Effective communication is a key component to the successful delivery of care. Without it, care quality is impaired. Since communication in a practice is essential to facilitating care delivery, patient satisfaction and the productivity of healthcare personnel—within all healthcare environments—there should be active communication between all members of a practice. However, some practices still struggle to communicate effectively with patients, thus preventing a smooth experience.
The Best Way to Communicate with Patients
Today, 57 percent of small business owners say text messaging will soon replace email and phone calls as the most preferred method of communication between practices and patients. SMS/Texting has proven more effective and allows patients to more adequately receive information about their schedules and visits than waiting on hold via phone. At times, though, practices can struggle to make the transition to using text with a business messaging platform, and staff can be reluctant to use it due to fear of HIPAA violations since any sent information could potentially remain viewable on a mobile device where someone other than the patient might be able to access it. With secure business messaging tools such as Podium, however, these worries are laid to rest.
“Texting has made it easier for us to communicate with patients, especially those like me who are not phone people and dread calling an office,” says Hillary Diegelman, Administrative Supervisor at Western New York Dermatology. “Instead, patients can now text an office and say, ‘I want to schedule an appointment’ or ‘I need to refill my prescription,’ and do so without disrupting their day. It’s the same for healthcare staff. Now I can easily send a message via Podium with a scheduling invitation or answers to patient questions, and that’s powerful!”
Especially in these times of self-quarantine and social distancing, it’s crucial for healthcare providers to be able to digitally manage the patient journey. Those that transition to digital channels for patient communication will be best able to manage. Luckily, patient expectations are already shifting to convenient communication channels such as social media and text messaging. In fact, messaging is now preferred by 9 out of 10 users over face-to-face communications.
Six Ways to Leverage Messaging That Will Increase Efficiency
1. Manage all incoming and outgoing messages in a single inbox
These days, practices are bombarded with messages from multiple channels—phone, website, social media, etc. To ease the burden on your front desk and call center, take the following steps:
- Add a chat feature to your Google My Business page so patients can easily text questions. With the right interaction management software, you can set up automatic replies to the most frequently asked questions.
- Add chat to your website to help field incoming messages. Choose one that will transfer all chats over to text/SMS, so patients don’t have to stay on your website until the conversation is over.
- Integrate all messaging channels into a single inbox. If you’re showing up where your patients are, then you’re likely receiving messages on Facebook, Instagram, your website, Google, Apple Business Chat and more. To reduce the strain on your internal team, route all of your incoming messages to a single inbox that will keep a history of all your messaging interactions with each patient and can be used in a HIPAA-compliant way.
For Nextech practice EyeSouth Partners, leveraging an interaction management platform allowed them to increase their online visibility and helped them text patients from one platform.
"We started researching companies and wanted to know what would work best with EyeSouth’s core values and relaying this benefit to our affiliates,” says April Davis, Marketing Manager at EyeSouth Partners. “Podium looked like it checked all the boxes. We had our first meetings with our IT team about Podium and Nextech to learn more about their integration and if this product would in fact provide the tools we needed. After meeting with the different teams, we said, ‘Let’s go for it,’ and we began to see immediate benefits after joining.”
2. Allow (and encourage) patients to self-assess before calling
Reduce the amount of time staff spend on the phone with the following steps:
- Use webchat to automate answers to FAQs, which reduces time the internal team spends answering the same questions over and over again.
- Direct patients to an online self-assessment tool, such as this one provided by the CDC.
To relieve the influx of foot traffic, many providers are directing patients to virtual care options or implementing telehealth services. This process can be made more efficient by leveraging webchat and text messaging to ask patients to schedule telehealth visits before in-person appointments.
Add a message to your phone system asking callers to visit your website and follow the prompts on your webchat. Configure the webchat to automate that process, taking the burden off your team. You should be able to then route conversations to a contact center or another clinic using messaging, as well as send the patient any other informational assets they may need.
4. Keep patients in the loop about changes in real time
The right interaction management software allows you to send automated, bulk text messages to keep existing patients informed about changes to protocol, procedures, supply and more. You can also inform patients on your website, using a webchat popup message with important updates like changing hours of operation.
5. Manage in-person visits using text messages
Many hospitals and clinics have implemented “wait-in-car” policies to keep their waiting rooms empty and safe from contamination. Leverage text messaging to help you with this process by:
- Texting scheduled patients to ask them to wait in their cars and have them text when they arrive.
- Texting patients when you are ready for them to come inside.
- Using secure messaging in a HIPAA-compliant way to text patients private information about their visit (i.e. test results).
“I believe texting patients with updates in an effort to keep everyone safe has contributed to the uptick that we’ve seen in new patients, as well as patients that had not been in for a while. Our effective text communication has brought a tremendous uptick in referrals not just by doctors, but by people in our community who want their families to have a positive experience,” says April Davis, Marketing Manager at EyeSouth.
6. Bill and collect payments via text messaging
Billing is historically a source of heartburn in healthcare. As it turns out, billing is more effective when you make payments easy for the patient. You can now request payments directly through text messages, reducing hand-to-hand transfers of cards or cash, expediting the payment process. With interaction management software, you can automate text messages with links to your online payment portal or allow patients to pay right from the text to make the transaction even easier.
Provide 1:1 Patient Care from Anywhere
These may be uncertain and stressful times, but you can reduce stress for your teams and your patients by transitioning more of patient interactions from phone, email and in-person to text. This will streamline processes for your practice and provide increased convenience without losing the personal touch for patients.
Nextech has an integration with Podium. To learn more about this partnership, visit https://try.podium.com/nextech/.