01 Jul 2021

Infobip: How digital communication is enhancing the patient journey

As we navigate a radically different way of living, the need to stay connected and informed while socially distanced has been paramount. This is why renewed focus has been placed on digitalisation in the healthcare sector, with government-funded schemes like NHS Test and Trace representing a widescale investment in instant, data-driven and personalised digital communication.

Against the backdrop of the pandemic, keeping patients and the public informed about COVID-19, and identifying where new cases develop, has helped stop the spread of the virus. But the usefulness of digital communication tools in the public sector reaches further; tools have helped ensure prescriptions can be delivered to people’s doorsteps, enabled people to book appointments via mobile apps and reduced the demand on call centers by offering additional channels where people can find the information they need.   

Using chatbots to combat misinformation 

The value of quick information from a trusted source cannot be underestimated. Since the beginning of the pandemic, people have constantly searched for updates on COVID-19, but many have found the internet and social media flooded with myths and misinformation. What’s more, bottlenecks can occur on websites slowing load times, while call centers struggle to cope with high volumes of inbound calls. This is why the public needs a fast and reliable channel to seek and receive critical information, right away. 

For several governments and health organisations, the answer has been implementing chatbots over WhatsApp.  

These chatbots, built by Infobip and WhatsApp, are easily accessible over a publicly available number. Contact is initiated by the user through entering a number in their contact list and sending “Hi”. This starts a dialogue with the WhatsApp chatbot, where users can choose from a list of topics depending on the information they are looking for. This includes the latest guidelines, contacts for local health providers, case numbers, testing site locations and FAQs. If further assistance is required, chatbots can transfer the conversation to an agent for detailed answers to more complex queries.  

Chatbots operate 24/7, so information is instantaneous. What’s more, WhatsApp only gives green badges to verified senders, so users can rest assured that the information is valid and safe.  

Chatbots like this have been used across the globe – from the UK to India – to keep the public informed over the course of the pandemic.  

The rise of the virtual waiting room 

When in-person contact is vastly reduced, digitalisation has enabled doctors and nurses to connect and communicate with patients remotely, without sacrificing a positive and easy patient experience. Spending time trying to call your GP, filling in lengthy forms with a pen and paper, or even sitting in a crowded waiting room ahead of your appointment, is no longer the laborious but unavoidable part of the patient journey. Healthcare can and should be as efficient as other industries, with the right technology in place.  

Therefore PatientComms, the UK's leading online automated patient communications provider, launched a Virtual Waiting Room solution for mobile patient messaging. By leveraging seamless integration with patient and practice management systems, this digital portal lets practitioners create and send health-related messages, reminders, recalls and alerts to patients, and collect post treatment feedback. 

New streamlined services like this help solve bottleneck challenges and reduce administration. For example, in a dentist’s office, medical histories can be automatically presented to the dentist when the patient registers online, so information is immediately available when the patient arrives in surgery. 

Out-of-hospital healthcare 

During the pandemic, out-of-hospital healthcare has been more important than ever. From a nurse visiting a patient to administer chemotherapy to vital medication being delivered to people in their homes. Digital communication tools can enhance this experience for patients, keeping them reassured and informed, while healthcare professionals can use them to quickly interact with their peers and patients at a time where in person interaction is still challenging. 

Like many integrated enterprises, Healthcare at Home, the UK’s leading provider of out-of-hospital care, had to quickly reposition its communications strategy to keep up with the pace of change over the last year. The company works with over 3.2 million patient contacts each year to provide clinical care in the home and, in tandem with the unprecedented pressure on the NHS, faced a significant increase in demand for its at-home services. The company turned to Infobip as a technology partner to help advance its SMS and TTS (text to speech) communications to keep patients and employees connected. This includes automated treatment/ appointment reminders, medicine delivery notifications, home medicine stock checks, patient feedback surveys, automated aftercare communications, social media customer service and employee wellbeing communications.  

For Healthcare at Home, embracing two-way digital messaging flows has enabled it to continue its brilliant work remotely, and ensure both patients and staff have the tools they need to communicate.  

Are digital tools here to stay? 

Although the pandemic has forced digitalisation out of necessity, it has marked a watershed moment for public healthcare providers; embracing automation brings bonuses in terms of shortened wait times, reduced administration and streamlined communications. All of which makes theirs and their customer’s lives easier. 

If you’re a public sector company looking to elevate digital communications, Infobip’s entire solutions portfolio, including Conversations, our contact centre solution, Moments, our customer engagement hub and Answers, our chatbot-building platform is available via the government’s G-Cloud 12 framework.  

This article was written by Nikhil Shoorji, Managing Director Europe, Infobip. Learn more about this author here.

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