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Is Phone Call Scheduling Providers’ Next Dodo Bird?

Posted by Mike Rigert on Apr 5, 2021 8:30:00 AM

It’s funny how with all the modern technology we have available to us, sometimes we still cling to outdated, essentially obsolete devices and tools that belong in a glistening museum display case rather than a healthcare facility.

Take for example the ubiquitous but antiquated fax machine. It’s outdated, 1970s-era technology known for its security and privacy glitches when patients’ medical records and data are accidentally sent to the wrong number. The fax machine also causes long delays in providers sharing information and leads to countless medical information transcription errors. Basically, it’s a liability-filled HIPAA nightmare just waiting to happen.

Yet despite the availability of newer, more efficient, less costly, and infinitely more secure data sharing technologies, an estimated 90 percent of healthcare providers stubbornly refuse to walk away from their fax machines.

In 2018, the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services called for an end to fax machine use in the healthcare sector by 2020. The U.K.’s National Health Service has also advocated for a similar ban.

But much like faxes, there’s another unproductive and passé technology that persists among healthcare providers—the use of phone calls to schedule appointments. In a recent poll, it was revealed that 66 percent of healthcare leaders still rely on phone calls as their primary method for patient appointments.

That’s a bit alarming considering the fact that patients’ communication tastes have drastically changed in recent years and their preferred way to connect with providers is overwhelming by text messaging. It’s 2021, and people want to avoid the hassle and inconvenience of phone calls and voicemails when there’s the ease, simplicity, and unobtrusiveness of texting back and forth with a provider. Consider how much the needle has moved when it comes to phone calls versus texting for appointment scheduling:

  • During COVID, the level of patient satisfaction with healthcare communication declined 7 percent.
  • The desire for phone calls from providers dropped 14 percent.
  • The percentage of patients that want communication automation with providers increased from 81 percent to 84 percent.
  • 79 percent of patients want to receive text messages from providers.
  • 73 percent of patients want to be able to send texts to their providers.
  • 86 percent of providers said text messaging improved the patient experience
  • 81 percent of providers said text messaging improved patient outcomes.

And just like fax machines, falling back on phone calls in this day and age to schedule appointments is inconvenient, time-consuming, ineffective, and inarguably painful for both patients and provider staff. For example, the average time it takes to book an appointment by phone call is eight minutes, compared to only four seconds to send a text message. Patients don’t want to be struck on the phone, waiting on hold, and many often never check their voicemail. Staff are already stretched thin with a dizzying array of medical office responsibilities, and getting tied up on the phone for appointment scheduling saps costly and limited resources.

Paired together, texting and automation enable a provider to reach a much greater number of patients in a shorter period of time. And unlike phone calls, automated and two-way texting allow you to effectively converse with patients at several touchpoints in what is a smoother, more efficient appointment workflow. This approach increases engagement, decreases no-shows and late cancellations, and leads to a more positive patient experience. The end product of a text-first scheduling strategy is improved outcomes and increased revenue.

True efficiency, effectiveness, and savings in scheduling appointments come from innovation. Consider how text messaging can not only save your organization time and money, but how it will also get you and your patients on the same page and speaking the same language. Ditch your phones and go digital—it’s a competitive advantage that will instill patient loyalty while delivering a winning, results-based appointment scheduling strategy.

To learn more about how a text-first approach to patient scheduling can help you reduce no-shows and increase confirmations, check out the guide, “On Time and Ready to Go.”

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Mike Rigert

Written by Mike Rigert

Mike Rigert has been a content writer in marketing and communications with several technology companies for over a decade. At SR Health, Rigert is tasked with creating compelling content that helps healthcare providers overcome their patient communication inefficiencies to make their organizations more profitable. When he’s not typing away on his computer, he enjoys discussing sci-fi, reading nonfiction, and eating chocolate.