Got the missed appointment blues? You’re not alone. Missed appointments were already a vulnerability for healthcare, and the shock to the system from the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated that weakness.
Millions of patients opted to stay away from the doctor’s office in 2020 and up to the present for fear of the virus and their personal safety. More than 41 percent of Americans avoided medical care because of concerns about COVID and 87 percent of healthcare leaders said safety was patients’ No. 1 reason for not scheduling care during the coronavirus. That translates into an awful lot of empty appointment slots and innumerable patients not getting the care they need.
Ordinarily, just run-of-the-mill missed appointments during non-apocalyptic times are a painful source of loss of revenue for healthcare organizations. Missed appointments cost the U.S. healthcare system $150 billion per year and individual physicians an average of $200 per unused time slot. One study found that missed appointments can take a 14 percent hit on projected daily revenue for physician practices.
If that wasn’t enough to make you sit up and take notice, add into the mix the fact that 56 percent of patients with multiple chronic conditions delayed care during COVID, and 86 percent of doctors are concerned that their chronic care patients avoided appointments due to the pandemic.
But as well all know, recall activities can be time-consuming and require use of costly resources for providers. When approached traditionally, putting staff on phones to cold call patients to schedule care appointments burns lots of hours, takes staff away from more important in-office patient interactions, and is frustratingly ineffective.
And phone calls just aren’t the most effective way to reach patients anymore. Patient desire for phone calls fell by 14 percent during COVID. At the same time, the use of text messaging in healthcare skyrocketed in popularity. Nearly 80 percent of patients want to receive text messages from their provider, and 86 percent of healthcare organizations say that text messaging improves the patient experience.
The following are five tips to more cost-effective, performance-based patient recall:
- Use automation: A text-first digital patient communication system allows you to efficiently reach out every patient due for care.
- Automated appointment notifications: Text automated notifications to patients for overdue or missed appointments.
- Education and outreach: Text automated patient outreach and educational materials to remind patients to schedule preventive and chronic care.
- Patient survey: Text a patient survey to people overdue for appointments to discover and address specific concerns that may be preventing them from scheduling.
- Follow-up instructions and ongoing care: Text care instructions and patient education to increase adherence. Send text reminders to schedule follow-up care and virtual check-ins.
To learn more about these five essentials to more productive patient recall, download the SR Health checklist, “5 Steps to More Effective Patient Recall.”