As the health care landscape shifts from a volume-based payment model to a value-based one more focused on wellness and quality of care, the communications dynamics have shifted, as well. In the past, communications focused almost exclusively on administrative and "housekeeping" tasks, such as making and confirming appointments, requesting medical records, and addressing payment issues, and the telephone was the true office portal.
Today, however, patient communication is at the core of an effective medical practice and good patient care. Patient communication is the foundation of consumer-based health care, and every medical practice needs to take stock of its policies and practices to ensure that patients can get the information they need in the most convenient way, both for themselves and for the practice staff. Here's a look at how forward-looking practices are managing patient communications.
Automated Telephone Messages
Automated messages can and should go beyond basic appointment reminders to include other routine functions such as:
- Announcing a new service, location, or change in office hours
- Preop and postop instructions
- New patient welcome messages
- Immunization and health screening reminders
The benefits to your practice in terms of fewer missed appointments, better care compliance, and increased staff productivity for this type of message are easily identified and the ROI on automated phone technology is fast.
Secure Text Messaging
As an adjunct to automated phone calls, automated text messages offer an interactive element that allow patients to respond easily to information contained in the text. Text messaging can be used for everything you currently use automated phone messages, but they also present an opportunity to go farther in simplifying communications between patient and practice.
For example, patients and caregivers can exchange secure texts with a nurse or case manager to follow up on home care after a recent admission or procedure. Text medication reminders can also improve compliance and therapeutic outcomes.
Recently, Barry Green, president and CEO of Med Practice Informatics, found that using text messages for reminders, lab calls, and followups reduced staff time by almost 70%. He estimated that a typical practice could save approximately $100,000 per year by implementing a secure text messaging system for many routine patient communications.
Many practices have taken the step of implementing a patient portal to meet Meaningful Use incentives under the Affordable Care Act, but many have failed to fully embrace the portal as an integral part of their overall patient communications strategy. If you've implemented the portal but aren't getting adequate patient buy-in, perhaps it's time to overhaul your policies and procedures to encourage adoption of this incredibly effective time-saving tool.
- Be sure all front and back office staff are trained on how the portal works and can answer patients' questions.
- Introduce new patients to the portal when they register and encourage them to use it for routine communications.
- Place a computer in your waiting area and demo the portal for existing patients. Encourage them to sign up for an account when they check in or out.
- Remind patients who call in for routine matters (to make an appointment or request a refill) that they can use the portal to accomplish these tasks.
- Mention the patient portal on your after-hours office voice messages and point them to online information about how to use it.
- Promote the patient portal on your billing documents, email newsletters, and other routine patient communications.
- Encourage patients to use the portal to securely communicate with the doctor or nurse if they have questions following their appointment.
Related Link: How to Improve Your Medical Practice Bottomline
Remember to give patients guidelines about the type of information it's appropriate to share through the portal and which questions require a phone call to the doctor.
Technology gives practices efficient tools to enhance patient communication and build a more consumer-friendly practice while still reducing overall operating costs and increasing productivity. Contact the practice professionals at M-Scribe for more information about how to improve your bottom line.