The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many changes in how the world works, especially in the healthcare industry. It’s a time of great stress and uncertainty – for both healthcare providers and patients. Even though many guidelines that were enacted at the beginning of the pandemic have been lifted, some individuals continue to restrict their interaction with the outside world. Because of this, today’s providers struggle to ensure that their patient populations get quality care for their specific needs during their most vulnerable moments.
What is Patient Outreach?
Outside of healthcare institutions, patients are met with numerous responsibilities, all of which require their time and focus. Their divided attention may cause challenges in terms of paying attention to their own needs as a patient, which then requires medical groups to take action. How is this achieved? Engaging and informing the patient population with data about their illness and prompting them to take appropriate action.
Patient outreach refers to outbound communication between doctors and patients that is geared toward staying connected, increasing patient engagement and improving patient satisfaction. The process usually involves calling patients who were late for or didn’t show up to a scheduled appointment; It also includes reminding patients about laboratory testing, screening, vaccinations and other preventative or follow-up treatments.
Types of Patient Outreach to Reach the Entire Patient Population
There are multiple ways healthcare providers can reach out to their patient population(s). In this blog, we’re highlighting a few of the most popular ones.
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 – is a way to get new patients or retain existing ones.
Ths 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.
Patient Portal Messaging
Since 2014, the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs have incentivized hospitals to give patients access to their information via certified EHR technology. Through this government program, patients were given the means to view, download, and transmit (VDT) their health information using a patient portal.
Despite this access, however, more than half of hospitals reported only 25% usage of these portals as they were deemed valid only before a doctor’s appointment, used mainly by those with chronic illnesses, and given that it is a standalone system, patients have trouble remembering how to log in.
The use of text messaging enables healthcare providers to easily communicate with patients about personal concerns. Along with providing patients with a digital health tool to schedule appointments and receive test results,, this technology can be used by providers to gather immediate feedback and send reminders about recommended preventive screenings.
Why is Patient Outreach Important?
The failure of patients to keep appointments negatively impacts patient outcomes. It also complicates the care program for vulnerable patient groups, such as those with hereditary or chronic diseases.
Poor patient engagement and lack of appointment reminders can create gaps in the patient journey. Conversely, successful patient engagement helps to achieve multiple advantages, including managing the patient journey and improving care coordination:
Manages the Patient Journey
Patient outreach strategies help patients see that they are important and part of the whole care management team. Thus, automated patient outreach is an essential part of providing advice to patients and supporting them. Examples include the following:
Preventive Care Campaigns: Create a proactive outreach program that offers consistent and relevant wellness education along with information on preventive practices patients can do in the comfort of their homes.
Campaigns for No-Show Reduction: The use of automated reminder outreach for appointment schedules using the various channels of text, chat, email, etc., ensures better attendance by meeting each patient’s communication preferences.
Improves the Care Coordination Between Healthcare Providers
Apart from patient outcomes, insufficient patient outreach strategies incur higher costs for healthcare providers. How? Time and other valuable resources are wasted through lower productivity. They also lose potential revenue from value-based reimbursement programs as a result of no-shows.
Patient outreach enhances care coordination among clinical teams by leveraging data collected through automated text messages and other integrated platforms. That helps to reduce provider workload, which is especially important in the ongoing healthcare labor shortage.
Dos & Don’ts of Patient Outreach
When turning to automation for patient communication and outreach, security is paramount. Therefore, it is best to adopt the following best practices:
Don’t Forget Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
Compliance with the Privacy Rule of HIPAA isn’t just recommended; it’s required. When digitally collecting protected health information (PHI), the security of that data is ensured. Otherwise, providers risk civil and criminal penalties, lost patient trust and a damaged reputation.
Direct marketing is acceptable. Text communication may be useful for patient outreach but proceed with caution. Don’t send too much information or messages that may not be relevant to patients. This can result in them opting out of outreach services.
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.
Do Protect Patient Testimonials
Patient testimonials can be a very effective way to improve a provider’s reputation. Keep HIPAA and other privacy laws in mind, though. Make sure to get written consent from your patients before publicly sharing their testimonials.
Do Use Technology
Using automatic patient communication (APC) automated patient communication is essential to a successful outreach strategy. Although direct mailers cater to a specific population, technology like appointment reminders, messaging, and chats with clients make contact and encoding easier.
The software provides patients with a suite of features that includes automatic scheduling confirmation directly to the management system, automated scripting for quick scripting, and configurable messaging for different appointments.
Easily communicate with your patients while safeguarding their information. CareCommunity helps increase appointment volume, patient outcomes and increases revenue for clinicians while easily integrating with major EHRs. This allows the automatic identification of target segments to support personalized population health campaigns.
Talk with our solutions team to understand how CareCommunity will enhance your patient outreach.