As patients are becoming more actively engaged with their healthcare, it’s essential that optometry offices prioritize a high-touch patient experience without having to expend massive resources.
This is where patient engagement software comes in. By facilitating patient communication and putting them in the driver’s seat, you can increase patient participation in managing their eye health, resulting in better outcomes and lower costs – for your medical practice and your patients.
However, there are a lot of patient relationship management solutions out there, and it can be challenging to narrow down the vast array of choices. In this article, we will share the must-have features to look for when comparing patient engagement tools.
What is Patient Engagement Software?
Many optometry practice managers associate patient engagement software with automated appointment reminders, but a true patient engagement platform does much more.
In short, patient engagement software elevates the patient experience by automating tasks that are normally done by full-time office staff. Automation helps free up your staff’s time to perform other revenue-generating and patient engagement tasks that require a personal touch and increase overall patient satisfaction.
Depending on your patient engagement solution, the following activities could potentially be fully or partially automated:
- Automated appointment reminders
- Appointment scheduling
- Routine patient communication
- Sending forms to new patients and existing patients
- Medical billing
- Sharing electronic medical records
- Distributing mass and segmented updates about your optometry practice
- Remote patient monitoring for at-home and self-administered care
- Automated review requests
- Patient education
- Email marketing broadcasts
In many instances, patient engagement technology will also provide patients with a patient portal that they can access to communicate with their healthcare provider and access their patient data.
When patients are able to participate more fully in their healthcare, they report higher levels of satisfaction with their care. They also exhibit more realistic expectations, higher compliance with treatments and recommendations, and better health outcomes.
Ideally, the patient engagement software you select will integrate with your existing practice management software and medical billing software, like NextGen Healthcare, for example.
Why is Patient Engagement Important for Optometry?
As of 2022, there were 35,777 optometrists in the United States, which means that your patients have many options in choosing an eye care provider. As a result, optometrists have to be relentless regarding patient satisfaction. If a patient feels neglected, receives subpar service, or communication falls through the cracks, they can quickly leave and find a new practice.
Patient engagement apps are a critical piece of the technology puzzle that enable patient engagement to happen in a way that makes your patients feel valued. Four of the five key drivers of a positive patient experience can all be attributed to the use of patient engagement tools. They are:
- Setting expectations: Whether a patient has a specific eye condition they’re seeking to resolve, or they’re looking for an optometry office that makes them feel comfortable, a patient engagement platform can help set the tone for office visits and your team’s communication style.
- Proactive communication: No one likes to feel like they’re being left in the dark or they can’t reach their health provider. Using optometry software for patient engagement can help with everyday tasks, from appointment scheduling and sending reminders for upcoming appointments to providing a patient portal for education and individual communication.
- Patient control: Integrating practice management software with a patient engagement system adds transparency and control that legacy systems don’t allow. Patients can see their electronic health records, payment history, and other data by having access to a patient portal. This tool is also helpful for families, where multiple people from the same household are patients of the same optometry office.
- Quality time with the doctor and staff: When routine tasks like sending an appointment reminder or following up on a bill are automated, optometry offices have more time to spend focusing on patient care.
If patient satisfaction falls by the wayside, your practice will inevitably suffer. The result can be less revenue, poor patient retention, and negative reviews. These negative effects can spiral, creating a hole that can be difficult to dig out of without the right tools. Fortunately, optometry offices that implement practice management software that either encompasses or integrates with engagement capabilities can gain benefits that come with rising levels of satisfaction.
Notable Features of a Patient Engagement Software
The right patient engagement software can be a game-changer for any healthcare organization, including optometry offices.
With this optometry software, you now have the ability to connect with patients in new ways and at different touchpoints in their eye health journey. From pre-appointment first visits to reactivation, patient engagement software is designed to enhance the overall quality of patient care.
Though each patient engagement platform is different, systems like Weave provide the following features:
Everyone is busy these days, and scheduling optometry appointments the traditional way can result in endless games of phone tag and compromised patient care. Patient engagement platforms typically include a robust set of online scheduling features that give patients the power to:
- Schedule appointments online 24/7
- Change their appointments without having to speak to a live human
- Receive automated appointment confirmations and reminders
- Ask questions about an upcoming appointment via text
- Receive custom responses from their healthcare provider
Online scheduling isn’t just convenient for your patients; it’s also a powerful tool for your staff and your bottom line. For example, Weave’s online scheduling tool helps you keep a fuller schedule by reducing no-shows, which cost the healthcare industry $150 billion annually.
Phones and Texting
85% of Americans have smartphones, and being able to engage with patients via this platform is a big win for the patient experience. When phone capabilities are added to patient engagement software, it results in a whole new way of communicating with callers.
For example, when a patient calls an optometry office that has a system like Weave, your staff will immediately see the patient records on their screen. They’ll see information such as:
- The name of the caller
- Relevant profile information
- Appointment history
- Upcoming appointments
- Overdue balances
- Tasks the patient needs to complete
- Special notes
Texting is another powerful practice management tool. Here, you and your patients can engage in two-way texting, making your office immediately responsive to questions and issues. Instead of old-fashioned reminder cards and voicemails that never get listened to, your staff can immediately engage with patients via text.
It’s rare to find a patient engagement platform that also offers powerful marketing tools, but Weave delivers in spades.
Emails can be used to onboard new patients, reactivate existing patients, solicit referrals, and promote new services. Weave, for example, provides professional, pre-designed email templates that you can use right out of the box!
As an added bonus, when you combine email marketing with your patient engagement system, all of the data from your email campaigns can be accessed in one place!
Online Review Management
Reviews can be a significant success driver, especially in the field of optometry. 92% of customers check online reviews when considering where to spend their hard-earned dollars. The hurdle, however, is collecting positive five-star reviews that drive patients to your practice.
Systems like Weave automate the review generation process. You can even prioritize different channels, depending on where you want to collect more reviews. For example, you can direct patients to leave a review on Facebook or Google.
If you prefer not to automate the review process and maintain a more personal touch, you can instead request a review from a patient as they are leaving your practice after an appointment. If they are open to leaving a review, send a simple text that contains a link to your preferred review platform. This allows the patient to write a review at a time that is most convenient for them.
Just as important as collecting reviews is monitoring them in order to protect your reputation. Weave also includes a notification service that alerts you whenever someone writes a negative review. By having this information at your fingertips, you can address complaints early and demonstrate to your patients that you care about their experience.
All of these tools are helpful, but the real magic comes in when you have data and analytics to measure the success of your efforts. Analytics can also help you identify potential problems before they cost your optometry office significant dollars.
For example, at a glance Weave Analytics gives you the following insights:
- An overview of the overall health of your practice
- Patients who have not been to your office recently or are not following through with recommended care plans
- Activity levels by task and employee
- Peak times for phone calls and appointments
- Email marketing statistics
- Other patient statistics
The right patient engagement solution can elevate the patient experience and be a significant boon for your optometry office. Weave is an all-in-one communication platform designed to optimize patient interactions and attract more new patients to your practice. To see Weave in action, schedule a demo today.