Value of Enterprise-Wide Text Messaging: Post-Appointment (Part III)
This blog continues our series examining the importance of a texting platform's scalability across a healthcare provider's full enterprise. By capitalizing on text messaging in this manner, patients can receive timely information and updates from the departments supporting them throughout their entire care journey.
This covers the following stages in the journey:
5 Post-Appointment Texting Uses and Benefits
In this third in a five-part series, we discuss five of the ways text messaging effectively supports and improves post-appointment communications.
1. Reducing post-discharge follow-up calls
Following up with patients after they are discharged is essential to helping detect and mitigate unresolved issues, answering questions about discharge instructions, decreasing readmission rates, and improving patient and family satisfaction. But trying to reach every discharged patient by phone tends to prove difficult at best considering most Americans don't answer the phone much. When a patient doesn't answer, staff can either leave a voicemail and hope it's listened to and acted upon or try calling again. When the phone is answered, staff will need to engage in conversation that could take at least a few minutes. The combination of calling and speaking with patients can add up to a lot of time spent by staff on the phone.
Text messaging has been proven to be a very useful way to greatly reduce the number of discharge phone calls without hurting quality of care. One study demonstrated that text messaging can eliminate about 7 out of every 10 emergency department discharge phone calls. Texting can also help identify those patients who require or desire a phone call and better ensure the phone is answered when a post-appointment call is made.
As Bryan Yarbrough of Ardent Health Services, who has witnessed the benefits of using text messaging for post-discharge communications, stated, "Texting has proven to be a highly efficient, fast, and cost-effective way to streamline much of our emergency department discharge communications and reduce staff workload without sacrificing care quality. By adding text messaging, we can communicate with patients in a manner many of them prefer, which also helps improve satisfaction and engagement."
2. Improving patient compliance
For many healthcare services, a successful outcome is not solely achieved at the facility. Rather, what happens after a patient is discharged may be essential. For example, patients or their caregivers may need to perform tasks that reduce the potential for infection, adverse drug events, other complications, and readmissions. Unfortunately, we know these efforts often come up short.
Text messaging is an effective way to improve patient and caregiver compliance with the discharge instructions that can keep patients on the path to recovery and successful treatment. Texts can include links to discharge instructions (in the event that they are misplaced); ask whether patients or their caregivers have questions or concerns about instructions or medical developments; remind patients and caregivers about specific post-discharge tasks; include links to helpful resources to support compliance, including videos and infographics; and remind patients and caregivers of what they should do (e.g., number to call) if they have questions or concerns at any time following their appointment. These simple communications can greatly improve compliance and reduce patient harm and the costs associated with non-adherence with directions.
3. Increasing patient satisfaction survey participation rate
Performing patient satisfaction surveys serve several purposes. It may be a federal requirement that could impact everything from patient volume to reimbursement. It may be an accreditation requirement. It's definitely a way for healthcare providers to gain meaningful, quantifiable, and actionable data — data that can help assess staff performance and identify potential opportunities for improvement that positively impact quality of care and clinical outcomes, financial performance, patient satisfaction, and online reputation (more on this next), among others.
Text messaging is not only a practical way to encourage patients to take satisfaction surveys (such as those available via patient portal), but texting is proven to be an efficient way to conduct patient satisfaction surveys. One study showed that more than 4 out of every 5 patients are willing to take their satisfaction surveys via text. This figure is important when you consider that some facilities struggle to achieve a patient response rate of just 20%. As Dr. Arvind Venkat, who led a study on patient experience data published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, notes in Healthcare Dive article, "Imagine you conduct a survey, and only the very happy and very unhappy return their surveys. What you get is a very biased sample. That makes it very difficult to come to any meaningful conclusions from the data."
4. Strengthening online reputation
When you can successfully engage patients following their appointment, you have an opportunity to undertake initiatives that can improve your online reputation. The facility from the aforementioned patient satisfaction survey study sends text messages to those patients who reported high satisfaction with their experience that includes a link to a web page where these patients can leave online reviews of the facility.
Why are online reviews important? One study revealed that 95% of U.S. adult respondents trust online ratings and reviews, and 75% of Americans say online ratings and review sites have influenced their decision when choosing physicians. Consider also that the study showed 30% of consumers share their personal healthcare experiences via social media and online ratings and review sites. When a healthcare organization use text messaging to digitally engage and steer patients with positive experiences and satisfaction to rate and comment about their experience online, they are more likely to reap the rewards of a strong online reputation.
5. Supporting follow-up appointments
Many healthcare appointments are part of a series of appointments associated with ongoing treatment for one or more conditions. This includes everything from physical therapy following a total joint replacement surgery to chemotherapy treatments for cancer to meeting with a primary care physician after a visit to the emergency room or urgent care. Texting is an efficient way of reminding patients to schedule their follow-up appointments, if a provider does not take care of this prior to discharge, and of the importance of keeping these appointments to achieving health and wellness goals.
When patients are discharged, it can be easy for them to become distracted by other, non-healthcare priorities. Text messages can help patients remain focused on completing all the appointments for their care journey, which will improve outcomes and reduce adverse events and readmissions.
Healthcare Enterprise Texting to Support Billing
Part four of this series will cover the ways texting can help healthcare providers with billing challenges and opportunities. This includes late patient payments, high accounts receivable balance, excessive time spent on coverage and benefits verification, and patients who struggle to access their medical records.