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Virtual intake management: Cultivating loyalty with convenience

Published here at Becker’s Hospital Review.

I’m writing this piece while in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions. My life, like yours, looks a little different today than it did several months ago. For starters, I’m not making any trips to Target. Instead, I use the Target app on my phone. The app knows the items I like based upon my purchase history and what I tend to buy every week; those items come up in a handy list. I choose how many of each item I want, pay with the click of a button, and wait a couple of hours for the merchandise to show up on my doorstep.

The typical healthcare patient experience is the antithesis of today’s easy and virtual shopping experience that is common for consumers across other industries. Patients face far too many barriers, which range from scheduling appointments to understanding their out-of-pocket obligation with providers. In a recent conversation with a large health system revenue cycle executive, I learned that this person’s organization, like many others, charges patients for cancelling appointments but offers only one way to complete a cancellation or choose an alternate appointment date: via phone call. And this is at one of the largest, most sophisticated physician organizations in the country!

Those of us who work in healthcare talk a big game in terms of patient engagement and offering patient-friendly options. In truth, we’re absurdly behind nearly every other industry. Most of the tools we’ve developed and adopted have actually been developed with sole focus on easing the burden on clinicians rather than patients. Important financial, administrative, and patient-facing elements of these tools tend to be an afterthought. As a result, patients have often been obliged to go to facilities that use cumbersome processes with limited or no self-service opportunities.

The good news for patients? Healthcare providers will begin embracing more sophisticated, patient-friendly processes and tools to improve convenience and ensure a better patient experience.

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