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It’s a question that’s been asked for years: What do patients really want from their doctor?

In today’s highly connected society, information, food, consumer electronics and repair services are almost instantaneously available, with everything just a click, swipe or tap away.

Above all else, people seek happiness. The old saying is true: if you have your health, you really do have everything. Leveraging technological innovation can help your patients reach a higher state of wellness and contentedness.

Here are three things that the modern patient wants from their doctor, as well as some simple steps you can take to make to not just meet, but exceed, the growing demands of patients:

Ease of use

When it comes to choosing a general practice physician, Australians are spoilt for choice. The number of practices in the country totals approximately 7,035, based on the most recent figures available from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. Additionally, practices are obtaining more GPs, with 60% of doctors working for one with at least six physicians, up from 47% in 2008.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with selection, but the size of the Australian healthcare system has proven difficult for Australians to navigate, with the RACGP reporting nearly two-thirds of respondents struggling to find the information they need.

Perhaps the best way to understand what your patients find confusing about the healthcare system is by asking them directly. For example, if they’re confused about how to quickly schedule appointments, talk about the system that your office uses or consider optimising it if you haven’t done so already. According to our 2018 GP Industry Insights report, 75% of practices that have leveraged technology to make navigation easier for patients say that it’s improved the quality of care. Additionally, 81% of patients attest to the fact that technology and communication have led to their feeling more satisfied with the provider-patient relationship.

stethoscope

Above: Digital technology can help break down some of the patient/provider communication barriers.

They also appreciate practices with websites that are mobile-optimised. This isn’t too much of a surprise, given that 90% of Australians own a smartphone, based on calculations from Deloitte.

High availability

Family responsibilities. Work tasks. Appointments. Kids’ rugby games. Exercise. Grocery shopping. Laundry. Bills … These are just a few of the things that people cram into their busy schedules. GPs who are difficult to reach or have appointments confined to only certain windows can compound these scheduling issues. Patients expect their doctor to be reachable and available, resulting in a strong patient preference for the ability to make appointment bookings outside traditional business hours.

A patient with arms folded

Above: Patients would prefer the ability to book health care outside of working hours.

In short, the easier you can make it for your patients to reach out – whether it’s to ask questions, schedule an appointment or check their lab results – the happier they’re likely to be, which can increase loyalty. For the most part, GPs are doing pretty well in this regard. Just 18% of respondents in 2016-17 polling conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics expressed displeasure with how long it took to see their doctor after scheduling an appointment. That’s down from 23% who indicated as much in a 2013-14 survey. 

Appointment reminders

Given the hectic nature of society nowadays, it’s natural to forget about scheduled visits – even the important ones, for which the doctors certainly applies. Patients like reminders so they don’t lose track of what’s on their agenda for the day or week. More than 90% of respondents in the aforementioned HealthEngine study pointed to appointment reminders as one of the most appealing aspects of digital communications with their physician’s office. Roughly the same percentage also cited notifications about delays being nice to have.

A patient using their smart watch

Above: Digital reminders can be an effective form of communication with patients.

For the most part, healthcare providers recognise what their patients want and are taking measures to satisfy their demands. This has led to many providers embracing digital communication technology.

However, practices could be doing more to make communication, engagement and access even easier. Patients still report difficulties accessing healthcare when they need it, even with digital on the rise. As for why, an inability to get an appointment, cost and location were the most common reasons given.

Let’s face it: Visiting the doctor isn’t something that the average person wants to do when they have so many other things on their agenda. Yet they understand the importance of their health and that it takes effort to improve themselves physically. They expect you to go above and beyond the call of duty to make their visit as seamless and as convenient as possible. They won’t expect anything less.

Whether you’re looking to grow your practice, optimise booking or engage patients, HealthEngine can help your practice reach its full potential.

Please contact us to arrange a free demo.

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