Strict social distancing rules have seen healthcare providers and their customers struggling to stay connected — here's how WhatsApp can help bring them back together.
From delayed treatments and phone-only consultations, medical providers have been forced to adapt their service offerings to ensure customers are kept as safe as possible during the pandemic. This approach has also presented new challenges for CX strategies that were created pre-COVID.
It's why healthcare providers are looking for new and innovative methods for delivering a standard of care and experience that customers want during these unprecedented times, all while making CX processes more manageable and efficient. Forward-thinking healthcare providers, clinics and hospitals are now investing in a new digital customer service channel to address the issue, one that is already used by many of their customers on a daily basis: Messaging platforms, specifically the world's number one chat app, WhatsApp.
The leading messaging platform in 105 countries, the channel offers healthcare providers an instant, secure and flexible channel to help and support their customers no matter where they are on their medical journey, in turn improving patient communications and engagement.
From diagnosis to treatment: How WhatsApp serves the entire journey
The messaging platform can service customers at key stages throughout a typical patient journey:
Most doctor appointments are currently phone-based because of social distancing rules. This is inevitably leading to some customers either waiting in phone queues to book an appointment or worst still, being greeted by a busy line.
That's a CX disaster for medical providers as such inefficient services not only frustrate customers but potentially upset those who may be desperate to talk to a professional. WhatsApp enables providers to sidestep such issues entirely, their customers able to send an appointment request via the app that a doctor or booking department can respond to in moments.
From appointment reminders to virtual assistant
If further investigation is required after a doctor's appointment — think blood tests or x-rays — providers can send date details via WhatsApp, deliver reminder notifications in the days leading up to the appointment, and allow customers to change or cancel appointments at speed. And that latter benefit is a big deal: According to health tech company, SCI Solutions, 77% of patients state the ability to book, change or cancel an appointment is important to them.
On the day itself, the messaging platform can also 'accompany' the customer, acting as a virtual assistant. For instance, to help customers navigate often confusing hospital layouts, simple maps with directions can be sent once the customer arrives, plus the app can provide other useful updates including current waiting times, safety reminders, and more.
After the appointment, quick fire surveys can be sent that allow customers to give immediate feedback on their experience. These insights can help healthcare providers identify potential issues and bottlenecks in the delivery of their services — or highlight positive outcomes that can be used in, say, a provider's social media feeds. Combined, such a wealth of functionality reduces the burden on the provider while offering friction-free CX on what may well be a very anxious day for the customer.
Case Study: How WhatsApp supports CX in healthcare appointment journeys
Sarah has been sent a dermatologist appointment because of a recurring rash on her body.
- Sarah requests that the hospital appointment time be changed.
- The service provider confirms the appointment's new time.
- Sarah receives a reminder notification the day before her appointment.
- The service provider sends a hospital map and current waiting times on the day.
- Sarah has her appointment with the consultant who carries out tests.
- The service provider sends test results to Sarah after the appointment with a diagnosis.
- Sarah uses her prescription to treat her condition.
- The service provider books a follow-up appointment to check on treatment progress.
- Sarah confirms the new appointment, which reveals the treatment has been successful.
Delivering test results at speed
Post-consultation and clinics can send a notification that lab results are ready for pickup or send the results to the patient directly via WhatsApp, negating the need for mail or phone calls while offering further convenience for the customer. It's an approach that tyntec customer MedTel is already successfully leveraging, able to deliver laboratory results direct to patients in PDF form as soon as they become available.
Offering peace of mind
While messaging is ideal for CX optimization, its benefits are meaningless to customers if they believe their sensitive medical information is not fully protected. To allay fears, WhatsApp features two-factor authentication and end-to-end encryption plus official business verification so customers always know they are talking to their actual healthcare provider, not a scammer. By partnering with an official WhatsApp solution provider like tyntec, providers can also be reassured that the use and storage of any customer data is fully compliant with GDPR's strict rules.
Supporting healthcare provider systems
The WhatsApp platform offers specific advantages for providers and their existing IT solutions as well. For instance, by using tyntec's Conversations API in conjunction with third-party tools, all data from WhatsApp-based chats with customers can be fed back into the healthcare provider's database.
This ensures a medical practitioner continues working with the latest patient information such as existing medications, recent checkup details, and more. WhatsApp's raft of analytics functionality also allows healthcare providers to identify potential opportunities for business growth, and critically, to continue evolving services based on emerging customer needs and pain points.
WhatsApp: Preparing healthcare CX for the post-COVID digital era
To aid the healthcare sector manage the logistics of a roll out, official WhatApp solution providers including tyntec can design, create and implement the channel, fully integrating the messaging platform with existing CX infrastructures. tyntec also offers its Conversations Inbox service that allows healthcare providers to manage multiple channels including WhatsApp, SMS and more via one centralized hub.
Such ease of roll out and powerful management features can only be good news as Forrester research shows that optimizing CX must now be made a priority. Pre-COVID and the healthcare industry was slow to embrace CX and digital transformation, all while patient demand increased for both.
By taking steps now to bridge this gap, the sector can ensure that when the pandemic does finally subside, they are ready to face a new reality: That the shift into the online space made by consumers during the pandemic is here to stay. Forrester predicts that digital customer service interactions will increase by 40%, and in its own words, "that genie ain't going back in the bottle."