One-size-fits-all may work with the Snuggie®, the oversized fleece sweatshirt made popular on TV infomercials, but it doesn’t work for patient engagement. Savvy health systems know that patients expect the same transparency, convenience, and personalization from their healthcare providers that they receive from leading retailers and e-commerce providers—which means a blanket approach to patient communication will fall short every time.
In the age of healthcare consumerism, patients are driven to select providers who not only meet their needs but also offer their preferred channel of choice for ongoing communication. While the idea of a preferred patient communication channel has become a popular data point to capture in recent years, the actual goal of a healthy patient engagement strategy should be to reach patients, not just in their preferred channel but in the channel most likely to drive action.
The consequences are high for patient non-adherence. Read on to learn how to optimize patient action and adherence while reducing no-shows, increasing patient loyalty, and improving health outcomes.
Blend Both Voice and Digital Outreach
A 2014 study showed that while patients are adopting technology quickly, they still overwhelmingly prefer a phone call from their provider. The survey showed that 43 percent of patients prefer a phone call while 25 percent prefer an email. If patients prefer voice, but you only offer digital communication, patient responses—and in time, patient satisfaction—will suffer. And while digital communications are gaining popularity as a preferred channel, some healthcare interactions are best left to phone conversations.
Utilizing automated patient messaging platforms that blend both voice and digital outreach can help reduce no-show rates and cancelations. In fact, a 2019 study at a Cardiology Specialty Center that uses both voice and text reminders showed that while patients tend to “prefer” texting over voice, the number of patients who rescheduled a missed appointment after receiving a phone call instead of a text was close to equal. And since the implementation of an automated platform that blends both voice and text, the practice experienced a significant no-show rate improvement, moving to an average no-show rate of 8% compared to a prior no-show rate of 12%.
Small Changes Can Yield Big Financial Gains
A study by athenahealth found that seventy percent of patients who missed an appointment were not likely to return within 18 months, making improvements in patient adherence and rescheduling appointments essential, both to patient health outcomes and to a health system’s revenue stream. Although some may say that the cost of live agents may be unnecessary, it can have a quantifiable ripple effect for the health system downstream. The U.S. average cost to cardiology practices for a missed in-office appointment is $277, which makes reducing no-show rates and increasing rescheduling of missed appointments a high priority.
For the Cardiology Specialty Center referenced above, improving its no-show and rescheduling rates represented a revenue retention rate of nearly $350,000 in a 90-day period or more than $1.3 million in one year. For some patients and specialties, a more “expensive” approach is well worth the cost if it drives the desired action and associated revenue.
Use Data to Determine Channel of Action
Analyzing campaigns that drive clicks, views, and open rates is the gold standard for measuring marketing effectiveness. To measure the effectiveness of your patient engagement channels, bring in your lead generation teams to analyze patient communication data. By using A/B testing and measuring the response rate of patients and caregivers, a general trend can be identified. Use these trends to determine the right cadence, channel, and message to engage your population. Each month, review the metrics and continue to refine as patient needs and trends adapt.
The patient journey is more complicated than ever – leaving healthcare consumers confused and frustrated while providers risk lower satisfaction and patient churn. To be successful, messaging must be personalized, relevant, and prescriptive enough to enable the patient to understand the next step in their care. Healthcare leaders must transform–and personalize–the experience while engaging their patients in their health journey.
To learn tips for optimizing patient adherence and action through live voice and digital technologies, download our 11 Strategies to Optimize Patient Action and Adherence guide.
1. Technology Advice Patient Portal Survey