Guest Column | March 2, 2020

Finding The Balance Between Patient Outreach And Patient Care With Technology

By Josh Weiner, Solutionreach

200_Doctor sharing information no tablet with patient

Patient engagement is crucial to all healthcare organizations. It might seem at first glance that the larger an organization is, the more hands there would be to connect with patients. Unfortunately, the opposite is often true. The resources of health systems and hospitals are stretched to the limit with the basics, leaving little time for the “extras.”

Compounding the challenge is that those “extras” aren’t really “extras” to patients. They are the consumer features patients most want. Things like text communication, online scheduling, electronic forms, etc. are high on patients’ list of what they now expect from a provider. In addition, many patients feel it is important that healthcare staff and providers know them by name and don’t treat them like a number. Providing these things isn’t just about making a patient happy; it also affects the patient’s care and outcomes. It’s what makes them come back for the care they need and follow through on their care plans.

Creating a personalized, engaging experience for patients can be harder for large organizations where patients often don’t interact with the same person. This lack of a personal connection can translate to higher no-show rates and lower patient satisfaction for bigger facilities. This is compounded by studies that suggest larger healthcare organizations may also have higher costs for payers and patients.

Luckily, cost may not be as much of an issue when patients feel good about their experience. Patients are willing to pay more out of pocket for a provider who has higher reviews and shows better patient satisfaction. However, how can organizations with limited resources provide that personalized engaging experience without taking on more staff?

Today, there is patient engagement technology that can help improve the patient experience while relieving some of the burden on staff. This technology isn’t just automating tasks, it is also interacting with patients. Facilities can not only set up software to automate appointment reminders and recare reminders, but also ensure customized follow up to improve care adherence. With the power of artificial intelligence (AI), the software can do a better job of reading patient needs and responding to patient inquiries as well as analyzing patient sentiment and behavior. More specifically, the right technology can:

  • Improve the reminder process: Technology is now flexible enough to allow healthcare facilities to use data-driven best practices to set up a reminder cadence or allow patients to choose. In addition, all communications can be personalized. Patients can select how often, when, what language, and what communication mode—text, voice, or email for appointment reminders and recare reminders.
  • Enable more timely responses: Most patients, regardless of age, would like to have the option to text their healthcare providers. Now, you can use AI-driven SMS to provide the ability to engage via text and respond 24/7 to commonly asked questions. When human interaction is needed, the system can route the interaction appropriately.
  • Help you understand patient sentiment: Incorporating patient feedback is critical to improving their experience across specific departments that need it. Machine learning can analyze patient surveys and reviews to look for patterns, which is difficult to do manually. This ensures quality care is consistent across an organization.
  • Predict patient behavior: If you know a patient is more likely to not show then your organization can you do more to help make sure they are able to make it. Not only is it good for the patient’s health, but also the organization’s bottom line. Further, AI-driven technology also can find open appointments and match them to patients seeking to schedule or reschedule an appointment then reach out to fill it.
  • Provide more flexible scheduling options: Patients want online scheduling and forms. The right software can provide the option to schedule online 24 hours a day and populate all the demographics for existing patients. The same is true for forms. When patients are sent reminders, they also can get needed forms to complete ahead of time electronically. In both cases, time is saved on phone calls and entering data for staff as well.

Research conducted by Accenture has shown that AI has the potential to increase labor productivity, but more importantly “complement and enhance human ability.” Further, according to Medscape, 68 percent of respondents believe AI-powered software will allow them to spend more time on other important tasks.

When it’s all said and done, technology—especially when AI is incorporated— has the potential to improve the patient relationship inside and out of the healthcare facility in many ways, as long as it is balanced with the appropriate procedures for including human interaction. By saving staff time and reducing their overall burden, they are free to focus more on the in-person patient experience. The result isn’t just better outreach, it’s better care and outcomes, ultimately resulting in lower costs.

About The Author

Josh Weiner is the CEO of Solutionreach. He joined Solutionreach from Summit Partners, a leading global growth equity firm. Through his work with Summit Partners, Josh served on the Solutionreach board of directors for three years. Prior to Summit Partners, he was a consultant with McKinsey & Company. Josh is a graduate of Stanford University and resides in Salt Lake City with his wife, daughter, and golden retriever Willow (who often makes cameos at the Solutionreach office). Josh and his family spend as much time as possible exploring the natural wonders of Utah's mountains and deserts. Connect with him on LinkedIn.