Yuma Regional Medical Center is a leading healthcare network based in Yuma, Arizona, that includes 167 providers in 43 specialties at 22 locations. Prior to choosing SR Health by Solutionreach, they used a handful of disparate manual and automated systems for patient communications. Their administrators needed a way to consolidate patient engagement through a single, standardized approach to reduce no-shows and decrease staff resources expended on manual phone call engagement. SR Health’s text-first platform offered them the capabilities to connect more effectively and efficiently with patients to reduce no-shows, improve follow-up communications, and reach out on a more personal level.
Yuma Regional Medical Center (YRMC) serves thousands of patients at a series of ambulatory clinics throughout its network of facilities. As a result, they were using an assortment of patient communication systems, a significant portion of which relied on manual phone call operations. However, this approach didn’t allow them to generate the appointment confirmations rates they desired, and it was also a costly drain on staff resources. Some clinics were seeing in upwards of several hundred patients per day whose visit confirmations relied on staff phone call reminders.
“It was very time-consuming,” said Fransoany Nunez, director of ambulatory operations for YRMC’s family and internal medicine clinics. “That’s a lot of manpower to make those calls.”
When the medical center acquired a women’s health practice that happened to use SR Health’s text-based solution for appointment reminders and other notifications, they immediately noticed a difference. Though the high-volume clinic had 15 providers scheduling 350 to 390 patients per day, staff were able to confirm a large percentage of visits through automated reminders sent out as text messages. If a given provider was unexpectedly out sick or otherwise unavailable, SR Health’s group texting tool allowed them to quickly notify patients to reschedule.
“When it came down to watching that in real time and being able to send out those notifications, it was like, ‘wow’, OK, that really saved a lot of time,” said Jillinda Freeman, YRMC’s administrative director of ambulatory operations.
Intrigued, she explored the platform’s many features, including automated text reminders sent at a proven cadence, group texting, and pre-visit and post-care follow-up notifications. Her main priority was to apply a modern solution that would enable all of YRMC’s clinics to use identical automated systems to minimize no-shows while improving post-appointment follow-up engagement in a way that was more patient-friendly. Oddly enough, one of SR Health’s lesser-known features may have been the kicker for Freeman when she learned that the platform could send “Happy Birthday” texts to patients on their special day.
“That just blew my mind when Women’s Health was able to do that,” Freeman said. “It started making it more of a personal touch versus a robotic one. That was really the start of, well, if SR Health could do this, what else could they do? The inquisitors started asking some tough questions, and SR Health was able to provide the answers effectively and efficiently.”
Nunez said SR Health’s impact in helping curb no-shows was profound. Most of the medical center’s family medicine and internal medicine clinics saw a 10 percent reduction in no-show rates. At some clinics, the level of improvement was even greater. In terms of staff resource savings, the results were also noteworthy. In the past, reliance on manual confirmation phone calls often required them to redirect staff from the front desk to assist with calling patients, she said. Unfortunately, the many hours gobbled up by redirected office staff working the phones for appointment reminders added up quickly.
“When you’re talking about a facility that we have multiple providers in, like a family medicine center, that’s a significant amount of time that we’re having to pull somebody,” Nunez said. “You’re essentially down a member of your team.”
Joining SR Health as a patient engagement partner also benefited Yuma Regional Medical Center in other ways. Nunez said her clinics leveraged the platform to blast out group text messages to patients in support of their COVID vaccine clinic. This has allowed staff to quickly distribute inoculation visit reminders, second dose scheduling messages, and the latest information on vaccine availability.
Freeman and Nunez also have plans to utilize SR Health to enhance their recall and preventive value-based care efforts and services—for example, to remind Women’s Health patients about important mammograms and routine maintenance checkups. They also want to augment their telehealth visits with SR Health’s pre-visit instructions and real-time two-way text messaging to prepare patients for virtual care visits. The pre-visit instruction texts allow patients to text them back if they experience trouble connecting for the appointment.
More than anything, Freeman and Nunez said the ability of SR Health’s platform to be a source of “constant communication with the patient” has made the difference in their engagement efforts. It has better positioned them to ensure patients keep their appointments and schedule needed follow-up care while empowering patients with an easier, more convenient means of ongoing two-way communication.
In a wholly unanticipated outcome of moving to SR Health, the health system was able to mobilize the platform’s group messaging tool to affect an immediate and timely impact on their rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine to patients. Within a very short window, they sent out 20,000 texts to nearly 10,000 patients with scheduling information about a pair of upcoming COVID-19 vaccination events for elderly patients. As a result, in February 2021, they scheduled 5,000 vaccine doses. Better yet, they believe the group messaging feature led to a much-improved customer experience for patients.
“The response was phenomenal. In terms of branding with our patients, I think it engendered a lot of trust because they could hear from their provider when the vaccine was available earlier than on the news or any of these other communication tools,” the administrator said. “It was smooth and it was easy. It was seamless, and it was secure.”
During the second phase of SR Health implementation, the health system plans to use targeted group messaging to recall and preschedule specific groups of patients for critical preventative care, including OBGYN and internal medicine applications. That will considerably alleviate the burden on staff who currently perform time-consuming phone-based outreach activities for recall. Once again, the health system’s capacity to offer patient-preferred automated and two-way text messaging will continue to lead to better informed and more satisfied patients.
“And so, from an efficiency standpoint and a patient satisfaction standpoint, it will be huge,” the administrator said. “Rather than getting a voicemail left on their cellphone when they’re at work, patients could just get a text message and reply ‘yes,’ please schedule me with the front desk.”