Jun. 04, 2015

Most trade shows we attend are geared towards the managers, operations and IT personnel in a healthcare organization, the American Urology Association (AUA) conference was a refreshing mix of those titles along with the physicians themselves. I learned so much chatting with them about their businesses, their specialty and the good old days of conferences and giveaways, which one time included Terry Bradshaw, American football quarterback throwing football passes across the conference room floor!

One of the common themes I heard over and over again from these doctors was that they firmly believed that their older patients (65+) do not want automated communications like email, voice calls and texts. I was told that these patients become irritated by robotic sounding voices, long pauses before the message starts and that frankly, most of them do not text or email.

I asked this Urologist (he himself who looked to be a bit over 60), to define the demographic of a “senior patient.  I wondered if he had an age cut-off like movie theaters do or did he just make an assumption.  He explained, “well I can get the senior discount on my McDonald’s coffee, but I don’t consider people my age to be senior… I’d say 70 or older is what I consider senior.” I then asked him, do you text and email? And he said, “yes my son forced me to text and I have to email for work.”

Through my vague questioning, I helped the doctor realize that no longer can we lump age groups into such large baskets.  Although the baby boomers are entering the “senior discount” bracket, they ARE quite technologically savvy and not as unplugged as some consider them to be. In fact, 64% of American adults (50-64) have a smartphone of some kind.*

To his point, only about 27% of North Americans 65 and older have a smartphone. However, 57% of Americans 65 years or older are using the internet regularly.  Now, the older demographic may not be checking their Instagram on the regular, but they are in fact sending emails and the occasional text (92% of smartphone users over the age of 50 send texts).*  What am I getting at? Dr. Urologist is correct in saying that older patients are less likely to quickly adapt to automated patient communications.

But it has less to do with the fact that they are not using text and emails and more to do with the fact that many automated communications solutions are not built to maximize responses and satisfaction no matter the patient demographic by being patient friendly or having live voice recordings and customizable options.

Patient communication technologies shouldn’t leave “the wiser” behind. A friendly automated patient communication tool should use real voice recordings that include the patient’s’ name at the beginning of the call. It should be intelligent enough to recognize if a real person or a voicemail picks up the call and it should start playing the appropriate message immediately. It should also always offer the patient the option to bridge back to the office or an after-hours call center if they have any questions or simply prefer to speak to a live human being.

It can be said that the opposite of all of this is true about younger patients. Research shows that 100% of 18 to 29-year-olds use their smartphones to text, but only 93% use them to make voice calls. This means that this demographic, may not want that voice call whether it a recording or a live person, they simply want to be texted.  The right automated patient communication tool should allow you to treat and serve ALL your patients according to their preference.

By giving our patients the option to choose their preferred method of contact, PatientPrompt is able to receive a 90% response rate from it’s automated reminders. In addition, our real voice calls are designed to have the highest answer and confirmation rates in the industry, no matter who your patients are.

Even though some patients in the waiting room may have paid half the price for their morning coffee compared to the young chap sitting next to them, the senior discount benefactor just may have his/her nose buried in their very own smartphone.

Learn more about how PatientPrompt can positively impact patients who are using automated appointment reminders.

*All smartphone and internet usage facts are based on the PewResearchCenter’s April 1, 2015 report, U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015.