82% of patients want to communicate via digital channels
General numbers state that up to 90% of people want to communicate with businesses via digital channels. We have investigated whether this equally applies to a healthcare context. Indeed, 82% of patients want to communicate via digital channels with their healthcare provider.
Some general statistics to start with. 90% of people say they’d rather receive a text than a phone call from a business (Text Request). 89% of people would like to text with businesses and text messaging is the #1 preferred channel for customer service in the U.S. (Twilio). People send 5 times more texts every day than they make phone calls (Text Request). And 55% of consumers want to use messaging to reply to appointment reminders (Twilio). According to SCI Solutions, 77% of patients say it’s important to be able to book, change or cancel appointments online.
These statistics may be true for the US, but are they true in Belgium and to what extent do they apply to healthcare?
In order to answer this question, we conducted our own research across a number of dental practices in Flanders, where we took a survey with 1 059 patients (N = 1 059).
We see a balanced distribution of respondents based on both age and sex. The average age of respondents is 41.
41% of the respondents are men, 59% are women.
Of course, the population of patients of dentists are distributed per se as you need a dentist on a regular basis starting at a very young age for the rest of one’s life. The youngest respondent was 6, the eldest 94. The age distribution of a patient population will not be as well-balanced with an oncologist, and definitely not with a geriatrician or paediatrician.
In regards to the sex distribution of a patient population, gynaecologists will lack male patients whereas a dental practice would have a more or less equal proportion of male and female patients.
92% of respondents indicate that they have a smartphone.
Of those respondents, across the different ages of the respondents, 87% indicate that they have Whatsapp. Only text message has a higher score, with 88% of the respondents have a text message (SMS) app.
89% of all patients can be reached by means of Whatsapp and SMS.
However, when it comes to frequency of usage, 74% respondents indicate that they use Whatsapp the most frequent. Whereas the majority of respondents has a text message (SMS) app, only 57% of the respondents indicate that they use it frequently. When we combine the usage frequency of both Whatsapp and SMS, we see that by instant messaging you have a coverage of 89% of all respondents. That means that only 11% of all the patients cannot be reached through digital channels.
When asking patients whether they are willing to communicate with their dentist through digital channels, a staggering 82% responds positively. Given the representative population of respondents, the results of our study can be extrapolated to all healthcare providers.
So the question is not, should we engage with our patients through digital channels, but rather how should we engage with them?
And how do you communicate with your patients?