Last summer, the CDC found that nearly ⅓ of U.S. adults had delayed routine care because of the pandemic and more recent surveys have reported similar findings. And while the demand for care is returning and patients are rescheduling their procedures and wellness visits, health systems need to make sure they keep these appointments – not only for the health of their communities, but also for their finances.
One way to do this is by leveraging technology to engage patients proactively. We’ve seen this be a powerful approach for many of our health system customers who have wanted to reduce no-shows without having to invest in additional resources. Whether you have a way to connect with patients before their visit or you’re just beginning to explore one, here are five best practices for more effectively engaging patients – from how to send messages to what information to include.
- Use short codes and a phone number your patients recognize: Before you even contact a patient, you need to consider the factors that might prevent you from reaching them. With all of us receiving several spam calls per day, you need to use a phone number that patients will recognize – or they won’t pick up. Additionally, if you are contacting patients via text, leverage SMS short codes. These codes allow you to send high volumes of messages that won’t get blocked by phone carriers.
- Keep in mind patients preferred languages and communication channels: Not every patient wants to pick up the phone and not every patient speaks English. In recognizing patients’ preferred language and communication channel, you can increase engagement and ensure patients get the information they need (e.g., pre-visit instructions) when they need it. For example, one of our customers, UC Irvine, added voice outreach to their SMS program and increased patient engagement by 20%. Accounting for patient preferences is also a way to improve the experience all patients have with your organization.
- Provide pre-visit instructions and safety information: Regardless of how often one goes to the doctor, healthcare can be confusing. This is especially true now as we continue to live through a pandemic. Using pre-visit communications to educate patients about your COVID-19 safety protocols, provide directions to your facilities, or answer questions can do a lot to reduce fears and provide clarity, leading to a better experience, which increases the likelihood patients will show up for their appointments.
- Implement multiple reminders to confirm, cancel or reschedule: Reminding patients of an upcoming appointment – and doing so several times – is an effective tactic for reducing no-shows. It also provides an opportunity for you to backfill that visit when there is a cancellation by allowing patients to reschedule through self-service options, which won’t additionally burden your call centers. In implementing appointment reminders, our partner, Community Health Network, was able to retain $3M+ in revenue and decrease their no-show rate by 1.2%.
- Capture data and analytics to monitor your success: Gaining insight into how effective your pre-care outreach tools are is one of the best ways to improve engagement with patients. For many of our customers, we’ve recommended looking at reach rate, the number of patients who answer the calls (call vs. text and by department), and no-show rate in order to identify areas for operational improvements. Prioritizing these metrics enables you to identify issues and strategize ways to improve these numbers.
Learn more about our pre-care solutions and how they can help you proactively engage patients here.