The Intake

Insights for those starting, managing, and growing independent healthcare practices

Future-proof your practice with digital patient experiences

Technology is the cornerstone of modernizing your practice operations. But it’s more than just a tool — it’s a partner that helps you streamline and elevate the patient experience.

digital patient experience to future proof your healthcare practice

At a Glance

  • The digital patient experience encompasses every online interaction a patient has with your practice, from finding you online to scheduling to payment
  • 65% of patients are ready to switch providers for a better digital patient experience
  • A seamless digital patient experience strengthens patient loyalty and retention — both crucial factors in today’s competitive healthcare landscape

How do you future-proof your independent healthcare practice? 

Modernize your patient experience without compromising the humanized care you provide.

That’s the differentiator for your independent practice. With health system- and corporate-based providers growing in influence and scale, private practices need to double down on providing the best patient experience possible.

And technology can help you do that.

According to the Tebra Patient Perspectives report, 65% of patients are willing to switch providers if their preferences aren’t met. Meeting expectations in clinical care and their overall experience with your practice is crucial.

Independent practices that invest in digital infrastructure to enhance the patient experience will experience better patient acquisition and retention, in addition to smoother workflows. ”

Independent practices that invest in digital infrastructure to enhance the patient experience will experience better patient acquisition and retention, in addition to smoother workflows. This will ultimately provide a competitive edge in the healthcare landscape.

In this article, we’ll answer these questions:

  • What is the digital patient experience?
  • Why is the digital patient experience important?
  • How can providers implement the digital patient experience in their practice?

Let’s dive in.

Get the playbook

What is the digital patient experience?

For those still navigating the concept of the digital patient experience, here’s a deeper dive into the definition.

The digital patient experience encompasses every digital touch point a patient has with your practice. This starts with their search for a healthcare provider. According to Tebra's Patient Perspectives report, 77% of patients search online for a provider.

But that’s not where it stops. The digital patient experience extends from a patient's first search to the first time they come across your practice online to booking an appointment, paying their bills, viewing their medical records through an online portal, and communicating with your healthcare team via text, email, or in-portal messaging.

Here is the full scope of the patient journey:

patient journey written out in sequential steps outlining touch points of the patient experience in a loop visual

Learn more about the new patient experience.

How do digital touch points interact with the patient journey?

  • Patients find your website online through insurance directories or search engines like Google and Bing.
  • Patients read online review sites, as reviews play a critical role in the consideration stage. According to Tebra’s Patient Perspectives report, 67% of patients read online reviews before choosing a doctor. And 62% said positive reviews are extremely or very important to their decision-making process.
  • Patients convert when they use your online appointment scheduler to book their first visit.
  • Pre-visit, patients complete forms digitally to save time. They can also receive automated appointment reminders to ensure they have all the information they need for their upcoming visit.
  • Patients have the option to conduct their appointments via telehealth when possible. They can also pay their bills online.
  • Post-visit, your team can follow up with test results and other communications promptly through a secure online portal. 

By integrating these digital interactions into the patient journey, your practice can offer a level of convenience and care that stands out in the modern healthcare landscape. Here’s why that’s important.

Why is the digital patient experience important?

Technology is the cornerstone of modernizing your practice operations. But it’s more than just a tool — it’s a partner that helps you streamline and elevate the patient experience.

Technology has also become a deciding factor for many patients when they pick a healthcare provider. According to Tebra’s Independent Provider Playbook, around 61% of patients choose healthcare system-based providers over independent practices for digital convenience. Only 20% of patients select independent providers for the same reason.

That means if you embrace digital healthcare tools, an additional 41% of patients could consider your practice an option over the competition.

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In Tebra’s Patient Perspectives report, patients shared which healthcare interactions they prefer to be digital. Here are their answers:

  • Getting appointment reminders (69%)
  • Filling out registration or other forms (68%)
  • Accessing healthcare records (64%)
  • Scheduling appointments (64%)
  • Paying bills (61%)
  • Getting answers to questions or feedback (43%)
  • Asking the provider or practice questions (42%)

Plus, patients are willing to leave your practice for more tech-savvy healthcare options. Patients would switch doctors for:

  • Easier ways to book an appointment (41%)
  • Easier ways to contact the practice (29%)
  • More communication between visits (26%)

Patients want a more digital healthcare experience. Embracing digital tools isn’t just about keeping up with the trends — it’s about staying competitive to attract and retain your patients.

How is technology improving the patient experience?

From telehealth to advanced data security, technology offers innovative ways to connect, protect, and streamline the patient experience.

