To Truly Engage Patients, Think Bigger than Automated Appointment Reminders

Convenient, digital communication is expected in today’s increasingly connected world—from scheduling a vehicle service appointment online, requesting a ride-share to the airport via an app, or ordering dinner to-go through a restaurant’s mobile platform. In healthcare, patient engagement technology is enabling a similar approach for patient and provider interactions.

March 19, 2022

Convenient, digital communication is an expectation in today’s increasingly connected world—from scheduling a vehicle service appointment online, requesting a ride-share to the airport via an app, or ordering dinner to-go through a restaurant’s mobile platform. In healthcare, patient engagement technology is enabling a similar approach for patient and provider interactions. According to an Intrado survey of health IT executives, while 82% of respondents stated their organization currently utilizes basic, automated appointment reminders to digitally interact with patients, nearly half (47%) want to further modernize more complex actions like self-scheduling and rescheduling via text messages, among other high-priority workflows.

These same hospital and health system leaders realize that moving beyond automated appointment reminders and into a wider range of communication tasks is a meaningful way to not only improve the patient experience, but also to enhance their organizations’ operational efficiency. 

Consider the following workflow categories poised for automation, in which health technology leaders can begin involving patients in their care by providing easy, self-service options. 

Appointment Scheduling and Management

Actions related to appointment management are perhaps the most familiar to patients and the highest priority for automation, including:

  • Appointment reminders 
  • SMS-based appointment self-scheduling or rescheduling 
  • Appointment scheduling via a website or patient portal
  • Checking in for a healthcare visit electronically

 

It’s standard today to receive an appointment reminder text, email or phone call in advance of a healthcare visit. But beyond basic, automated appointment reminders, many health systems have yet to adopt technology that truly “closes the loop” on actions like rescheduling appointments.

Enhancing Care and Visit Volumes

To encourage patients along their healthcare journeys and keep provider schedules full, there are several workflows primed for automation that directly impact care and visit volumes. Referral management processes, for instance, are time- and resource-intensive for clinicians and support staff, often requiring a game of “phone tag” before closing the referral. Without an automated strategy in place, referral closure can take weeks or worse yet, never happens at all, which leads to gaps in care. 

Similarly, routing SMS messages with information and instructions to help patients prepare for routine procedures like colonoscopies (which typically have high rates of bad prep, resulting in canceled or rescheduled procedures) optimizes a process that historically has required personalized, manual outreach.

One health system realized the value of automation for specific preventive care recall when it needed to reach targeted groups of patients based on eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines. The organization employed an automated workflow to reach out to 6,000 individuals when the vaccine became available, and allowed patients to self-schedule their appointment. This approach resulted in a mere 1% no-show rate, and freed up staff time that otherwise would have been spent manually outreaching eligible patients and rescheduling appointments. 

Post-Care Engagement 

After a healthcare service, patients and providers may need to remain in touch for care follow-up or to address questions related to test results, prescription refills, or even patient balances. This is especially critical after a hospitalization to prevent readmission.

Automated engagement is an ideal approach to streamline and optimize these engagement tasks without staff intervention. Yet automation can also streamline many follow-up interactions even beyond these common inquiries. For instance, 64% of respondents to Intrado’s survey stated they’re currently leveraging automated workflows to optimize patient surveys. 

Post-procedure follow-up is yet another opportunity to stay in the know about a patient’s status—and leading patient engagement platforms can power this communication with just-in-time SMS text messages, which is a channel proven to improve appointment and medical compliance.

As healthcare workers are tasked with doing more with less, modernizing beyond automated appointment reminders makes sense in the interest of patient experience, as well as in reducing the burden placed on clinicians and other hospital and health system staff members. 

If your organization is currently in the appointment management phase, consider these other opportunities to impact patient care along their healthcare journeys using automated SMS as a preferred channel. To hear more about priority workflows that healthcare technology leaders are planning to automate, download the full report here. You can also contact our team to learn more.
 

Explore Healthcare