From my experiences scouring the globe for tech trends and how they apply to the health industry, I want to share with you the top 5 digital tech trends that health professionals need to be looking out for in 2017.
1) Virtual and Augmented Reality
Virtual reality is conveyed within a digital headset, where everything that you see is manufactured. Augmented reality is where you look through a gadget and can still see the real environment around you, but the gadget helps you to see additional things. Pokemon Go is a classic example of this.
In the health space we are starting to see a lot of development in rehab programs, exercise programs and training programs using virtual and augmented reality to ‘gamify’ recovery. It’s certainly worth looking out for the trends, trialing out new products and seeing if there are any that you feel may be useful for your patients. Virtual and augmented reality can help your patients to be more motivated and to have more fun with their recovery.
2) Online Appointment Booking
Online appointment bookings are becoming the norm in the beauty and spa industries. The mainstream health industry has been a little bit slower to take this up. More and more consumers are demanding online appointment booking, as it’s a lot more convenient for them. Fortunately, it is much more convenient for the business owner too, once set up correctly.
If it comes to the point where two competing clinics are very similar in other ways, for example they treat similar conditions and have similar types of websites, but one has online appointment booking and one doesn’t, the online appointment booking is increasingly going to determine the clinic that consumers go with.
Look into your existing practice management software to see if you can activate this functionality. There may be teething problems to start with. That is all part of adopting a new technology. But then there is going to be less time drag on your reception staff and a competitive edge for your patients.
3) Facebook Business Enquiry Feature
Most of us are dabbling in social media by now. We know that it’s where our patients hang out. But the latest trend is that consumers are increasingly demanding timely responses to enquiries through Facebook business pages. Your response rate and percentage is now listed on your business page – consumers are now judging the quality of businesses on that. Take the time to investigate this feature and how it works. You can set up an auto response to send when you are not available, and can create templates of standard responses to streamline the process. Ensure the right push notifications are set up, so that you never miss a message from a potential new patient again.
4) Smartphone Rehab Prescription
How do you currently issue programs, training and advice to your patients? If your answer didn’t include the word app, then you are missing a massive opportunity to wow your patients.
The push to mobile gadgets continues to gain momentum, and with larger smartphones now mainstream, more is being done on them than ever before.
If your patient’s rehab, training or advice is not on their phone, compliance is likely to drop. Look into apps that allow you to customize programs for your patients, like exercise prescription apps, or investigate existing apps in your health field that you can simply recommend your patients to use, eg app based food diaries.
Your patient satisfaction, compliance and feedback will all increase as a result.
5) Email with Patients
We need to get away from being scared of communicating with our patients via email.
It’s a really great value add to be able to say to a patient after you’ve seen them that, if they have any questions, that you encourage them to email back and forth with you. Your pricing may have to be reconsidered to reflect this.
Get into the habit of spending an hour at the start and/or end of each day responding to enquiries from patients. It’s a great way for them to feel more connected to you, and to keep them involved with you and your clinic. Often patients don’t feel their follow up question is worthy of a whole appointment, so this will keep them connected to you rather than let them drift off or ask google.
A great fringe benefit of this is that it means they will be more likely to open any other email correspondence that you send to them so the open rates on your eMarketing communications will go up. So open up email as an accepted communication portal, that is checked and used and encouraged for your patients. It will gain you a lot more loyal followers.
So there you go. 2017 is going to be a great year for digital health. My resolution is to continue to sniff out all of the latest mainstream digital technologies and trends and let you know how they apply to health.
What tech trend do you think will make the biggest dent in the health industry in 2017?