  • Increased access to care: Telehealth offers convenient and accessible visits for patients with busy schedules, from remote locations, or with physical disabilities. It ensures challenges like childcare, transportation, or demanding work schedules don’t prevent patients from receiving medical care. By offering virtual visits, healthcare practices can make their services more inclusive and accessible.
  • Streamlined administrative processes: Digital tools like online scheduling, digital intake forms, and electronic health records automate routine tasks. With less administrative work and more efficiency, healthcare teams can allocate more time to patient care. This helps improve the quality of interactions and ensures patients receive the attention and support they need.
  • Better patient-provider communication: Digital communication channels, such as patient portals, text messaging, and email, facilitate better dialogue between patients and providers. These platforms allow patients to ask questions, schedule appointments, and receive health updates, fostering a trusting and responsive relationship. Improved communication boosts patient satisfaction and plays a crucial role in patient education and engagement.
  • Digital health records: Digitizing healthcare records has greatly improved the patient experience in the last decade. Now, patients can easily access their healthcare records like lab results and treatment plans. This empowers them to take charge of their own healthcare journey and be more involved in the decision-making process.
  • Data security and privacy: With the adoption of digital health technologies, privacy and data protection are more important than ever. Advances in cybersecurity ensure personal health information remains confidential and secure. Healthcare practices are improving patient trust by implementing robust security measures to safeguard patient data, complying with privacy regulations and ensuring peace of mind.  

The technology is out there to improve the patient experience — healthcare practices just have to embrace it.

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The new patient experience is digital. Here's what you need to know.
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What are examples of the digital patient experience?

Let’s explore examples of the digital patient experience and how to implement them in your own practice. They include your practice website, digital patient intake, telehealth, online payment options, and patient portals.

Practice website

Your practice website is often the first interaction your patients will have with you and your healthcare team — so it needs to be good.

Plus, according to Tebra's Patient Perspectives report, over half (53%) of patients say a practice’s website is extremely or very important when choosing a healthcare provider. Here are a few basic principles to follow:

  1. Be findable: That means appearing on the first page of Google for keyword and location-based searches. 
  2. Answer basic questions about your practice: Include your specialty information front and center. Patients also want to know about your healthcare team, services, and availability. Your online scheduling link, contact information, hours, and address should all be intuitive to find.
  3. Convert patients: Every page should lead patients and prospects toward booking an appointment and ultimately growing your practice. Offering them an easy way to book appointments online is also a big plus.
Halcyon Health screenshot
The Halcyon Health website supports the digital patient experience.

The top 3 most essential pieces of information on a provider’s website, according to patients, are:

  1. Doctor background information
  2. Services offered
  3. Appointment availability

Halcyon Health's homepage clearly states its type of care and whether it is accepting new patients. A quick click over to its staff page shares information on the practice healthcare team. The site uses a simple, clear design that gets the point across in a readable way.

Try these tips for improving the digital patient experience with your practice website

  • Make it easy for patients to find your website. While insurance provider directories and review sites help generate traffic, you can’t sleep on search engine optimization (SEO).
    1. Identify local and specialty-specific keywords. For example, a patient may search for a “neurologist in Boise.” Also, claim your Google Business Profile listing.
    2. Optimize your website’s load speed.
    3. Ensure your website is responsive across devices. 
  • Make sure your website gives patients and prospects the critical information they need. In addition to your home page, make sure you have these 3 important pages:
    1. About page
    2. Services page
    3. Contact page
  • Give patients the tools to connect with your team and schedule an appointment. A click-to-call phone number or an email are must-haves. Then take it up a step with:
    1. Chatbots or SMS options for inquiries
    2. A link to your online appointment booking
    3. Digital intake forms

Patient scheduling and appointment reminders

Your appointment scheduling system is a critical bridge between patients and the care they need. The ease and speed with which patients can book an appointment is the key to enhancing the digital patient experience and the patient experience as a whole.

According to Tebra’s Patient Perspectives report, 48% of patients want easier ways to book an appointment. That’s not just a nice-to-have — 68% of patients are more likely to choose healthcare providers that offer online appointment scheduling. 41% also said they would be willing to switch providers for easier ways to book an appointment.

Appointment scheduling and reminders also pop up in patients’ digital preferences. The top 3 experiences patients would prefer to be digital are:

  1. Getting appointment reminders (69%)
  2. Filling out registration or other forms (68%)
  3. Scheduling the appointment (64%)

Appointment scheduling, along with availability, is a top concern among patients. Online booking allows patients to schedule appointments when it’s convenient for them — without waiting for business hours or spending time on hold.

Here are 3 ways to improve appointment scheduling and reminders in your practice

  1. Implement an online scheduling system. Ensure your website includes an easy-to-use online appointment booking feature that’s integrated with your practice’s calendar.
  2. Automate appointment reminders. Use software that sends automatic reminders via text, email, or automated phone messaging for upcoming appointments. This caters to the 69% of patients who value this digital touch point. Plus, it also helps minimize missed appointments.
  3. Enhance accessibility. Facilitate easier patient-provider communication through your scheduling system by incorporating features like chatbots, SMS inquiries, and direct calls. This addresses the 40% of patients who want easier ways to contact your practice.

