Picture this: You’ve got a full day of work today, but somehow you need to squeeze in an extra hour to update your plates at the DMV.
You tried to get the plates through the DMV’s website for the past week, but it’s glitching again, and the due date is fast approaching. You also attempted to use their app, but it repeatedly keeps looping the same page. You even called tech support but can’t get through to an actual person. But instead, one menu option leads to another and another…and another.
So, you shuffle around meetings, schedule a long lunch and fight traffic all the way to the DMV. Then, waiting in a line that’s moving slowly as molasses, you finally make it to the second place in line. Only now, DMV workers are alerting everyone in line that the facility’s computers are down, and they have no idea when they’ll be up and running. Sound familiar?
Manual healthcare communications present similar issues. They get the job done, but not very well, and they aren’t putting the patient first. In fact, with today’s technologies and communication expectations, manual communication can waste time, money and effort for both providers, their patients, and the healthcare system as a whole.
What is Patient Communication, and What’s the Difference Between Manual and Automated?
Patient communication has been defined as a process where information is exchanged between a provider and patient through a standard system. While communication can be used with any means, automation tools leverage healthcare resources by using self-directing virtual communications. They also enable providers to alleviate the workload on healthcare teams.
Automated patient communication solutions include:
- SMS messaging
- Automated phone calls and voicemails
- Digital patient satisfaction surveys
- eTest results delivery
- Online secure forms
- Patient portals
The Problems With Manual Communication
Using predated technology, healthcare providers open themselves up to many concerns, including security breaches, two-way communication through one-way tools and a hindering of the patient experience with patchwork solutions. One study found that outdated equipment including pagers, fax machines and limited WiFi costs US hospitals five billion dollars annually.
Potential Security Vulnerabilities
Printed notices can cause a wide range of security vulnerabilities if they’re mishandled, lost, stolen or thrown away. For example, JAMA Network found 2,687 documents, including personal health information (PHI), in a two-year recycling audit. Over half included highly sensitive information, such as personally-identifiable information and descriptions of medical conditions.
Delayed Information Delivery
Since COVID-19, patients have embraced telehealth with levels reaching 38x higher than before the pandemic. A Western Journal of Emergency Medicine study found that participants wanted to know updates at least every 41 minutes. And, with 82 percent of patients utilizing mobile devices as their primary tool for managing their health, it’s becoming more critical than ever to enhance the patient experience.
Exhausted Resources and Providers
With healthcare employment still down by 298,000 since February 2020, providers are looking to maximize communications tools. For example, a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) case study found that when providers incorporated automated appointment reminders and population health outreach, it saved 37 hours in a month, almost a full week of work, and increased response rates compared to traditional follow-up via phone.
How Adding Automation Tools Can Reduce Overhead Costs
Because communications often occur between office visits, adding automation tools can reduce overhead costs by:
- Reducing no-shows
- Increasing patient engagement
- Passively supporting practice consistency and growth
An Ohio-based hospital radiology department saw no-shows ranging from 11-20 percent for vital imaging services. As a result, many patients weren’t receiving the necessary imaging care to accurately diagnose and treat various conditions.
After adding automated appointment reminders and population health outreach tools, they saw a 70 percent decrease in no-shows of experienced significantly reduced call volume for appointment reminders while freeing providers to focus on patient care and other tasks.
Increasing Patient Engagement
One challenge facing healthcare systems is helping patients proactively connect with providers in diagnosing and treating chronic conditions early. For CHRISTUS Health System, they were seeing a gap in care in eligible patients receive lung cancer screenings. In contrast to national averages for breast cancer screenings hovering around 70 percent, only two to seven percent of patients who were eligible for a low-dose CT scan were getting screened for lung cancer.
Less than three months into the engagement, CHRISTUS Health was pleased to observe significantly higher response rates than the national average for lung cancer screening engagement. A large number of eligible patients had scheduled and attended a shared decision-making appointment, and many had gone on to complete a lung cancer screening. As a result, several patients have already been diagnosed with early-stage lung cancer, allowing them to receive treatment while it was most effective. Enhancing the lung cancer program with text messaging has already proven to be life-saving.
Passively Supporting Practice Consistency and Growth
Social determinants of health often negatively impact a patient population’s ability to access the care they need and deserve. Both transportation challenges and financial barriers limit patients’ ability to visit the doctor during the workday or fill prescriptions. For those without health insurance, missing work to attend a doctor’s appointment results in lost pay. And, medications and supplies to manage a chronic disease are often expensive and challenging to navigate.
These barriers to care prompted one Federally Qualified Health Center to find new ways to reach their patients in the ways that work best for them. Lifescan provided a group of the center’s diabetic patients with a Bluetooth-enabled blood glucose monitor and a smartphone. The glucose monitor allowed patients to monitor their glucose levels at regular intervals and automatically transmit results to their care team without having to come into the doctor’s office.
Since automating population health outreach for the diabetes study, the health center observed positive results across patient outcomes and clinical workflow. They saw a remarkable reduction in A1C for patients, a huge uptick in saved time for providers, and quicker response rates compared to traditional follow-up phone calls.
Why Providertech’s Solutions are the Best Choice for Automation Tools
Providertech’s solutions combine features and flexibility for a custom automated patient communications experience. Providers can integrate with their existing EMR platform, set up targeted population groups, and configure communications to the right patients at the right time.
Learn more about Providertech’s automated communication solutions here.