How to Improve Patient Retention in Virtual Care

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Patient retention is a problem for much of healthcare

Virtual care systems, such as telemedicine, have a patient retention challenge as well. Remote care — much like remote work — requires motivation effective enough to overcome our tendency to quit.

Related: Patient-Centricity: Better Solutions For (and With) Patients

This challenge of people quitting is amplified within B2B health tools, like Conversa, because we must keep multiple parties engaged. Doctors, administrators, and patients are just some of the stakeholders B2B tech must delight.

Digital health technology depends on patients’ actions

From opening a daily meditation app to logging into different healthcare sites, the technology is dependent on the patient’s action (or inaction). When the patient is feeling good, there’s more of a drop-off.

  • Who the chat is coming from (do you trust this person?).
  • Is the topic of interest to the patient?

Improving patient engagement

Here are a few ways we observe virtual care companies, including Conversa, working to improve patient engagement:

1. They use language strategically

Not only do they use language strategically but they ask questions that are easy to answer.

2. They focus on the quality and effectiveness of content

Some companies are starting to shift their focus to the quality and effectiveness of the content.

-It aligns with patient autonomy

One way to approach this is to align what the bot says with a sense of patient autonomy. The bot speaks to the user in a way that acknowledges their competency in managing their care.

-It is relatable

Relatability is another important ingredient. It’s not surprising that patients open up to their doctors more if they feel understood. These are all tenets of Self Determination Theory, or SDT, which we embrace fully at Conversa.

-It is succinct

The other hurdle is that bots need to compete within an increasingly bombarded attention span. They need to make sure that every interaction is helpful. It also must be brief — 150 words or less.

Related: Re-Shaping Patient Engagement in a Multi-cultural World

As we refine the bots based on this real-time data, we’ve seen results. 97% of Conversa chat sessions are rated as helpful. This is true across regions and uses cases as different as lifestyle coaching, post-discharge after a hospital, before or after surgery, or in the management of a chronic condition.

3. They make access easier

The more advanced virtual care technology becomes, the easier it is to lower barriers to adoption and retention. It lets us “meet people where they are.”

4. They build in next-level personalization

AI and data analytics have made more refined personalization possible at scale. However, it is also important to personalize the right way. (Hint: starting an email with the person’s first name is not enough!).

  • where they are in terms of their condition(s)
  • their diagnosis
  • comorbidities
  • medications

-A taxonomy-driven profiling system

We use a taxonomy-driven profiling system to look in real time at patterns of clinical and non-clinical patient profile characteristics. This allows us to deliver exactly the right chat experience.

-Personalized timing

When the bots will initiate a chat, is a very influential aspect of sustained engagement. It requires personalized timing.

-Anticipating need

Another strategy we use is to anticipate everything that the person we’re writing for may encounter at different points in their journey and in different circumstances.

5. They understand the importance of patient trust

Patient trust is becoming a bigger area of focus when it comes to enhancing retention. Users need to be able to trust the chatbot the way they trust their doctors.

6. They integrate with other health tools

Integration with other health tools is important. Virtual care companies realize that if they can easily weave their functionalities with tools like Fitbits and Apple watches, the chances of keeping that patient engaged are higher.

The bottom line

To be successful in achieving meaningful patient and provider retention, virtual care and chatbot companies cannot just throw new technology at the same old problems.

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The Doctor Weighs In

The Doctor Weighs In

Dr. Patricia Salber and friends weigh in on leading news in health and healthcare