Patient engagement platform reduces patient no-shows by 60% at Bedford Commons OB-GYN
Bedford Commons OB-GYN in Bedford, New Hampshire, had been reminding patients of their office visits by giving them a paper appointment reminder card and using an automated telephone service to call them 24 hours ahead of time. For annual preventative visits, staff would run a report, print labels and affix them to postcards that would then be mailed to the patient to remind them to call the office to set up a visit.
In an era when technology is constantly progressing, Bedford Commons OB-GYN realized that it was not keeping up. Many of its patients did not check their paper mail regularly, and when patients were getting the postcard, it was at night when the office was closed.
“As a result, we were seeing a decline in patients contacting our office to schedule their wellness exams,” said Christina Haag, APRN, practice administrator and women’s health nurse practitioner at Bedford Commons OB-GYN.
“We also had a significant number of patients who would no-show for their office visit or not respond to the automated telephone call to cancel their appointments,” she said. “We felt that we weren’t reaching our patient population in the best way possible.”
Bedford Commons OB-GYN decided to move to new, more sophisticated technology, from patient communications and patient engagement technology vendor Solutionreach, to better send appointment notifications, conduct patient surveys and foster an environment where it could obtain more online reviews.
There are many patient communications and patient engagement technology vendors on the market today. These vendors include Casetabs, Docent Health, GE Healthcare, mPulse Mobile, Vaporstream, Weave and West.
MEETING THE CHALLENGE
The Solutionreach technology works by providing Bedford Commons OB-GYN staff with a more tech-savvy way to reach patients.
“We can use an automated system to send our patients text message reminders for their appointments and include things that will make it easy for the patient like a link to add their appointment to their calendar or a link to directions to our office,” said Haag. “We also are able to email our patients if we haven’t seen them in a while and include a customized note regarding the importance of their appointments.”
Bedford Commons uses the technology for “fun” outreach as well, she explained: “All of our patients get an email with a video of our providers singing Happy Birthday To You on their birthday every year.”
After a patient is seen in the office, staff use the technology to send them a survey to let Bedford Commons know how the visit went. This is exceptionally useful to Bedford Commons in helping it continue to improve patient care.
“It also provides review content for our website and serves as an outlet if someone had a poor experience,” Haag said. “Although patients have the option to keep the survey response anonymous, many of our patients provide their name, which allows us the opportunity to follow-up with the patient if we have additional questions.”
As can be the case in many physician offices, Bedford Commons sometimes has a difficult time reaching a patient with important clinical information over the phone.
Most of Bedford Commons’ staff uses the communications and engagement platform. The front office patient care representatives use it to recall patients for appointments, remind patients to bring their insurance cards or fill out paperwork online, let patients know if something has been changed about their appointment (like the provider is out sick), and for many other things, she said.
“Clinical staff use the platform if we are unable to get in touch with a patient,” she added. “Our management team uses the platform for analytics and to review and respond to patient reviews.”
Bedford Commons OB-GYN has reduced patient no-shows by 60 percent. Haag believes this is entirely due to the text message reminders.
“We send patients a text when they schedule their appointment so that they can add it right into their phone calendar,” she said. “As I mentioned, it includes a hyperlink which makes adding the appointment to a calendar easy. 24 hours before the appointment, the patient receives another text reminder. A final reminder is sent one hour before the time of the visit.”
"Having reviews on our website from patients and updated daily provides a wonderful platform to attract new patients."
Christina Haag, APRN, Bedford Commons OB-GYN
In her opinion, the one-hour reminder is the one that makes all the difference.
“When you’re at work or spending time with your family, sometimes it is easy to lose track of time,” she explained. “The reminder one hour before the appointment puts it back in the forefront of your mind. This simple reminder helps our patients get to the office for their appointments and gets them to the office on time.”
For patients who do not use smartphones, the same reminder system occurs via email or voice calls. In the beginning, staff were concerned that they may irritate patients with the number of reminders. But they have received positive feedback. If someone does have a concern about the reminder frequency, staff have the ability to customize it within the platform for that specific patient.
Bedford Commons OB-GYN also has collected 635 online reviews. After a patient’s visit, the patient is sent an email with a survey. The provider organization has a fairly high response rate.
“Solutionreach provides a microsite that we can link to our website so that the comments in the survey are automatically updated on our web page daily,” Haag said.
“Patients can click on the microsite to read more comments. I know that when I make any decision – even something as simple as purchasing batteries on Amazon – I rely on reviews. Having these on our website from patients and updated daily provides a wonderful platform to attract new patients.”
If someone had a poor experience, the platform sends out an alert email to office managers. This allows them to follow up with the patient in a timely manner.
“As most healthcare offices know, the best source of new patients are referrals from your current patients,” she said. “Through the platform, patients are easily able to share our office referral information with a friend.”
ADVICE FOR OTHERS
It’s time to join the 21st century, said Haag. “The platform has given our office the ease of reaching our patients in the way they want to be reached, by text or email,” she explained. “It is a culture change to give up the one-on-one phone calls, but meeting your patients where they are and how they like to communicate helps to expand the provider/patient relationship.”