Beyond making practices more efficient and reducing administrative costs, offering new options for making payments and scheduling appointments may be the key for medical practices to attract new patients and keep them satisfied, according to a survey released at the 2017 Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) conference.

Conducted by cloud-based software company CareCloud, the survey collected responses from more than 1,100 patients. In general, the results indicated how the patients view their experience away from exam rooms and office visits has a “significant impact” on whether they’ll seek out care at a practice or switch to a new provider.

“People want to have the same kind of technology in the doctor’s office that they are using to manage everything else in their lives, whether it’s using an app to book a dinner reservation, check-in for a flight from their phone or manage their finances,” CareCloud CEO Ken Comée, said in a statement. “Physicians want to give their patients this kind of automated, digital experience, but have been challenged with software that’s payer-centric not patient-centric.”

When asked about experiences or options which would make them switch physicians, a minority of respondents pointed to several possibilities:

  • 34 percent said they would switch practices in order to be able to pay their bills online.
  • 30 percent said the ability to set up payment plans would lead them to switch.
  • 21 percent said they’d switch if they were able to use mobile devices to schedule appointments.

Mobile scheduling was most important to millennials, with 41 percent of respondents aged 18 to 35 saying its availability could lead them to switch doctors. The younger age group has generally been more open to ditch a practice if better access to online tools is offered elsewhere, as shown in the 2016 edition of the survey, when 40 percent of millennial respondents said online access to patient reports and prescription refill requests would make them switch providers.

The waiting room experience can also lead to patients changing doctors, as 31 percent of respondents said they’d consider going to another practice if the wait times will be shorter.

In an era where more of the cost of care is being shifted onto patients, the survey found evidence practices may need to reassess their point-of-service payment discussions. Of patients who had an outstanding balance, only 19 percent said they were asked to pay during their office visit.

Published in HealthExec.

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