camps. One is health intervention, where texting is used to provide patients with information, reminders, and support. Another is using texting as a communication tool between patients and healthcare providers or medical offices. And finally, Hu says, texting is playing a growing role in AI, which allows chatbots to have intelligent, and increasingly detailed, conversations with people.

Health interventions

Texting as a health-intervention technique is the best-established use of the form. The first study using texting as a tool to improve patient health was published in 2002. Since then, automated updates (and some manual messaging) have been used to give health and safety information to pregnant women, help patients follow post-op instructions, and check in with people struggling with addictive behaviors—to name a very few examples.

There’s strong evidence that these (primarily automated) messages are an effective way to improve public health. Dr. Mandi Hall, an affiliate assistant professor of Biomedical Informatics and Medical Education at the University of Washington, co-conducted a 2015 review of existing scholarly research on the topic. “We found that there was pretty significant evidence for [texting] interventions being effective when addressing diabetes self management, weight loss, physical activity, smoking cessation, and medication adherence for antiretroviral therapy,” she said.

From patient to provider

Then there’s texting between patients and medical organizations. While automated messages have become a standard feature of doctors’ offices—a recent Medical Group Management association poll found that 68% of healthcare organizations text patients about appointments—Hu says that doctors’ offices are only just beginning to use manual texting to reach out to patients. HIPAA-compliant texting platforms like TigerConnect and OhMD enable doctors to text patients directly and access electronic health records. WELL gives patients the opportunity to connect directly to medical office staff via text, which allows for easier communication and cuts down on individual phone calls and missed appointments.

“When patients feel empowered and more in charge of their own health, they will become more motivated and also more informed. The evidence shows that this leads to better doctor-patient relationships.”
— Dr. Yifeng Hu, Associate Professor of New Media and Health Communication
Chair of The Communication Studies Department, The College of New Jersey

According to Hu, this kind of texting is especially good for doctor-patient relationships. It employs what’s called the “transactional model of communication,” a two-way social interaction in which both parties listen and contribute, and both have equal power and control over the situation. “Traditionally, healthcare providers have the upper hand, and patients are in the submissive role, so they feel vulnerable,” Hu said. Patients frequently emerge from the doctor’s office without fully understanding what the doctor has said or what’s required of them.

“In healthcare, some of the biggest problems stem from miscommunications. Miscommunications can be in the form of not understanding my diagnosis, or not understanding how to change a dressing [on a wound] or take my medication,” Hall said. “How do you disseminate that knowledge effectively?”

According to Hu, texting gives patients a comfortable space in which to get the information they need. “That empowers patients,” she said. “And when patients feel empowered and more in charge of their own health, they will become more motivated and also more informed. The evidence shows that this leads to better doctor-patient relationships.”

Hall says there’s also simply a pragmatic benefit to texting: “Text messages are really just this short way to disseminate information quickly and with not much effort.”

Chatbots

And finally, although the newest generation of health-related chatbots rarely use the term “texting,” Hu says that’s precisely what they do. She cites the example of Woebot, which engages users in a text conversation based on cognitive-behavioral principles. The essential idea is to improve your mood—or navigate a high-stress situation—using the chatbot’s cues. There are also chatbots designed to serve as virtual health consultants, like Your.MD and Babylon Health. And lest you think that all chatbots are intended for patient use, the landscape now includes options like Safedrugbot, which gives doctors information about how medications might affect a breastfeeding patient.

Moving forward

Texting is far from a new invention: SMS technology is about 25 years old. And in terms of health intervention, Hu said, like providing motivational information and check-ins to patients, it’s old news. “Ten years ago it was new, but there are so many newer technologies for intervention. I see fewer articles for texting interventions,” she said.

But “a lot of healthcare providers are still way behind in terms of using new media technologies for communication,” Hu said. Healthcare organizations are just beginning to explore the possibilities of texting back and forth with their patients. “It’s a new reinvention of a not-very-new technology,” she said.

As for the future of texting in healthcare, Hu thinks it will “be immersed into more advanced, encompassing technologies, such as AI applications and medical wearables that track personal health data and connect patients with health providers in real time.”

