While medical practices are a bit slower on adapting technology into their current operations, it doesn’t discount the importance of implementing it effectively. In fact, successfully integrating useful technology into a practice’s day-to-day activities is critical to long-term benefits for the practice, physicians, staff, and patients. Technology is allowing many practices to redesign their workflows and staff functions. It could allow for reduction in staff, or even enabling some staff members to work remotely from home, effectively creating a smaller footprint and reducing overhead costs. Win-win!

From the practice’s point of view patient retention is only one aspect of overall revenue generation. However, it is a large part of dependable, ongoing revenue that many practices are missing out on due to lack of, or ineffective, practice-to-patient communication. The technology exists to bridge this gap, and it’s increasing in its simplicity to use and be utilized based on a practice’s individual needs.

The impact of patient no-shows and inadequate communication between practice and patient include:

  • Delayed care for both the no-show patient and the patient that is unable to book in that slot
  • Health risk to the patient that doesn’t show
  • Health risk to the patient that is seeking care and is unable to book in that no-show slot
  • Poor continuity of care
  • Poor staff utilization
  • Patient liability risks
  • Interference of patient and resident education
  • Loss of multiple streams of revenue (Staff utilization, provider productivity, etc…)

Thankfully these are not problems without solutions. Technology has provided the opportunity for communications experts to hone in on the pressure points of patient retention when it comes to developing loyalty and connection. Applying an efficient and effective medium to ensure receipt of intended communications by the patient and continuing until the patient’s actions achieve the practice’s intended outcome is an advantage that many practices are not utilizing, or are underutilizing.

There isn’t a single mode of communication that works universally. Therefore, an effective communication system will take advantage of the most popular methods of technology driven communication options and eventually find the style that works best for each particular patient to achieve the desired outcome. When more than 85% of American adults own a cell phone, and most are smart phones, the communication methods from practice to patient available are:

  • Direct mail message
  • Call queue to a staff member or call center agent
  • SMS (short message service/text)
  • Social Media message (where applicable)
  • Others (as they become available)

There are many reasons that a practice would want to communicate with their patients. The difference an automated cross-media marketing system would make spans across many revenue streams for the practice.

Appointment Confirmations and Reminders

Historically, 50% of unconfirmed appointments result in no-shows, and 14% of confirmed appointments don’t show. That’s a 36% increase in patient show rates! An effective system will communicate with patients to confirm their scheduled appointments in advance and advise them of potential fees associated with broken appointments. Reminders could be sent as early as an hour prior to the appointment to deter as many broken appointments as possible. This is especially helpful for frequent flyer patients, and those that lack calendar/time management skills. The patient could primarily be emailed, an excellent reason to attain patient email addresses. If the email did not result in patient confirmation, the above methods would be then set in motion until the patient has confirmed their appointment. A communication system is only as good as the receipt of the communication. Imagine all the revenue no longer lost to patient no-shows.

Patient No Shows

A logical follow up benefit to the practice, and to patients, is communications regarding an appointment that a patient doesn’t show up for. A desirable marketing system will communicate with patients that cancel, or miss their appointments until their appointment has been rescheduled. Let technology spend the time and efforts getting into contact with these patients rather than spending staff time and money to do so.

Recalls

Practices can effectively communicate with patients when they are in need of follow-up visits in general. This is greatly beneficial to patients that have a specific diagnosis, or procedure code, that results in frequent visits. This also allows providers to meet PQRS (Physician Quality Reporting System) customer service standards, which sets the practice up to maintain the highest level of reimbursement.

Lost Patient Recovery

Technology can be used to connect with patients who have not been seen by the office within specific time intervals. Depending on the specialty, these communications could begin when the patient has an unacceptable time lapse since their last visit.

Post Visit Thank You

Who couldn’t use a little more appreciation? Let your patients know you are thankful that they chose your office. In this day and age gratitude goes a long way and it is highly recognized by consumers. These could also include very specific post visit instructions depending on a patient’s needs. The “thank you” could also include a request of the patient to complete an internal survey and/or links to review your office on social media sites, which leads into…

Reputation Management

Most patients, and consumers, want the best they can get in the least amount of time and money spent. Much like if one was shopping on Amazon, Ebay, or even looking for a great restaurant patients are now interested in reviews of their physicians, clinics, or anywhere that deals with their healthcare needs. An effective marketing system will notify the office and provide a link for the office staff to manually reply to both positive and negative reviews on any one of dozens of social media review sites. Even better, there are systems that provide a managed service so the staff doesn’t have to remember to respond to reviews they are notified of. Reduction in productivity is key in revenue generation!

New Patient Welcome

When a person chooses to become a new patient of yours, you can send them a thank you communication recognizing that they have many options for care and that you appreciate their confidence in you. Sending ahead new patient paperwork is also helpful in workflow and timeliness of productivity. The patient appreciates shorter wait times, and the staff appreciates having full information on the very first visit.

Provider Referral Appreciation

Referrals from other providers results in more revenue. Be proactive and show your appreciation to those referring providers. Oftentimes they don’t even know if their referral was effective, this way they know their patient’s health care needs are being taken care of and that they are in the hands of a physician they trust.

Happy Birthday

Show your patients that you care and greet them on their birthdays with a celebratory communication. Some may even take this opportunity to notify the patient that you are looking forward to seeing them on their unscheduled, yet overdue, appointment. It may not be appropriate, but it is a good opportunity to renew a patient-practice relationship, again, increasing revenue.

Proactive Prescription Recall

How many offices, and staff members, have productivity time that is used up by organizing prescription refills and refill visits? There are marketing systems that, when the life of the prescription is known and logged, will communicate with patients in advance of their script running its course and remind them to schedule an appointment to mitigate the lapse of their prescription. A win for workflow and productivity, again!

Patient Surveys & Escalation

Quality Assurance is a big part of patient loyalty and retention. Escalating and responding to positive and negative survey responses is imperative to ensure proper patient experience, along with quickly and easily identifying locations and staff members who are positively, or negatively, impacting the office and/or brand.

That’s a lot of information, communications, and time that could really slow a practice down costing it more money than the efforts being invested. As technology increases a problem arises in quantifying the data to know if it’s actually making a difference in your practice. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to make a positive transformation without having a clear understanding of where one is currently and has been historically. Many times this data is spread out across several technological fronts making the collection and deciphering of information tedious and, often times, confusing. Fortunately, there are systems that exist that not only effectively implement new communication standards and practices, but, also, make understanding the results simple, clear, and readily available. However, technology provides for systems to be able to real-time analyze data and provide practice analytics at a glance. Rather than spending hours combing through data from multiple reports looking for trends and trouble spots, there are processes out there that put all of the pertinent practice performance metrics and key performance indicators in one central location. How beneficial would it be to easily understand how your practice is performing against its goals, whether staff members are achieving or exceeding goals, if you are meeting, or exceeding, insurance reimbursement rates, how many patients are being seen each month, whether or not that exceeds your average number of monthly patients, know your average lifetime patient production and so much more? How would having all of this technology and information readily available cause a transformation in your practice and patient retention?

It’s easy to see that taking advantage of technology in your practice could alleviate stresses on lines of revenue, workflow operation, and common complaints from patients. Communication technology is advancing at a phenomenal rate, and having the ability to tailor it to your practice’s needs is a benefit that will only cost you if you don’t take action using it in your practice.

About The Author

President and CEO of United Physician Services

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