Patient self-service is key for providers to keep pace with the evolution of healthcare consumerism.
Catch a flight recently? Odds are, you booked your tickets online. Visited a bank? There’s a good chance you used an ATM. Just think about the last time you went to the grocery store: How long was the self-checkout line?
For most consumer-facing industries, self-service isn’t the wave of the future—it’s daily life. The same is true in healthcare. Patients today expect their healthcare experience to be convenient, agile, and flexible—and that means providers need to embrace digital tools and technologies that engage patients and allow them to take a more active role in their care.
Patients’ evolving preferences are good for providers, too. By implementing self-service solutions like appointment self-scheduling, mobile check-in, and flexible payment options, healthcare organizations can be more efficient, save staff time, and deliver more comprehensive, high-quality care.
Here are six reasons to offer self-service tools in your healthcare organization:
1. Meet patients’ technology expectations
Across all age groups, patients are comfortable using technology—and they expect it to play a role in their healthcare experience. In fact, one survey found that 93% of patients want digital options to manage their care, including online appointment scheduling and tech-based payment tools.
These self-service options have become increasingly important during the pandemic, enabling patients to access the healthcare tools they need from their own devices. Moreover, patients who use self-service tools tend to be more engaged in their care, making them more likely to communicate with their providers if a scheduling conflict arises.
2. Save staff time and improve efficiency
Most healthcare organizations are already running a tight ship, and the staffing crisis isn’t helping. Offering patients self-service tools can help streamline operations and reduce manual tasks for staff.
Consider this: Administrative staff spend an average of more than eight minutes on the phone with each patient who calls to schedule an appointment. That time adds up — especially for healthcare organizations trying to operate efficiently with limited staff. By contrast, patients can self-schedule an appointment in less than a minute, giving healthcare staff more time to manage their many other responsibilities.
Healthcare organizations are already dealing with labor challenges, including staffing gaps and a difficult hiring environment. By implementing self-service solutions, providers can save time, maximize efficiency and get patients the care they need sooner.
3. Stay competitive and boost patient satisfaction
As healthcare consumerism grows, patients are looking for tools that promise convenience and flexibility.
According to one survey, nearly 6 in 10 patients want to use digital health tools to meet their needs — including better ways to process payments and book appointments. That’s good news for organizations that embrace self-service solutions. Consumer-friendly options like mobile registration, for example, allow patients to digitally complete their demographic, clinical, and insurance paperwork before setting foot in their provider’s office.
Not surprisingly, healthcare organizations that offer convenient digital tools are well-positioned to boost satisfaction, increase loyalty and retain more patients—and those that don’t risk losing patients to their competitors. A 2019 report found that 80% of patients would switch providers for “convenience factors” alone—and that was before the pandemic triggered a sprint for healthcare providers to adopt more digital technologies. Modern solutions like self-scheduling and online bill payment align with consumers’ evolving expectations and help providers create a self-service experience that keeps patients at the forefront.
4. Improve access to care
Many barriers can discourage patients from seeking care, from inconvenient office hours and personal scheduling conflicts to lengthy hold times when calling for an appointment. Patients who work long or atypical hours, for example, may have limited opportunities to call their provider’s office to schedule a visit.
Self-service tools like online scheduling remove those barriers, enabling patients to book or cancel appointments at their convenience. That’s a boon for providers, too: When patients can schedule their own appointments, they’re more likely to show up for them — and less inclined to delay important care.
5. Increase collections and reduce costs
Here’s a sobering statistic: In the US alone, healthcare payers and providers spend nearly $500 billion annually on billing and insurance-related activities. Much of that expense comes from paper billing statements since healthcare organizations must often send multiple notices before a patient’s balance is paid in full.
Technology can help solve that problem. More than half of patients say they prefer to receive medical bills electronically, which means healthcare organizations that digitize billing statements are well equipped to reduce hard costs and meet patients’ financial expectations.
That same logic applies to payments. When patients are offered flexible payment options — like online payments, payment plans, and card-on-file opportunities — they are more likely to pay their bills. That means healthcare organizations that offer more convenient ways to pay can simultaneously boost collections and patient satisfaction.
6. Collect more accurate patient-reported data
There’s a reason that patient-reported outcomes (PROs) are considered the “gold standard” of data collection: Patients understand their experiences better than anyone else. But without the right screening tools, healthcare organizations risk missing important information or letting vulnerable patients slip through the cracks.
With digital screeners, patients can self-report data about their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and social determinants of health from wherever they feel most comfortable and safe — even before a clinical encounter. Self-service reporting also generates more accurate PROs since many patients are more willing to answer sensitive questions digitally.
In fact, recent research suggests that patients prefer using electronic PRO tools—and most healthcare staff say these tools provide information that helps with clinical documentation.
Put simply, patients want their healthcare experience to mirror the ease and convenience they receive in other industries. By investing in self-service solutions, healthcare organizations can boost overall satisfaction and meet patients’ changing expectations — all while creating a better environment for their staff.