It might not be called “texting” anymore—the term is no longer cutting-edge—but short, back-and-forth messaging will continue to be a part of the healthcare models to come. Nonetheless, Hu says that stand-alone texting will still have some role to play in health interventions, simply because of its convenience and security: “It’s low cost, widely accessible, and very universal.”

Patient experience vs. customer experience: making the most of healthcare’s consumerization

 

Ask Denise Kennedy and she’ll tell you: healthcare is a lot like any other service. “When customers pay more for anything, regardless of what they’re buying, they expect more,” said the clinical assistant professor at Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions. “They expect better quality, and they expect better service.”

Insurance companies are restructuring the way benefits work, increasing deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs. That means patients are increasingly paying more for their medical care, rather than insurers. And as this happens, it’s only logical that patients begin to look for the kinds of customer experiences they get in other industries.

“Doctors and clinicians look at medicine as a science. I believe they need to start seeing it as part of the hospitality industry,” said Ron Harman King, CEO of the digital healthcare marketing and management consulting firm Vanguard Communications. “Why can’t we borrow from other industries? Why shouldn’t [checking in at the doctor’s office] be more like checking into a hotel reception?”

What does a patient experience?

But as we move towards a more consumerized system, we need to think about exactly what it is that we’re making more consumer-friendly. We tend to think about “patient experience,” but the truth is that a patient’s journey is much longer than that few minutes spent in an exam room.

Think through the logistics involved that both lead up to and follow those few minutes. There’s scouring provider lists and review websites to find a doctor. Playing phone tag. Scheduling an appointment. Arriving fifteen minutes early to fill out the same old paperwork again. Waiting for the doctor, who’s running late. Unexpected charges and repeated calls from the billing department.

And that’s assuming that a patient is basically healthy.

The fact is that patient experience—the actual care patients receive from doctors—isn’t really the problem. It’s all that other stuff—let’s call it the “customer experience”—that most needs work.

Patients as customers

In 2016, Vanguard studied nearly 35,000 online patient reviews and found that 96% of patient complaints centered around customer service, not quality of care.

Healthcare organizations, focused on greater efficiency and cost control, can make the mistake of seeing extraordinary customer service as a luxury they can’t afford, Kennedy explained. “I teach this to my students to prepare them for the workforce,” she said. “If you’re hiring people, these things are not frills: you need to demonstrate to us that you’re going to perform at a level that’s going to help us communicate the brand, and live up to the brand.”

And good communication is really at the root of the customer experience. In that Vanguard study, 53% of those complaints, the largest category, were about poor communication. It’s often overlooked, even when healthcare organizations do focus on changes to the patient journey. To give just one example, some medical practices are Ubering their patients to the doctor’s office in an attempt to cut down on no-shows, but they’re not asking their patients why it’s tough to get to their appointments. (Evidence suggests that the primary reasons for missing an appointment are based on emotions or comprehension, not logistics.) Even a simple question about an appointment or medical concern requires a complicated call into the office—often with a significant period spent on hold.


Whether it’s customer satisfaction or use of information technology, healthcare has tended to lag behind, and then we learn from other industries.

— Denise Kennedy
Clinical Assistant Professor, Arizona State University


Bringing customer service to healthcare

“Whether it’s customer satisfaction or use of information technology, healthcare has tended to lag behind, and then we learn from other industries,” Kennedy said. Front-office staff members need to learn early on in their careers that “you set the expectations for the kind of experience a patient is going to get in the doctor’s office before they even set foot in the door.”

Beginning with that first phone call, we need to ensure that the process is seamless. Patients need to interact with live office staff during business hours, receive accurate appointment reminders (but not a barrage of them), and have a secure and convenient way to ask basic questions about their visits, physician instructions, and follow-up care.

And increasingly, we have the ability to influence a patient’s opinion before they ever pick up the phone. The satisfaction (or lack thereof) that people feel when they leave the doctor’s office is increasingly communicated online, and a recent survey found that 70% of Americans take those reviews into account when choosing a doctor. Says King, “The Internet has given patients a public voice to speak about their care.”

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