Patient engagement tech improves physician org’s no-show rate by 35%

What’s more, 72-practice Community Care Physicians has sent around 776,000 COVID-related newsletters to patients, also reminding them of their telehealth appointments during the pandemic.
By Bill Siwicki
11:33 AM

In just a matter of months as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the country, healthcare-provider organizations have been faced with unprecedented challenges in patient care that have resulted in lower patient volume for ongoing care. But some hospitals and group practices have been turning to patient-engagement strategies and technologies to keep care across the board moving and support business continuity.

THE PROBLEM

Albany, New York-based Community Care Physicians, which boasts 72 physician practices, is one such healthcare organization. In the diverse and complex healthcare environment, there are many things that complicate the decision-making process, including how to communicate with patients and where to communicate.

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Community Care Physicians decided it wanted to execute patient communication in a simple way. The requirements were to keep the organization’s 370,000 patients informed about changes relevant to their care and ensure general patient communication on news and processes relevant to new circumstances and guidance.

PROPOSAL

The New York healthcare organization began searching for a patient-engagement and communication system. It determined that there were seven requirements for such a system. It needed to:

  1. provide a multimodal approach to communication, meeting patients where they are with technology, by telephone, text message or e-mail, on any device, and not requiring an account or app
  2. enable two-way communication, for example, using bots or a secure text-conversation dashboard allowing for the practice to work actively with patients
  3. offer appointment reminders
  4. provide the patient with scheduling options, including self-scheduling, for their care that are ideal for them
  5. enable intake/appointment check-in and patient education
  6. promote advisement of new services
  7. conduct surveys to measure service performance and solicit feedback

Community Care Physicians decided on patient engagement and communication technology from vendor Solutionreach.

MARKETPLACE

There is a variety of patient engagement and communication systems on the health IT market today. Some of the vendors of these technologies include Casetabs, Demandforce, Luma Health, Medici, OhMD, Patient Trak, PerfectServe, Revenue Well Systems and Solutionreach.

MEETING THE CHALLENGE

Community Care Physicians’ 72 practices and its COVID-19 mobile-testing trailer are enabled with Solutionreach communication technology. The tool is customized to different workflows. For example, the way the tool is used in primary care is different from the way it is used in radiology or in marketing and communications.

The practices use the technology to send appointment reminders and receive appointment confirmations, including Instructions for a visit. Whether by phone, text or e-mail, communication is two-way. The staff sends news bulletins and practice updates via e-mail blasts and text message communications.

"If looking for a patient engagement product, catalog the product capability against your requirements and measure the integration capability carefully."

Craig Dreher, Community Care Physicians

Craig Dreher, CIO at Community Care Physicians, offers an example: “During COVID-19, practice workflows were modified to screen, isolate and care for patients based on their symptoms. Each office instituted infection control procedures and an Infection Response Team, equipped with proper personal protective equipment and trained on processes to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19 while conserving supplies of PPE as best we can.

“The practices implemented telehealth systems to care for patients virtually while they socially distance during this crisis, and Community Care Physicians established a centralized mobile COVID-19 testing trailer for patients. Community Care Physicians used Solutionreach to communicate these changes and services to patients, keeping them engaged, informed and safe during this ever-changing time.”

As telemedicine and in-person visits are scheduled, the patient communication technology’s appointment reminders help notify patients of the type of appointment and any preparations needed. For example, if it's an in-person visit, patients are instructed to wear a mask to their appointment and limit the number of visitors with them for infection-control purposes. If it's a telemedicine visit, the patient is provided a link that they click for the virtual visit when prompted at the time of their appointment.

“Once a patient has a virtual or in-person visit, the practitioner may order COVID-19 testing if warranted at Community Care Physicians’ centralized mobile testing at our flagship location in Latham, New York,” Dreher explained. “Once the testing appointment is scheduled in our practice-management system, the patient then receives an appointment reminder with additional instructions for their testing.”

The Solutionreach patient engagement system is integrated with the organization’s Allscripts Practice Management system.

For scheduling, when a patient responds to a message, this status is reflected in the practice-management schedule. If the patient communicates a need to reschedule, the organization can immediately address that. If there is a need to send a message to a group, the staff selects that group by office or other criteria, formats a message, and sends it.

“It is very simple,” Dreher remarked.

RESULTS

Since deploying the patient-engagement technology, Community Care Physicians has achieved a 35% improvement in its no-show rate.

Since March 1, 2020, the healthcare organization has sent around 776,000 COVID-related newsletters to patients regarding COVID-19 news, organizational changes, Community Care Physicians COVID-19 testing and the availability of telemedicine appointments.

ADVICE FOR OTHERS

“If looking for a patient-engagement product, catalog the product capability against your requirements and measure the integration capability carefully – it is often more about how it integrates than if it integrates,” Dreher advised. “Think about performance: Will this product scale? For example, if there isn’t ability to sync in real time, self-scheduling is going to be problematic.”

Also make sure to do a cost/benefit analysis, he added, saying this is best matrixed out as one reviews projects.

“Select a vendor that is progressive and focused on outcomes,” he suggested. “Finally, keep the future in mind. How will this fit into AI-based tools such as chat/voice bots?”

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: bill.siwicki@himss.org
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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