Getting the healthcare first impression right through smart pre-care engagement

August 10, 2022: – According to an article by Jeff Fuller in MedCity News, healthcare providers are pushing a big ask of their patients—they are asking patients to trust them to handle their most precious resource: their health. So the first touch bears ramifications far beyond that interaction—it impacts how patients view the healthcare system and how probable they are to stay loyal or explore elsewhere for more personalized care.

Similarly, it also colors the perception of the quality of the actual care patients acquire. One clinical study showed that patients with a striking first impression of their provider had much more positive critiques of their communication approach. In contrast, an antagonistic first impression was more likely to inhibit future interactions.

Healthcare is operating in a new environment for healthcare providers—one in which the results of a wrong first impression are direr, and the dividends for front-loading seamless and personalized patient experience are more significant, both immediately and long-term.

The effectiveness of a first touch, whether via a web page, voice call, text message, or in-person exchange, can build or degrade affinity and loyalty in a flash. Providers have a new mandate: to build the best possible “digital front door” through pre-care engagement to confirm that first touches are purposeful, meaningful, and contextually fitting.

First, let’s take a look at some of the latest and emerging factors driving initial impressions in healthcare more critical:

Growing industry consumerism

Even before the pandemic, people took greater control over their health benefits and healthcare judgments, prompting the healthcare C-suite to highlight patient engagement. The pandemic kicked the movement into high gear, with an explosion in the methods of healthcare delivery and breakdown of geographical challenges to care.

Plenty of choices and an industry hyperfocused on experience means that a patient when confronted with a not so great first touch with a healthcare provider, has more agency and trust now to switch gears and find a provider that genuinely suits their lifestyle and preferences.

The enduring effects of deferred care

During the pandemic, hospital access for non-Covid-related conditions dropped drastically, even though the actual volume for those conditions—like appendicitis, for example—was unlikely to have altered.

Although some patients have deemed it safe to return to healthcare providers for screening and other elective procedures, they must overwhelm countless other patients. We’re already seeing hospital capabilities strained from non-Covid cases due to preventable conditions that have deteriorated through a reversal in care. Providers ought to tap into pre-care outreach practices to thwart a problem from surging into a crisis to build engaged and trustful relationships with patients.

Staff burnout

For simply about everyone in the medical profession, the last two years have been the most difficult memory. At the pandemic’s peak, over a third of nurses were selected to be emotionally drained. Medical professionals have quit the industry in droves, resulting in a historic staff deficit for hospitals across the country. Early this year, 22% of hospitals conveyed critical staff shortages.

So, to summarize, health care systems wrestling with unprecedented staff deficiencies must counteract a growing public health crisis owing to deferred care—and simultaneously meet radically transformed customer anticipations to stay appropriate and competitive. 

Cracking the first touch problem via technology

Soaring expectation or not, it’s clear that the early phases of the patient journey are among the most influential in building affinity and loyalty. To meet that demand, leading hospitals are tapping into the power of practical pre-care engagement to make first touches as automatic, personalized, and smart as possible. Moreover, providers can optimize touchpoints at all later stages of the care continuum by utilizing seamless, multichannel approaches that meet patients where they are and handle and digest conversational data.

The wager of increasing consumerism, staff burnout, and deferred care is an essential and new issues that every healthcare provider in the nation must overpower. The tools and solutions employed to address the problems need to be addressed across the care journey. But the solution needs to start at the very beginning of the care journey when a patient is still formulating their view of their provider and the care they are likely to receive.

That’s why pre-care engagement, in its true significance, is so much more than the aggregate of its parts. It not only sets the tone for patient understanding, but it also serves as a valuable first opening to get to know a patient, to glean perspicuity from conversational data to personalize and improve every single interaction that comes after it.