Friday, May 14 | Thought Leadership

Contactless Consumer Engagement: Meeting the New Expectation

By Andy Heeren, Senior Director of Public Health

Over the past year our world has changed in many ways, especially within the world of healthcare. Virtual care options, quarantine restrictions, rapid testing and social distancing all became a common part of our new vocabulary. As we begin to transition into a post-COVID world through vaccination rollouts, there is one “new normal” that is likely to stick: a shift in consumer engagement and expectation.

Individuals have become more engaged with their health, and 2020 taught us the importance of convenient, no-contact scheduling solutions between consumer and provider. Individuals now have the expectation of being able to access, schedule and edit appointments while on the go. Nowhere did this become truer than with mass vaccination events and high-volume appointment scheduling in light of COVID-19.

In addition to consumer expectation, automated and contactless scheduling tools are essential for staff efficiency and satisfaction, especially during a mass vaccination or widespread scheduling event such as those still occurring across the country today. Leveraging manual processes when scheduling appointments is not only tedious for staff but takes their time and attention away from other important responsibilities.

Whether handling day-to-day scheduling or volumes like COVID-19 vaccination scheduling, public health organizations don’t have the time or bandwidth to extensively train their staff on operating new scheduling technologies. They need tools that are simple, intuitive and require minimal training – allowing staff to jump right in as they begin to improve their workflows.

We often talk a lot about provider efficiencies, which is widely important in nearly all seams of healthcare. But in this context, we should also consider office and operational staff gains in efficiency. Staff productivity and time is essential during events like a mass vaccination effort. Similar to many cities across the country, Kansas City continues to be all-hands-on-deck, pulling individuals out of their day jobs multiple days a week to help administer vaccinations to their respective communities. If scheduling were to be done manually, facilitating these high-volume distributions becomes impractical without technology.

Appointment scheduling not only needs to be contactless, but as automated, efficient and consumer oriented as possible. This helps individuals receive services quickly and prevents staff from manually keying in patient information or gathering consent. When individuals can pick, book and confirm their own appointment time, they are more likely to show up. It is reported that 35% of online appointments are booked outside of typical business hours (8 a.m. – 5 p.m.), proving that convenience, control and flexibility helps boost consumer engagement.

Convenient scheduling options lead to more services being delivered. This will be critical as booster shots become necessary, or even for other vaccination efforts such as back-to-school, Chickenpox, or seasonal flu.

While scheduling solutions are not new to the industry, access to contactless, online approaches is now the consumer expectation moving forward. Does your public health agency have the necessary technology in place to meet this demand?

Whether you’re currently leveraging an automated scheduling solution or are looking to incorporate one moving forward, some features to look for within this technology include:

  • Mobile-friendly and cloud-hosted
  • Self-service capabilities for both the consumer and staff
  • Integration of person and schedule information within your existing EHR or care record
  • Convenient text or email appointment reminders
  • Capture of important information including insurance and consent
  • Incorporating consumer questions to help prioritize their scheduling options
  • Secure and enabling HIPAA-compliance

Taking the pressure off staff while better engaging people now sets you up for continued success. If we’ve learned anything this past year, having effective technology in place helps to keep focus in the right place: the people within your community.

 

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Andy Heeren · Senior Director of Public Health

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