By prioritizing patient scheduling and appointment reminders, your practice can significantly improve the accessibility and convenience of your healthcare services, aligning with patient preferences and fostering loyalty.

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Digital patient intake

The waiting room experience sets the tone for a patient’s visit, and nothing amplifies the discomfort of waiting quite like filling out endless forms. Patients are frequently told to arrive at their appointments 15 minutes early to give them time for forms. But 17% of patients said waiting in the waiting room for up to 15 minutes is too long, and 39% allow for 16 to 30 minutes, according to a recent Tebra survey.

Your patients are ready and willing for you to make the switch to digital forms. ”

Instead of making long wait times worse, offer your patients the opportunity to fill out their forms online before they step foot in the practice.

The shift in patient preferences to digital includes filling out forms. In fact, 68% of patients prefer to fill out forms digitally — an increase of 5 percentage points over 2022, the Tebra Patient Perspectives report found.

Impressively, 92% of patients would fill out registration forms online before their appointment. This overwhelming majority shows that your patients are ready and willing for you to make the switch to digital forms.

The benefits aren’t just for your patients. According to zHealth, digital patient intake can also save 6 to 12 minutes of staff time per patient visit. This gives your staff more time with patients instead of transferring information into your systems and aligns with your patient-centered approach.

How can you use digital patient intake forms to improve your patient experience?

  1. Offer both digital and paper forms. Even though patients overwhelmingly prefer digital forms, offer both to suit all preferences. This will be especially helpful for your older patients and those less comfortable with technology, underscoring your commitment to all patient needs.
  2. Prioritize accessibility in form design. Ensure your digital forms are easy to read, particularly for those with vision limitations. Enable users to adjust the text size to their comfort level.
  3. Streamline data collection with thoughtful form design. Design your forms with the patient in mind. Use checkboxes, circled options, or blank spaces to make filling them out as straightforward as possible.
  4. Ensure patients that this will be easier. Patients may balk at the length of those initial intake forms, but remind them that they’ll only be this long and thorough the first time. After that, the digital forms will be ready for them and their providers the next time they arrive, and all they’ll need to do is confirm.
  5. Pay attention to form security. Safeguard patient protected health information (PHI) with secure, HIPAA-compliant forms according to industry standards.

Adopting these strategies streamlines the intake process and demonstrates your commitment to the patient experience — helping your practice set the new standard in patient care.


Telehealth has felt like a big leap in healthcare, but it’s far from patients' expectations. In 2020 and shortly after, telehealth appointments were at an all-time high. In Tebra’s Patient Perspectives report, only 23% of patients said they had both in-person and virtual appointments, and 5% said they had telehealth appointments exclusively.

It feels like a step back — especially from patient expectations. 53% of patients would prefer virtual appointments for follow-ups and check-ins that don’t need a physical examination, according to Tebra’s Patient Perspectives report. When possible, telehealth appointments are a convenient and often more accessible way for patients to receive healthcare.

Moreover, 56% of patients are willing to do a telehealth session if their provider is unavailable in person, and 24% said it depends on the circumstances.

Here are 3 tips for implementing telehealth visits that improve the patient experience

  1. Embrace the virtual waiting room. 74% of patients said they would opt in to a virtual waiting room to help them show up on time to a telehealth appointment. Implement this into your telehealth system to ensure patients’ smooth transition into appointments.
  2. Offer flexible appointment times. Virtual appointments make it easier to accept appointments outside of your normal appointment times. You can also give patients who are about to cancel their appointments the option to switch to a virtual appointment. That way, patients won’t miss important follow-up care, and you won’t have to deal with as many cancellations. 
  3. Ensure easy, secure access to telehealth. Make accessing appointments as easy as possible. Integrate your telehealth directly into your patient portal or another HIPAA-compliant platform.

While the digital vs. in-person appointment debate is real (51% of patients don’t feel like they receive the same level of care via telehealth compared to in person), it’s still a crucial piece of the digital patient experience, especially for common but infectious ailments such as COVID-19 to help prevent spread in your office.

Online payment options

The payment process is a critical moment in the patient journey. It presents an easy opportunity to reinforce the seamless and engaging healthcare experience your practice provides. By integrating digital payment options, you cater to the convenience your patients expect and elevate their overall interaction with your practice.

61% [of patients] would prefer to pay their bills online. ”

Patients appreciate digital payment offerings. Tebra’s Patient Perspectives report found that 61% would prefer to pay their bills online. Patients get an easy-to-read digital statement, and your practice gets faster payments. 72% of patients are more likely to settle their bills immediately when they receive a payment link via email or text.

