Over the past decade, the healthcare industry has begun to recognize the pivotal role patient outreach and engagement has in improving clinical outcomes. In support of this, text messaging and other automated patient outreach solutions are surfacing as key channels for communicating with patients—a critical element of improving the patient experience. Automated patient outreach via text messaging enables providers to engage patients effectively, meeting them where they are and at scale throughout their entire care journey. Interactive messages ensure patients seek and manage care more consistently, leading to better outcomes in the short-term and long-term. Text messaging gives patients the flexibility and freedom to communicate with their healthcare providers whenever, wherever, and however it is convenient for them. With the potential to strengthen the relationship between patient and provider, text messaging also increases the likelihood that patients will proactively seek regular care and maintain better health. Given the importance of communication in engaging patients in their care, text messaging can be powerful when used properly. The following six types of text messages can help your practice more effectively engage your patient population, thereby improving the patient experience and elevating quality outcomes.

1. Appointment Reminders

During a busy week, it’s easy to forget about scheduled healthcare appointments. In fact, approximately 29 percent of appointments are missed every year. This underutilization of health care services often results in lower health outcomes, as patients who miss appointments are less likely to use preventative care services and thereby remain in poor health. To decrease your patient no-shows and improve engagement with your patient population, sending a simple courtesy appointment reminder via text increases the likelihood that patients will remember their appointment and follow-through with attendance. Patient outreach can be automated, as text messages can be integrated with your EHR and personalized for each patient to remind them of the date, time, and location of their appointment. Studies show that after implementing multi-modal reminders and automated engagement, patient no-show rates can drop as much as 80%. By getting patients to merely show up for appointments, patients are more likely to maintain wellness as a result of regular care.

2. Pre-Visit Instructions

Some healthcare appointments require specific pre-visit guidelines to ensure a seamless experience. For example, certain procedures may require patients to follow certain food or drink instructions, or others may need specialized paperwork filled out ahead of time. Automated patient outreach can remind patients of what they need to do before their appointment, which helps them follow guidelines and complete any necessary steps prior to their visit. This saves patients—and your office—time and energy at the appointment, allowing them to get in and out faster which improves their experience.

3. Missed Appointment Notifications

When patients miss an appointment on accident, rescheduling is probably not going to be top of mind. After a no-show, proactive patient outreach via text message provides a convenient way for patients to reschedule appointments. The notification will often prompt your patients to call the office and pick an alternative date that works, ensuring there’s no lapse in their care. Texting patients after a missed appointment also gives you an opportunity to better understand why your patient missed their visit, whether it’s a result of transportation, cost, forgetfulness, or another reason. Being able to collect this information allows you to proactively address these barriers in the future.

4. Follow-up Care Instructions

Similar to pre-visit instructions, it’s important for patients to follow post-visit care instructions so they can take responsibility for their care. You can use follow-up patient outreach texts to encourage patients to model positive health behaviors like medication adherence or to reduce poor health choices like smoking. Post-visit patient outreach shows them you didn’t forget about them after their appointment and you’re here to help them, even when they are not inside your office. This strengthens the patient-provider relationship and improves care plan adherence, both of which will positively affect their healthcare experience and outcomes.

5. Preventative Care Outreach

Most patients wait to schedule healthcare appointments until they are experiencing illness, but imagine if you could proactively bring in patients for preventative care. Texting patients when it’s time to schedule their annual check-up or regular chronic care appointment can remind them to see their doctor in a timely manner. Automated patient outreach via text allows practices to communicate these messages at scale while using dashboards to ensure their entire patient population is covered. Patients can receive reminders about critical screenings, vaccinations, wellness visits, and other preventative care necessary to keep them healthy. Similarly, automated messages can be tailored for a variety of common chronic disease conditions, including heart disease, asthma, diabetes, and cancer. Proactively delivering these messages gets patients in the door before it’s too late. This personalized patient outreach delivers resources at scale to help patients demonstrate self-care and receive continuous support beyond the clinical setting. And, when a patient deviates from their care plan, responses to automated text can inform the care team, allowing them to intervene in a timely manner.

6. Patient Feedback Collection Surveys

Finally, post-visit surveys can be distributed to patients via text, allowing you to collect timely feedback regarding satisfaction of their care. Positive responses can be automatically routed to social media review sites to boost your online ratings, while negative responses prompt alerts for your office staff to provide real-time service recovery. Patient feedback is a simple but powerful way to also start measuring outcomes. Two-way texting can be supported by an analytics platform that offers text analysis for keywords and aggregated scores across a variety of categories so you can easily identify patient satisfiers and areas for improvement.

Conclusion

These six types of text messages can automate patient outreach, demonstrating involvement and care from the provider while improving the quality of care received by the patient. And, the convenience of the reminder via text minimizes the hassle associated with voicemails and phone calls, increasing patient satisfaction and willingness to seek out preventative care and management of chronic issues. As healthcare continues to shift from fee-for-service to value-based care, the demand for patient satisfaction and engagement has never been greater. And, with increasing pressure on cost-reduction and quality reporting, providers are looking for alternative engagement solutions to traditional patient outreach. Patient outreach via text messaging ensures patients receive personalized and relevant communications that engage them in their care. Improving the patient experience not only results in increased patient engagement and satisfaction, it also elevates clinical quality outcomes. When patients are actively engaged in their care plan, quality outcomes are higher because it brings the responsibility and focus on health back to the patient. Learn more about how using text messaging for patient outreach improves quality outcomes.

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