Guest Column | September 4, 2018

Technology You Can't Afford Not To Include In Your Budget

By Jim Higgins, Solutionreach

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The end of 2018 is fast approaching, and that means healthcare practices are making plans for the upcoming year. Everything from marketing strategies to physical improvements in providers’ offices, the beginning of a new year is the perfect time for a fresh start. And with that fresh start comes budget discussions. The goal of every business is to minimize spending and maximize revenue, so often times budget conversations center around areas where practices can decrease costs. In the healthcare world, it can be difficult to justify increasing costs with new technology when practice margins are tight. But sometimes the right patient relationship management (PRM) technology can make a big impact on the bottom line and be well worth the investment, as it quickly pays for itself in increased visits and improved efficiency.

Appointment Reminders

One process where patient communication software can have the biggest impact is in appointment reminders. No-show rates can be anywhere from 10 to 30 percent in most practices. And since over a third of missed appointments happen because patients simply forget, appointment reminders can put a big dent in that number. But manual appointment reminders take valuable time for the staff, which could be better spent doing a myriad of other tasks that are essential to the practice. With PRM software, appointment reminders are automated, so even on the busiest days in a practice, every patient still receives a reminder for every appointment. The revenue brought in from automated appointment reminders alone justifies the investment of patient communication software. The average cost of a primary care appointment is now about $275. If a practice can eliminate a single forgotten appointment every day, that adds up to about $71,500 in annual revenue the practice otherwise wouldn’t have received.

Automated Recall

In addition to appointment reminders, PRM software also gives providers the ability to automate recall messages. Recall tasks are important in getting patients back in for preventive and follow-up care to see better health outcomes. Unfortunately, in many practices, recall duties are often pushed to the bottom of the list when a practice gets busy. Automating these messages can ensure that patients who need to be seen again are contacted without the practice having to spend any time on the task. When a patient is due for a follow-up visit, they receive an automated phone call, email, or text message reminder. And if the practice chooses software with an online scheduling option, they are also given a link where they can schedule the appointment themselves, without even calling the practice. If these messages result in just one patient a week scheduling a follow-up visit who otherwise wouldn’t have come in, the practice will see an additional $14,300 in revenue each year.

The additional revenue from appointment reminders and recall messages, plus the hours of time the staff can spend on other tasks make the cost of patient communication software a small percentage compared to the potential income it can bring.

Depending on the solution a practice chooses, PRM software can also offer other conveniences patient expect from their healthcare provider. The Patient-Provider Relationship Study showed that some of the things patients want most from providers are greater connectivity and convenience through text and online tools. They want their healthcare experience to mirror that of a consumer experience—with online schedules, texted communication, and excellent customer service. And if patients aren’t satisfied with their interactions with their provider, they have no qualms about finding a new one. Research shows the loss of one patient due to their dissatisfaction can lead to over $200,000 in revenue over the life of the practice, so it’s worth it for providers to focus on improving the patient experience. If practice staff aren’t constantly feeling the pressure to make appointment or recall reminder phone calls, they can spend more of that time focusing on the patients in the office. The features in patient communication software make processes easier for both practice staff and their patients. The investment in PRM software is one practice’s should consider in order to ensure the experience in their office is one that will keep patients returning.

When it comes to patient communication software, healthcare practices can’t afford to not include this technology in the budget conversations. A little bit of investment up front can go a long way in retaining patients and bringing in more revenue for a practice.