The world is full of rules, both written and unwritten. Follow traffic signs. Don’t cut in line. Obey those in authority. 

There are dos and don’ts that should be followed by healthcare providers when conducting patient outreach. Instead of rules, though, they are recommended strategies to best engage patients to be a more active participant in their own health.    

What Exactly Is Patient Outreach? 

Patient outreach refers to communication between healthcare providers and patients to promote and increase engagement and improve satisfaction. The patient outreach process is more than contacting patients who did not attend a scheduled appointment or haven’t paid their bills It also includes proactively reminding patients about appointments, laboratory testing, screening, vaccinations and other preventative or follow-up treatments. 

Types of Patient Outreach 

Conversational AI

Employed by a growing number of medical groups, conversational AI is most commonly used for appointment scheduling and rescheduling along with clinical outreach. The technology enables patients to procure quick and accurate information without having to wait on hold. Conversational AI tools provide 24/7 availability, meeting patients’ preferences for convenience that drive healthcare consumerism. They promote increased access to care and can be tailored toward a targeted patient population or for a specific medical group to provide more personalized interactions. 

Two-Way Text Messaging

Healthcare providers employ texting technology for a variety of uses, from scheduling and confirming appointments to answering patient questions, sending appointment reminders, reminding patients to pay outstanding balances and communicating with their colleagues and staff. As a scalable medium for conducting automated patient outreach, text messaging generates better outcomes amidst today’s complex healthcare landscape. That’s because it typically increases appointment attendance, drives preventative care, enhances chronic disease management, improves medication adherence and reduces hospital admissions by communicating with patients between office visits. 

Direct Mail

Utilizing direct mail for your patient outreach strategy might seem like a step back from today’s digital world. However, having a tangible form of information — such as a letter advertising a service, encouraging potential clients to access certain government health benefits or providing patient education — to utilize along with digital tools is a way to acquire new patients or retain existing ones. The patient population segment best suited for this type of outreach may be the elderly, those who prefer not to use digital devices or individuals in low-income households who do not have access to more digital forms of communication. 

Don’ts of Patient Outreach 

Don’t Forget HIPAA 

Compliance with the Privacy Rule of HIPAA is not just recommended — it is required. When digitally collecting protected health information (PHI), the security of that data must be ensured by employing encryption, establishing authorization policies and procedures, implementing audit and reporting controls and prioritizing other security measures. Otherwise, providers risk civil and criminal penalties, lost patient trust and a damaged reputation. 

Don’t Spam 

Reaching out to patients too often — even to remind them about an appointment they scheduled — can cause message fatigue and patient abrasion, so outreach should be limited to no more than three contacts total. If a patient confirms his or her appointment, only a reminder call or message the day before the appointment is needed.  

Dos of Patient Outreach 

Do Personalize Communication 

Tailor messages specific to the personal needs of your patients. Know your target audience and what type of information is best suited to that patient population. Utilize data to help you achieve this. 

Healthcare is personal by nature, as providers interact with patients at some of their most vulnerable moments. By using data to narrow down with which patients you need to communicate within your patient outreach strategy, you can then tailor your messaging based on their specific needs and where they are at in their patient journey. Customized messaging protocols also can be tailored to patients meeting specific criteria such as age, risk factors, location, last visit date and more. Patient data can come from a variety of sources, including:

Electronic Health Records (EHR): Digital records that capture a patient’s demographics, medical history, lab results and other clinical information

Patient Satisfaction Surveys and Scores: Feedback related to what patients like and dislike about their experience at your practice

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Platforms: Centralized hubs of data originating from internal and external sources including call center interactions, behavioral patterns and more to provide a 360° view of the patient and allow you to refine your patient outreach strategy with considerations at every stage in the patient journey

Engagement Hubs: Third-party solutions that enable healthcare providers to automate and track communication efforts through integrations with various technology 

Do Use Technology 

Automated communication tools such as HIPAA-compliant conversational AI and two-way text messaging allow for scalable and targeted patient outreach. Automated outreach is generating better outcomes amidst today’s complex healthcare landscape by expanding access to health information while strengthening the patient-provider relationship. 

Healthcare technology that enables automated outreach can generate patient feedback following visits, allowing practices to measure the quality of outcomes from the patient’s perspective while also providing service recovery for dissatisfied patients. Plus, by automating patient outreach and decreasing staff time on the phone, a provider team can focus more on providing quality patient care. 

Call 540-516-3602 to start your interactive demo of Providertech’s conversational AI solution for patient engagement using test patient Sara Morales D.O.B. 7/20/81. Or, book an appointment with a member of our team.