EHR-integrated patient texting helps clinic boost patient capacity 68% to 89%
For Lake Washington Physical Therapy, which has four locations in Washington State and Oregon and is based in the Seattle area, nearly half of its patients are employees of companies including Amazon, Google and Microsoft.
With such a tech-savvy patient base, the provider organization determined that a mobile-first user experience was absolutely critical to meet patient expectations. They are looking for modern ways to communicate and engage with the clinic and its team of physical therapists, said Ben Wobker, founder and CEO of Lake Washington Physical Therapy.
“Since opening its doors in 2010, Lake Washington Physical Therapy has helped more than 120,000 athletes and recreation enthusiasts,” he explained. “Our personalized, patient-centered care has been a hallmark of the organization since the beginning. When we ran into issues sending patient SMS reminders on our old appointment system, it caused significant challenges to the foundation of how we aim to deliver care.”
"It’s transferred so much of our staff’s time from administrative tasks to more strategic functions that it’s helped support our overall growth and recent expansion to a fourth facility and market."
Ben Wobker, Lake Washington Physical Therapy
Instead of reaching patients via text message, the organization had to use e-mail and phone calls, which have only 30% and 10% response rates, respectively, he added.
“For me, the key to deliver optimal care lies in building out a technology stack that can better serve our patients’ needs,” he said. “Finding an improved mobile-first patient engagement solution, therefore, was a critical course of action.”
So Lake Washington turned to a patient engagement platform from Luma Health, which it integrated with its EHR, to send appointment reminders. This was designed to take pressure off of staff and significantly reduce the time staff spent making calls to reach and remind patients of their appointments.
“The promise of the platform, which is why we selected it, is to deliver a smarter way of communicating and engaging with customers,” Wobker explained. “By integrating with our EHR, we can program and schedule automated outreach to our patients to remind them about appointments, quickly fill canceled slots, reschedule new ones, and immediately follow up on new referrals. All of this is done via text messaging, so our customers can easily reply to confirm an appointment or suggest a more convenient time.”
No one has the patience to listen to voice mail, and Lake Washington has noticed a huge improvement in patient satisfaction since becoming mobile-first in the way it communicates with customers, he added.
There is a variety of patient engagement platform vendors on the market today. Some of these vendors include AdvancedMD, Automation Anywhere, Docent Health, Fujitsu America, mPulse Mobile, Solutionreach, VisionTree Software and Wellpepper.
MEETING THE CHALLENGE
What started out as a patient engagement platform to help improve the way Lake Washington sent out appointment reminders has evolved into a comprehensive patient engagement solution, Wobker said. Not only is the organization better able to communicate with its patients, but it can also optimize the number of patients the therapists are able to see in a day, he explained.
“Now that our administrative staff has access to features such as automated appointment reminders and smart wait lists, they no longer have to play phone tag and make an average of 10 calls just to fill one cancellation,” he said. “Not only does the platform help ensure our patients remember to show up for their visit, but any open slot is now automatically filled with the next patient on the wait list, which means we’ve been able to drastically cut down on wait times and more quickly deliver care.”
In short, Lake Washington Physical Therapy has been able to provide better access to its team of expert therapists and ultimately get its patients back on the road again to achieve their goals, whether it be a personal record in the 5K race or completing a marathon, he added.
“As a clinic we’re laser-focused on building a technology stack that puts the patient’s user experience at the forefront,” he explained. “Twenty therapists across our four offices serve almost 3,500 patients every month. By design, our facilities are set up so that patients can spend the maximum time with therapists.”
With the Luma Health platform, the organization sees real value with the scheduling features as well as smarter ways to convert referrals and encourage online patient reviews, Wobker stated. The impact has been threefold: The provider organization delivers greater access to therapists, vastly improves patient communication, and ultimately grows its practices, he said.
Since implementing the patient engagement technology less than three years ago, Lake Washington has increased patient capacity from 68% to 89%, thereby growing revenue by an additional $15,000 every year.
“That’s huge for us,” Wobker stated. “In fact, it’s transferred so much of our staff’s time from administrative tasks to more strategic functions that it’s helped support our overall growth and recent expansion to a fourth facility and market.”
The provider organization also has lowered cancellation rates. After deploying the text-based appointment reminders, it has lowered patient cancellation rates by a third to only 4%, which compares extremely well to the industry average of 10.5%, Wobker reported.
“Automating patient wait lists has allowed us to fill 75% of cancellations in under two days,” he said. “This process used to take days and double-digit calls to complete before.”
The patient engagement platform also helps effectively prompt patients to complete online reviews of services by automatically sending them a review request immediately after their visit. This has allowed the organization to be more proactive, capturing real-time feedback, posting it on online review sites and making appropriate adjustments to processes to address the patient feedback.
“As a result, our Net Promoter Scores and online reviews continue to trend in a positive direction and provide valuable feedback,” he said.
ADVICE FOR OTHERS
The patient engagement platform empowers healthcare business owners with the kind of features that previously were only accessible to large institutions, Wobker said.
“Now, smaller, independent healthcare providers like us can become more competitive in the space by being able to improve capacity, reduce cancellations and enable our front-office staff to spend more time with patients instead of on administrative tasks,” he explained.
“Customer experience is critical and the kind of total patient engagement technology allows healthcare providers to put the patient’s best interest first, which ultimately attracts even more patients and allows clinicians to focus on what’s important: optimizing health outcomes.”