What Patients Really Think About Secure Messaging, Part 1: What They Love

Stay tuned for part 2 next week; What patients don’t like about secure messaging and how to make improvements.

Secure messaging is transforming the way patients communicate with physicians. For healthcare providers, secure messaging offers huge time-saving capabilities, as well as the ability to drastically improve patient satisfaction and overall patient health outcomes. We can’t leave patients out of the conversation, though. It’s vital to understand how our patients feel about secure messaging in order to know how to best introduce a secure messaging system in our practice.

As with any system, there are both pros and cons. It’s important to understand both what your patients love about secure messaging, as well as what they don’t like. So, in our two-part series, we’ll be sharing both the good and the bad. First, let’s dive into the aspects of secure messaging that patients find most beneficial.

 

What do patients love about secure messaging?

 

It saves them time.

Secure messaging doesn’t just save your practice a ton of time. It saves your patients time, too. Many patients are accustomed to long wait-times and having to wait on hold on the phone. With schedules busier than ever before, though, patients are looking for any time-savings they get.

One study, which evaluated veteran’s experience with a secure messaging tool, said that the patients “highlighted that secure messaging saved them time and resources by providing them 24/7 access to their primary care team.” The study participants also noted that with the secure messaging tool, they avoided the “frustration of spending hours on the phone or driving long distances” to accomplish tasks like making appointments, getting referrals, and having prescriptions filled.

Another study by Kaiser Permanente found that among patients who have emailed their healthcare provider, “42 percent reported that it reduced phone contacts and 36 percent said it reduced in-person visits”. With secure messaging, patients are now able to ask their healthcare providers questions at any time, not just during an appointment. It saves the patient time by not having to schedule an appointment or call in and wait on hold. It also saves your practice time and greatly reduces your call volume. It’s a win-win.

 

It provides them with the convenience they want.

Time is money, and so is convenience. Your patients are already busy enough, and they want to be able to conveniently contact you when needed. For patients in this study, secure messaging was an excellent alternative to having to call the hospital, and it also allowed them to communicate with their primary care team “at their convenience (i.e., late at night)”.

Secure messaging provides patients convenience with 24-hour access to communicating with their healthcare team. Patients reported that this allowed them to communicate effectively with their primary care team when it was most convenient for them. For many patients, they’re working during normal office hours. So, it’s difficult to call and get in touch with their physician during those hours. Secure messaging, however, gives them the flexibility and convenience to take charge of their health care at any time.

Patients also said they appreciated the “ability to ask questions in between visits,” as well as the convenience “of requesting medication and referrals online”. Secure messaging can improve patient engagement, as well. Once a patient signs up for secure messaging, their engagement rate is higher than normal due to the convenience, and it makes it easier for them to stay active in their communication. Our patients are just as busy as we are. The convenience of secure messaging not only saves them time, but can also help improve their health outcomes. 

 

It makes it easier to communicate, and there’s less pressure.

When there’s not the pressure of time or urgency, patients feel more comfortable talking about their health. It can feel overwhelming trying to remember everything you want to ask your doctor in a half-hour long appointment or trying to remember everything your doctor is telling you. With secure-messaging, the pressure is off.

Patients said that secure messaging “afforded them the ability and confidence to draft a question to their provider in their own time and without the pressure of having to relay the same question over the phone or in person.” They also noted that it was helpful to have a written record of the conversation. While some healthcare direction and lingo can feel overwhelming for patients, this study reported that patients had “no problems understanding secure message responses from primary care team members.”

 

It gives them direct access to their physician.

Unlike a phone call during the middle of the day, secure-messaging gives patients direct access to their physician and primary care team. With increased consumerization of healthcare, patients are looking for customized care. They want to know who they’re speaking with and they want access to their physician, even outside of normal office visits. Patients appreciate direct communication with providers and secure-messaging offers just that.

 

We recently announced the release of our new secure chat product. If you’d like to find out more about how you can use secure messaging to enhance your patient experience and save time, contact us today.

 

Tashfeen Ekram, MD, is a radiologist, self-taught coder, healthcare innovator and Co-Founder of Luma Health. Contact him on Twitter at @tashfeenekramMD.

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