Patient Communication Between Visits
Written by Editor   
Thursday, October 16, 2014 01:44 PM

"The U.S. healthcare landscape is in the midst of a steady but seismic shift away from one that has long supported episodic care and volume-based payments, to one that fosters value-based care, wellness and preventive care, the meaningful use of IT and the quality of the overall patient experience."

"Today’s patients want and expect a great care experience from the moment they first enter the figurative front door and throughout their relationship with the provider. Moreover, they’re not afraid to take their business elsewhere when their expectations aren’t being met, especially with respect to easy access and communication." 

Smaller practices are recognizing that, "in order to facilitate better care, retain patients and remain competitive with strong ROI results, they need to engage patients not just when they are sick, but throughout ongoing care management between visits" and that "without a plan for sustaining communication between scheduled visits, the patient-provider partnership may suffer."

"It makes sense for smaller practices to invest time and resources in developing and implementing a patient communication strategy that fits the needs of their specific practice and patient population. ... A well-considered patient communication strategy can help smaller practices accomplish three major objectives: streamline patient access and support, leverage data to identify specific challenges and solutions, and offer patients multiple venues, or platforms, to communicate with physicians and staff."

Each of these objectives is comprised of multiple elements:

"Patient access and support: To drive patient acquisition, practices must focus on facilitating referrals, appointment scheduling and reminders, daytime call management and after-hours call management. Patient retention, meanwhile, is fostered though responsive triage, test result delivery, proactive management calls and confidential messaging services. Rounding out this important triad is patient engagement. Practices can boost engagement through proactive class and event registration and reminders, service line marketing, targeted community marketing campaigns, and wellness and prevention outreach."

"Data analysis: Monitoring specific performance indicators about patient contact opportunities, such as call answer times, call hold times, abandoned calls and assorted other data, can show where a given practice is falling short and provide direction for improvement. ... Leveraging statistics such as this to measure success can be useful when evaluating communication efforts."

"Multiple communication venues: Finally, a communications strategy should offer patients multiple venues for communication. While telephones are still important, today’s patients are fully embracing other ways to interact. Thus, successful smaller practices are offering their patients options such as mobile and texting communication, patient portals and other online communication venues, in addition to direct interaction through live-voice telephone contact and in-person visits."

"Ultimately, a practice’s ability to support interactive and timely communication with patients will play a significant role in the practice thriving in the new healthcare environment. Developing a communication strategy that anticipates and responds to patient needs throughout the care continuum can keep patients satisfied, engaged and loyal to the practice over time, thus strengthening the practice’s financial outcomes and longevity."