Despite patients’ clear preference for digital payment methods, 45% of healthcare providers, both independent and system-based, have yet to offer online payment solutions. This gap is a missed opportunity to enhance patient satisfaction.

Here’s how to successfully use online payments in your healthcare practice

  1. Implement secure digital payment solutions. Choose a secure, reliable payment platform that integrates seamlessly with your existing billing system.
  2. Simplify the billing process. Send direct payment links to patients through email or text, making it as easy as possible for them to fulfill their payments.
  3. Educate your patients. Inform patients about the availability of online payments on your website, during appointments, or via your patient communications to ensure they’re aware.

By strategically integrating digital options into your practice, you’ll meet patient expectations and position your practice for greater financial stability and growth.

Patient portals

Patient portals stand at the forefront of transforming patient experiences, offering a blend of convenience, engagement, and empowerment right at their fingertips.

Nearly ⅓ of patients prefer to use patient portals over other forms of communication, such as text messaging and email, to obtain health information or provide feedback. Practices have embraced patient portals, with 73% of patients reporting that their doctor uses one. But there’s definitely room for improvement.

Patients cite limited communication (38%), delays in discussing test results (22%), and navigation difficulties (17%) as their main concerns.

Here are some quick tips to elevate your patient portal

  1. Focus on communication. Portals help patients connect more with their test results and their healthcare team. Make sure you implement workflows that include checking and responding to patient communications on a regular basis. Aim for doing so within 24 to 48 hours.
  2. Enable convenient scheduling and prescription refills. You already know the importance of enabling online appointment scheduling. Incorporating it into your patient portal means it’s easily accessible to patients. Enable other quick features like requesting prescription refills to help cut down on phone calls, streamline processes, and help empower patients to take care of their healthcare routines.
  3. Incorporate health management tools. Embed health management tools such as symptom trackers, personalized health advice, and wellness resources into your patient portal. It gives patients a place to go when they have questions and encourages more engagement.

It’s important to note that the content in patient portals falls under regulations, including the 21st Century Cures Act. While portals aren’t specifically mentioned, information blocking can apply to the information available in portals. The rules aim to prevent practices that could obstruct the access, exchange, or use of electronic health information (EHI). 

Even though portals aren’t mentioned, much of the healthcare industry has expanded the information available to patients through portals as a defense against the open-ended definition, including lab results, surgical reports, and doctors’ notes. Remember these tips to ensure compliance.

  • Proactively share EHI by regularly updating portals with a wide array of information
  • Understand and apply exceptions accordingly
  • Stay informed about updates or clarifications regarding this rule

A functional and user-friendly portal can offer your patients the seamless healthcare experience they seek and strengthen their connections with your practice.

How can my practice improve the digital patient experience?

Start where it’s going to be more impactful for your patients. Add to and improve your digital experiences one at a time where it counts. Since patients cite easier ways to book an appointment as what they want most from their healthcare provider, you may want to start with online scheduling.

If you’re ready to transform your patient experience, start by looking for a platform or portal that meets the specific needs of the healthcare industry. ”

If you’re ready to transform your patient experience, start by looking for a platform or portal that meets the specific needs of the healthcare industry. Tebra is an all-in-one platform for independent practice success that can help you transform your patients’ experience — and your own. Once you’ve built that base, you can add features, including online appointment scheduling, telehealth appointments, and more.

No matter where you start, the important thing is to keep the patient at the center of your approach. Consider conducting your own surveys to see which digital touch points your patients want most. Then, deliver on them.

Start future-proofing your practice today

The best way to future-proof your practice? Embrace digital innovation and the digital patient experience. 

As you strive to stand out in a competitive field, prioritizing the digital patient experience is not about just keeping pace — it’s about leading the charge to more patient-centered care.

Ready to elevate your practice’s digital presence? Learn more about how Tebra can help improve your patient experience.

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Learn how to create a seamless patient experience that increases loyalty and reduces churn, while providing personalized care that drives practice growth in Tebra’s free guide to optimizing your practice.

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Rebecca Slawter, freelance healthcare writer

Rebecca Slawter is a seasoned freelance content and copywriter focusing on healthcare and B2B SaaS. Rebecca has first-hand knowledge of the importance of connections between patients and their providers — connections that are easier to build in independent practices. Her passion for writing about healthcare is rooted in wanting to spotlight healthcare professionals and their tireless efforts, and to do what she can to improve the industry as a whole.

Reviewed by

Baran Erdik, physician and healthcare consultant

Dr. Baran Erdik, MD, MHPA is a physician with further specialization in internal medicine/cardiology. He has traveled the world, working as a physician in New Zealand, Germany, and Washington State. He’s been published numerous times and currently works in healthcare compliance and consulting.

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