branding

Protecting Network Integrity in an Evolving Digital Landscape

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Protecting Network Integrity In an Evolving Digital Landscape

What exactly is network integrity?

According to The Advisory Board, “Network integrity is your system’s ability to keep patients within your defined network of providers who are employed, affiliated, or in some way aligned with your organization. This could include a hospital, employed medical group, an ACO, CI network, or an independent physician organization.

By this definition, network integrity is an enterprise-wide effort. Providers must be on board with a health system’s network integrity efforts to minimize patient leakage across the enterprise. One of the most important parts of network integrity is the patient experience. While patient experience involves a number of factors, including in-patient experience, communication with the provider and the care administered, an increasing component of patient experience is mobile engagement.

Mobile engagement and patient experience are both rapidly changing and increasingly important to health systems and practices. According to a July 2018 Black Box Market Research survey, consumer expectations for healthcare providers are increasing. 92% of healthcare consumers surveyed say that improving customer experience should be a top strategic priority for medical providers over the next twelve months.  

These changing expectations are changing consumer behavior at a rapid pace. To illustrate, 88% of consumers under 40 say they'll choose their next provider based on online presence. Simply put, if providers and health systems fail to meet consumer expectations, which include having provider profiles and schedules online—network integrity will diminish as patients switch to more modernized providers. The key takeaway is that provider switching and shopping is happening now—and is threatening network integrity for health systems and practices across the country.

How to Maintain Network Integrity in a Rapidly Changing Market

There are at least three things that providers can do now to invest in network integrity to achieve real benefits over the coming years:

1. Improve your digital front door and digital curb appeal

To welcome consumers and retain them, providers need a welcoming digital front door. Consumers should be able to access a practice and its providers through a variety of digital access points including search engines, maps, digital assistants and social media. Additionally, practices need to develop digital curb appeal online through a consistent brand experience that promotes the provider’s brand.

While digital front doors and curb appeal are often associated with customer acquisition, the rise of doctor shopping and switching have turned these components into core tenets of maintaining network integrity. Having poor digital curb appeal is a threat to any health system’s network integrity because loyalty is being replaced with rapid provider switching.

2. Syndicate provider profiles, location data and schedules across digital channels

While it’s clear that provider profiles need to be visible across digital access points, less literature exists on effective ways to achieve this. Fortunately, companies such as Yext syndicate provider data across digital access points. Solutions such as Yext allow for control over the brand experience, thereby promoting a health system’s brand and providers.

3. Referral management

It’s simple—broken referral processes cost the healthcare industry an estimated $150 billion each year. Therefore, referral management is a high impact piece of any network integrity initiative. While there are several ways to address referral management, including reducing lead times and sharing data across constituents, a comprehensive referral management solution should be in place to protect network integrity.

With referral management, patient-provider matching is an often overlooked component. By ensuring that patients are navigated to specialists with the right expertise, waste is reduced and the patient experience is enhanced.

Many factors including patient experience, referral management, digital front doors, patient-provider matching, patient access and patient engagement affect network integrity. At the end of the day, however, network integrity is about getting a few key things right: first, welcoming patients into your network at multiple access points; second, providing a positive experience; and third, making it convenient for consumers to return. In a rapidly evolving landscape, these core tenets can help protect a health system’s network integrity.

How to Improve the Curb Appeal of Your Practice

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You’ve likely heard of the term curb appeal. A widely used term in real estate, there’s even a television show on HGTV named after the phrase. Curb appeal is the general attractiveness of a house or other piece of property from the sidewalk to a prospective buyer. In other words, curb appeal is the impression a prospective buyer gets when viewing a property from a short distance.

Houses have curb appeal—why can’t healthcare practices?

Some might point out that not every healthcare practice or health system has a physical street curb or sidewalk parched directly in front. The reality is that prospective patients are  viewing practices constantly—though they are viewing with mobile devices, tablets and laptops. 

Real estate for healthcare practices: the digital front door

Healthcare practices have digital front doors. The digital front door is an online place where users can view, and enter, a health system or practice. Multiple sources already cite the importance of the digital front door. According to Modern Healthcare, “That digital front door is key to acquiring new patients and building the kind of brand awareness and loyalty that keeps them coming back.”

The term digital front door is slightly misleading because it implies one main opening or entrance to a practice. In reality, users are searching for care in a variety of places online. These places include search engines, maps, digital assistants and social media. Yext, a leading location data management company, has notably stated that a company’s website is not their digital front door. Health systems and practices therefore need to have multiple access points across digital channels to welcome prospective patients.

Extending the digital front door analogy

In the analogy of the digital front door, patients are already looking at the practice’s entrance and potentially choosing to enter. Digital curb appeal, then, is the overall attractiveness of the practice from a glance. These glances are online and can come from channels such as search engines, third party sites, display banners, maps and social media. Additionally, user experience and brand experience greatly affect the overall appeal of the practice in the eyes of prospective patients. This is the essence of digital curb appeal.

Why is digital curb appeal important?

Digital curb appeal is a fundamental part of any patient acquisition strategy. It encompasses visibility, access, user experience and more. Beyond a digital front door, which focuses on patient acquisition, curb appeal is developed using a mixture of user experience and branding. The results of strong digital curb appeal are increased brand awareness and a consistent flow of patients to your practice.

How to develop digital curb appeal

1. Drive traffic to your digital front door

Since the proliferation of digital media, there are a multitude of ways to efficiently drive traffic to your digital front door. These methods include search engine optimization, social media posting, paid search ads, display banners, video and native advertising. You should ideally employ search engine optimization, organic social media and at least one paid channel to deliver quality traffic to your digital front door.

