COVID-19

Using WhatsApp to facilitate patient communication in private healthcare

By Jean Shin, Director Strategy and Content, tyntec

From delayed treatments and phone-only consultations, medical providers have been forced to adapt their service offerings to ensure patients are kept as safe as possible during the pandemic. This approach has also presented new challenges for patient experience strategies created pre-COVID.

Forward-thinking healthcare providers – clinics, and hospitals are investing in a new digital patient service channel to address the issue – one that is already used by many of their patients daily – messaging platforms, specifically the world’s number one chat app, WhatsApp.

WhatsApp offers healthcare providers an instant, secure and flexible channel to help and support their patients no matter where they are on their treatment journey while improving communications and engagement.

From scheduling to timely information with WhatsApp

Here is how private messaging can service patients at critical stages throughout a typical patient journey:

1. Facilitate booking appointments

Most doctor appointments are currently phone-based, more so with social distancing rules. This inevitably leads most patients to wait in phone queues to book an appointment or, even worse, receive a busy signal.

That’s a patient experience disaster for medical providers as such inefficient services not only frustrate patients but potentially upset those who may be desperate to talk to a professional. WhatsApp enables providers to sidestep such issues entirely. Their patients can send an appointment request via the app that a doctor or booking department can respond to in moments. And administrators can handle multiple appointment requests simultaneously and efficiently.

2. Flexible scheduling and feedback

With WhatsApp, healthcare providers can send appointment details via WhatsApp, deliver reminder notifications in the days leading up to the appointment, and allow patients to change or cancel appointments in the app easily.
And that latter benefit is essential as 77% of patients state the ability to book, change, or cancel an appointment is one of their top priorities (Source: Accenture).

Healthcare providers can use the full power of the messaging application after scheduling an appointment by sharing a list of to-dos before and on the day of the appointment with the patient.

Moreover, on the day of the appointment, the messaging application can also ‘accompany’ the patient, acting as a virtual assistant. For instance, to help patients navigate often confusing hospital layouts, simple maps with directions can be sent by the provider using WhatsApp templates. The app can also provide other useful updates, including current waiting times and safety reminders.

After the appointment, short surveys can be sent in the app to encourage patients to give immediate feedback on their experience. Such a wealth of functionality reduces the health provider’s burden while offering friction-free CX on what may well be a very anxious day for the patient.

3.  Deliver test results

Post-consultation and clinics can send a notification that lab results are ready for pick up or send the results to the patient directly via WhatsApp, negating the need for mail or phone calls while offering further convenience for the patient.
It’s an approach that health provider MedTel is already successfully leveraging to deliver laboratory results directly to patients in PDF form as soon as they become available.

4. Offer security and peace of mind

While messaging is ideal for a great patient experience, its benefits are meaningless to patients if they believe their sensitive medical information is not fully protected. WhatsApp features two-factor authentication and end-to-end encryption plus official business verification, so patients always know they are talking to their actual healthcare provider and not a scammer. Additionally, by partnering with an authorized WhatsApp Business solution provider like tyntec, providers can be reassured that the use and storage of any patient data are fully compliant with GDPR’s strict rules.

5.  Keep data on your knowledge base

The WhatsApp platform offers specific advantages for providers and their existing IT solutions. By integrating tyntec’s simple API with their data source/knowledge base, they can keep all conversations with patients and their profiles so that the medical team can have access to the communications and inform their treatments accordingly.
This ensures a medical practitioner continues to work with the latest patient information such as medication history and recent doctor appointments. WhatsApp’s analytics functionality raft also allows healthcare providers to identify potential business growth opportunities and, critically, to continue evolving services based on emerging patient needs and pain points.

Preparing healthcare patient service for the future

To aid the healthcare sector manage the logistics of a rollout, official WhatApp solution providers can design, create, and implement the channel, fully integrating the messaging platform with existing CX infrastructures. At tyntec, we offer a Support Inbox service that allows healthcare providers to manage multiple channels, including WhatsApp, SMS, and more, via one centralized hub.

Pre-COVID, the healthcare industry was slow to embrace CX and digital transformation, all while patient demand increased for both.

By taking steps to bridge this gap, this sector can ensure that when the pandemic does finally subside, they are ready to face a new reality – the shift into the online space made by consumers during the pandemic is here to stay. Having the digital experience under control will help healthcare address the demand and offer a seamless patient experience.

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COVID-19NewsTECHNOLOGYTELEHEALTH

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