Practices to Ensure the Best Communication Across the Patient Journey

July 6, 2020

What technology should be implemented to ensure a positive experience for patients?

Josh Weiner, Solutionreach

With reimbursement models and patient expectations shifting for several years now, healthcare organizations of every size are seeing patient experience and outcomes play a bigger role in patient retention and revenue. Sixty-three percent of physicians agree that they need better patient engagement to improve care delivery and patient adherence to treatment plans. But, the question is this:

What technology should be implemented to ensure a positive experience for patients?

There are many ways to look at the patient journey, but it can get complicated. You could easily find yourself breaking it into smaller and smaller pieces until you can’t see the big picture anymore. And, the big picture is critical to overall patient experience.

Scheduling

One good way to see both is to break the patient journey into four buckets: Scheduling, Care, Outreach, and Financial interactions. These cover most communication flows and it’s easier for organizations to pinpoint where technology can play a role in improving the patient experience.Scheduling is everything related to appointments—not just the initial set up. This includes scheduling and appointment reminders as well as setting up needed follow-up appointments or ongoing preventive care. Sending reminders isn’t enough and doing them via team members manually picking up the phone or mailing postcards is inefficient and often ineffective. With the right technology and best practices, healthcare organizations can reduce no-shows from the average of 19 percent to less than five percent. In addition, they can more effectively fill their schedule and increase needed chronic care and preventive care appointments.

Care

Further, the ability for patients to respond to confirm, cancel, and reschedule appointments and for software to identify potential no-shows and the right patients for specific open appointments allows organizations to optimize the schedule. Fifty-two percent of patients say they missed their appointment because they forgot. Analyzing appointment reminders and confirmations via AI-driven technology empowers organizations to identify best practices and increase confirmations more than 150 percent. And, when combined with patient preferences for communication method, timing, cadence, and language, organizations can significantly reduce no-shows.Sadly, the majority of patients forget what they are told in the visit. Sixty-two percent of physicians agree that non-adherent patients are affecting their quality care metrics. Communication tools like post-appointment messages deliver targeted education and post-care information to ensure patients adhere to care plans. Further, ninety-two percent of patients feel more connected to the hospital and take better care of themselves because of the digital patient education they receive. Organizations can leverage post-appointment meetings to track patient feedback via surveys and ensure a consistent positive experience.

Financial

Patients often cite medical billing as one of their biggest frustrations in healthcare. Healthcare providers struggle with it too. Over 60 percent of denials are the result of fixable administrative mistakes like missing data or inaccurately entered data. Patient communication technology like online scheduling forms can help collect accurate demographic and insurance information and speed up the payment process.

The use of online scheduling and forms allows patients to enter and update their own information on their own time. Staff don’t have to re-enter data so potential mistakes are avoided. When information is due to be updated or is shown to be outdated, SMS text messaging can be used to quickly connect with patients and get updates.

Outreach

The longer it takes to collect, the less providers can expect to get paid. It’s no wonder $100 million of patient due amounts goes uncollected. When patients understand their bill and receive timely payment reminders, the organization is more likely to get paid. Offer patients an easy mobile option to pay their bills in the office or from home in minutes. A text reminder can be sent as soon as the patient due amount is known, avoiding the delays that traditionally come with paper billing.There are many reasons to stay connected to patients outside of their visit—continued relationship building is one. Outreach throughout the year is an important way to maintain loyalty and keep patients coming back. Think ahead and make sure there are tools in place for communicating items including:

  • Mass health alerts for local outbreaks for flue, whooping cough, etc.
  • Health events like flu shot clinics, health fairs, or educational programs
  • Announcements about new providers and services available in the community
  • Asking for reviews or patient referrals

Patients want to engage with their healthcare providers, but it needs to feel personal. Fifty-two percent of consumers said they are more likely to switch brands if a company doesn’t make an effort to personalize communications to them. Outreach year-round is a great way to do just that.

There are so many reasons to communicate and connect with patients across their journey. And there are so many ways to do it. It’s important to look at the key areas from both the bigger picture and a detailed perspective to make sure the tools are in place to provide the best, most effective patient journey.

Josh Weiner is the CEO of Solutionreach. He joined Solutionreach from Summit Partners, a leading global growth equity firm. Through his work with Summit Partners, Josh served on the Solutionreach board of directors for three years.

The views expressed in this piece reflect those of the author, not necessarily those of the publication. Healthcare providers and experts interested in responding to this piece or submitting their own article can do so here.


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