2. Provide a consistent brand experience

Your users will most easily remember your practice if they have a consistent, memorable, positive brand experience. This can be achieved by ensuring that all brand visuals and messaging are consistent across digital touchpoints.

3. Differentiate with an innovative user experience

One way that your practice can stand out and “cut through the clutter” is with a differentiated user experience. There are two major ways to differentiate user experience: first, providing a seamless experience; and second, by providing a truly innovative experience. By enhancing your user experience with technologies including chatbots and digital assistants, you can transform user experience into a strategic differentiator.

Putting it all together: Digital Front Door + Branding + Differentiated User Experience = Curb Appeal

Building digital curb appeal is a broad initiative that involves an investment in branding and user experience as well as the development of a digital front door. With a great looking front door, a welcome mat, consistent style and curb appeal—prospective buyers will come knocking at your door.

Post-booking blues: How an OAS should promote your brand after each booking

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If you’re thinking about implementing an online appointment scheduling (OAS) solution – or switching your OAS partner – one of the questions you may have is, “Can an OAS help promote and protect my brand after a patient has booked an appointment?” We think that’s a great question, and we’re here to answer it. This is part two in our two-part series of using an OAS to protect and grow your brand. You can find part one here.

Fiction: An OAS has no impact on my brand once an appointment is booked. 

Fact: Remember in part one when we said that not all OAS solutions work the same way? Yeah, that’s the theme of this series, so we’re going to keep reminding you of that fun fact. At DocASAP, we feel that ongoing engagement with your patient is one of, if not the most, important aspects of online scheduling. Keeping your patients informed has a huge impact on brand perception, but you won’t get it from all OAS vendors. 

Think about it. We know ongoing engagement is positive from our own experience. No one likes to wonder if an appointment is actually confirmed or if the time you took off work for this appointment will be worth it. But we also have data to back it up. 

Using an OAS is actually proven to reduce the number of no shows and improve overall patient retention. Therefore, when looking at an OAS partner, consider one that offers these brand-supporting ongoing engagement features.  

  1. Notifications via email or text: This is a bit of a no-brainer, but it’s also important to allow the patient to be able to choose their preferred notification channel. When you interact with patients on their preferred devices, they are happier and say nice things on social networks about your brand.
  2. Ability to cancel or reschedule from email or text reminders: It’s common for patients to forget about an upcoming appointment. While reminders are helpful, patients often get these on-the-go. So why not let them cancel or reschedule directly from the text or email with just a few clicks? Having to call or log onto a website later often leads to no shows, but also makes it difficult for patients to interact which can be damaging for your brand. 
  3. Post-appointment care-driven reminders: With everything on our minds, patients don’t always think about preventative or post- care. However, a good OAS can remind patients of important actions that help them manage their health in an ongoing manner. Non-appointment related updates can help remind patients of the value of your brand, and help patients feel as if you are helping them stay on top of their health needs.
  4. Referral management: Telling a patient they need to see a different physician can be frustrating, especially if the patient also has to deal with booking another appointment. However, you can reduce frustration when your OAS has a built-in referral management solution that allows you to directly schedule an appointment online for a patient with the physician you’re referring to. This closed loop scheduling also keeps the patient within your network which is key to patient retention and brand loyalty.

There you have it. A good OAS shouldn’t drop engagement activities with patients after an appointment is booked. But some do. Pick the right one and see how much better your brand can be in the eyes of your patients. 

Is ‘Book and Hook’ real? How online appointment scheduling should work to promote your brand

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There’s been some chatter in online appointment scheduling (OAS) circles lately about “book and hook” – the perception that centralized booking channels slowly eat away at a health system’s or clinic’s brand to “steal” patients. So, we thought we’d sort out fact from fiction and talk about how we think a true OAS should work hand-in-hand with your brand. This is part one in our two-part series of using an OAS to protect and grow your brand. 

Fiction: All OAS solutions siphon your patients away and erode your healthcare brand. 

Fact: Not all OAS solutions work the same way - so providers should evaluate potential partners and make smart decisions. A good OAS solution should provide visitors with the information they want, based on their personal health care needs and facilitate an easy and fast booking – all while promoting and supporting the provider’s brand. To avoid a “book and hook” scenario, look for an OAS partner that offers advanced features that actually protect your brand. These brand-building features should include: 

  1. Private label branding: When an OAS partner redirects patients to their own portal to book, the experience should be completely private labeled for your health system. Bingo. Branding issue solved. Using single sign-on (SSO) with your own credentialing system (patient portal) also amplifies your brand. 
  2. Omni-channel presence: Once patients have a preferred doctor or specialty, they will search online for appointment information. Your OAS partner should be on all those channels as well (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.). This ensures that patients can book directly with you, regardless of their patient’s preferred channel. It actually creates a funnel directly to your brand.
  3. Intelligent patient-provider matching: An OAS should ask the same questions an appointment scheduler would ask, and in many cases, should be even smarter. For example, does Dr. Smith treat children? No. Then the first field requests the patient’s birthdate. It seems simple, but you’d be surprised at how some OAS solutions don’t take this level of detail into account. And a bad experience booking can easily damage your brand.
  4. Insurance verification: Patients often don’t know their insurance details. Your ideal OAS partner should only list the insurances accepted by each provider and automatically verify the insurance prior to the appointment. Unfortunately, some OAS solutions still require manual verification that has to be done after the appointment is made. Having to tell a patient that you don’t accept their insurance before (or even worse AFTER) an appointment is definitely a brand-killer. 

So there you go. A good OAS shouldn’t feel like it is collecting patients and serving them up to your competitors. But some do. Pick the right one and see how much better your brand can be in the eyes of your patients.