People spend more time at home, at work, and going about their daily routine than they do in the doctor’s office. That’s why it’s so important that your practice prioritizes improving patient engagement.

Patient engagement isn’t a new buzzword, but its meaning is often vague. That’s why researchers from the Columbia University School of Nursing and Mailman School of Public Health scoured over 200 pieces of literature to analyze and answer the question, “what is patient engagement?”

“Patient engagement encompasses levels of participation [or involvement] in care according to individual desires and capabilities, partnering with providers and institutions…and increasing the confidence and skill levels of patients.”

The researchers elaborated on this definition by describing three general attributes of patient engagement, including the steps, behavior, and resources that can increase a patient’s participation in their care. In other words, patient engagement occurs when patients have the knowledge, willingness, and tools to manage their health care.

Practically speaking, that means engaged patients:

  • Make educated decisions about their care
  • Take ownership of health choices
  • Actively participate in improving their health

Automated appointment reminders play a key role in improving patient engagement (and your bottom line). In our article about how to calculate ROI for appointment reminder texts, we described how an automated communication platform can save healthcare organizations significant time and money while generating additional revenue. Aside from financial gain, there are many other benefits of patient engagement that are harder to quantify but equally important to achieving the best possible health outcomes for your patients.

 

Automated appointment reminders make it easier for patients to engage in their care.

Your patients spend more time outside of your practice than in the office, so it’s critical that you maintain bi-directional communication in ways that are both relevant and personalized to keep them engaged. Appointment reminders allow healthcare organizations to equip patients with the education—and motivation—they need to make informed decisions about their care. Here’s how.

 

Appointment reminders improve the patient experience.

Research suggests that most patients prefer to receive appointment reminders via text message. In fact, in a recent survey, twice as many people preferred secure texting with their providers compared to receiving communications via a patient portal. 90 percent of US survey participants stated they wanted to receive updates about ill loved ones via text, and over 80 percent of respondents said they would be interested in receiving general health texts from their doctor reminding them about prescriptions, blood pressure checks, follow-up appointments, and more.

It’s clear that patients prefer text communications from healthcare organizations. In addition to patient preference, automated appointment reminders can also result in better patient engagement by affecting when, where, and how your patients interact with you. More specifically, a positive patient experience increases the likelihood that a patient will be engaged in their care.

Here are a few ways automated appointment reminders can improve the patient experience, and thereby, patient engagement. 

Better access to available appointments: When you send appointment reminders via text, patients can quickly confirm, reschedule, or cancel their appointments which leads to reduced no-shows and improved appointment adherence. (Read how a Federally Qualified Health Center reduced no shows by 50% using appointment reminders.) When patients cancel or reschedule ahead of time, you can fill the open slot with another patient who may be waiting to get in sooner. The result? Satisfied patients who don’t have to wait long to get into your schedule.

More personalized interactions with staff: When you replace outdated manual communication efforts with automated appointment reminders, your staff is freed up to focus on the people in front of them who need their attention. When a Pennsylvania-based FQHC swapped manual phone calls for automated reminders via text, they reduced their staff’s time on the phone by nearly 75%. This allowed them to deliver more personalized interactions with patients who called or visited in-person.

Increased comfort in the office: With less staff on the phone, waiting rooms are quieter and less chaotic, meaning your patients can wait comfortably for their appointment. And, if they need something, the front desk is available to help.

 

Automated communication increases follow-through with recommended care.

Your patients spend more time out of the office than they do in the exam room and what they do outside of your control significantly impacts their health. When you provide care plan reminders via text, your patients can reference resources and information that will help them stick to the guidelines plan, whether that’s scheduling routine care, managing a chronic disease, or acute care follow-up.  Patients who have the education and tools they need at their fingertips are empowered to take control of their health throughout their daily lives. By providing these tips and navigation, your healthcare organization can improve patient engagement.

For example, Adelante Healthcare sent text messages to patients who were overdue for colorectal cancer screenings and observed a 7.5% increase in colorectal cancer screening volume. In a similar outreach campaign, Adelante distributed reminders prompting patients to schedule well-child visits for children ages 3 to 6 who were members of certain health plans. This resulted in a 10% month-over-month increase in appointment volume for well-child visits.

 

Clinical reminders empower patients to take control of their health which leads to better outcomes.

Effective patient engagement starts with connecting with patients in ways that are meaningful and actionable. When you do, they can make better decisions about their care outside of the office. This results in better outcomes because the patient clearly understands the role they have on improving their health. In fact, this study demonstrated that text reminders (for both appointment and medical compliance) positively impact patient engagement. That’s because text reminders were “effective at promoting a number of other health behaviors, including self-medical examinations, socialization, and goal-directed behaviors.”

Using text, healthcare organizations can send a variety of reminders to improve patient engagement, from treatment options and follow-up instructions to medication reminders and chronic care management strategies. This gives patients information that they can use to make decisions in their day-to-day lifestyle. And when patient engagement leads to better health outcomes, everyone benefits.

 

Clinical reminders are an affordable, customizable, and seamless way to improve patient engagement. 

According to the study referenced above, secure text messages pay for themselves and are easily customized, automatically sent directly to individuals, and a part of many individuals’ daily life. They can improve patient engagement for both recurring and one-time behaviors that require patients to take an active role, whether it’s daily medication adherence or scheduling follow-up appointments. 

The benefits of using “the digital health tool of the century”, or clinical reminders, span from increased patient engagement and satisfaction to better care plan adherence and improved health outcomes, all of which can result in major financial savings for your practice and physicians—and potentially your patients. 

To learn more about how appointment reminders can impact your bottom line, read How to Calculate ROI for Appointment Reminder Texts (Hint: It could be 4,195%).

 

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