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Minimize Disruptions By Creating a More Perfect Appointment Workflow

Posted by Mike Rigert on Apr 21, 2021 8:30:00 AM

Nagging, headache-inducing, and often downright painful, disruptions are unfortunately a part of life for healthcare organizations. They come in many forms, whether they be patient-driven, internal issues, or unpredictable “acts of God,” disruptions to a provider’s appointment schedule can wreak havoc on profitability.

The most common form of disruptions is well-known in the industry—no-shows, late cancellations, and patients showing up late and unprepared for visits. They’re a real liability for providers because it’s often impossible to fill those now-empty appointment slots and make up the lost revenue. No-shows in healthcare average between 10 and 30 percent and end up costing practices $150,000 to $300,000 annually per provider.

Not to mention the impact of the mother of all disruptions—the COVID-19 pandemic, which left providers scrambling for answers on how to safely continue visits and minimize the financial fallout. Though many patients stayed away from the doctor’s office during the coronavirus, many more have returned or taken advantage of virtual care, including telehealth, to resume visits. But the damage was done and lots of healthcare organizations are still recovering and trying to figure out how to return to previous levels of operation and profitability.

Disruptions aren’t the only challenge facing today’s providers. We’ve also learned since March 2020 that patients’ communication preferences have changed during the coronavirus. Not only did patient satisfaction with healthcare communication drop seven percent in the past year, but 83 percent of patients said poor communication was the worst part of their healthcare experience in 2020. To be more specific, patients desire for phone calls dropped 14 percent during the pandemic. It’s not that patients don’t want to connect with their providers, they just don’t want to do it through phone calls.

How do providers help narrow this communication gap? The answer is text messaging. Almost 80 percent of patients want to receive texts from their provider, and nearly 75 percent want to be able to text back and forth with practices. But it’s not just younger generations of patients that have latched on to the texting phenomenon. Ninety percent of Americans ages 65 and older own a cellphone and 86 percent of adults ages 50 and up communicate through texting.

But between these disruptions and providers’ continued reliance on phone calls to reach patients, the appointment workflow has become disjointed and kaput. Providers aren’t effectively connecting with patients and patients want to reach out to providers in ways that are more innovative and consumer-friendly.

So, how do both entities meet in the middle? By building a more perfect appointment workflow sustained by a more responsive text-first approach to the scheduling process. Providers need to touch base with patients at every point along their healthcare journey rather than during just the actual visit. Three key tools to using texting to effectively and efficiently meet patients where they are include:

  • Automated communication
  • Group messaging
  • Two-way text messaging

Automated text messages allow you to connect with large numbers of patients simultaneously while group messaging gives you the flexibility to reach specific groups when timing or circumstances are urgent. Two-way texting better serves patients by giving them the ability to ask questions and quickly get answers or reschedule an appointment without ever having to make a phone call.

In a perfect appointment workflow, providers interact with patients at five main stages:

  • Schedule: Recall, gaps in care, outreach, and scheduling
  • Prepare: Pre-visit instructions, confirmation/cancellation/reschedule, appointment reminders, intake, and answer questions
  • Same-Day: Check-in, “park and text,” telehealth instructions, and answer questions
  • Visit: Patient encounter
  • Follow-Up: Post-visit care instructions, patient survey, reschedule reminders, billing questions, and answer questions

Not only does a streamlined appointment workflow minimize disruptions to help patients keep their appointments and to show up on time and prepare but its text-first approach yields more effortless and meaningful communication. It also supports both virtual care and in-person appointments while it allows providers to have an ongoing conversation with patients that leads to greater adherence and satisfaction, and ultimately, improved outcomes.

To learn more about how a text-first communication approach and a perfect appointment workflow can help you fill your schedule and produce increased revenue, check out the SR Health guide, “The Perfect Appointment Workflow: A Path to Improve Patient Outcomes and Increased Revenue.”

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Mike Rigert

Written by Mike Rigert