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We live in a society where we are accessible at all times. The digital world has given us access 24/7. If it’s not email, it’s a text, phone call, Snapchat, instant message, tweet, post, FaceTime, Instagram, and let’s not forget the good old fashioned U.S. Postal Mail. And with all of these communication mediums, consumers are receiving thousands of messages a day – literally. Marketing industry research shows that a consumer hears and sees 5,000 messages a day. That’s a lot of messages! It’s no wonder we are challenged to be heard among all of the ‘noise’.

The Impact of Communication on Medical Practices Today

It’s not just patients being bombarded with ‘noise,’ but physicians and practices who are trying to navigate their way through the changing healthcare landscape. Practices face many challenges today. According to Medical Economics, below is just a small list of the ‘noise’ they are trying to make sense of:

  1. Payment for medical services due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
  2. Government mandates – Meaningful Use, EHRs, ICD-10, HIPAA and the list goes on
  3. Time to see patients
  4. Technology and rising costs
  5. Staffing and training due to Patient-Centered Medical Homes and Accountable Care Organizations
  6. Granting physicians more control over their practice and patients
  7. Changing populations and new patients due to the ACA
  8. Coordinating various aspects of healthcare for a more unified system
  9. Work-Life balance

Communication is Key to Navigating These Changing Times

But one thing remains constant. The need for effective, timely and frequent communication among providers, practices and patients. As part of Meaningful Use Stage 2, practices are going to be measured and reimbursed on their ability to engage with patients through secure electronic messaging, and through the sharing of patient education materials. The bottom line is providers need to communicate MORE to their patients about their health and wellness – beyond just verbal communication.

But communication today can’t be a one and done deal. The key is taking a consistent message and sharing it through multiple communication touch points.

Did you know it takes the average person hearing or seeing a message at least four times, before they take the desired action? So don’t assume you can just tell a patient something once.

For example, take the patient portal, many practices are struggling with patient portal adoption. So instead of just handing patients a flyer consider:

  • Getting patients to sign up during the new patient registration process
  • Sending an email with the benefits and features and a link to register
  • Sending a text with a link to the portal
  • Creating office signage with the portal announcement
  • Implementing a direct mail campaign
  • Posting information on your social media sites

5 Phases of Patient Communication

Think about all of the ways you need to communicate with your patients. We call this 5 Phases of Patient Communication.

  • NEW PATIENT - Communications to welcome and register a patient to your practice. And start the relationship off right.
  • DIAGNOSTIC & TREATMENT - Patients want to understand tests and treatment. Practices communications that are branded raise your reputation and build trust.
  • FINANCIAL - Statements that are easy to understand and clearly identify patient responsibility get paid faster.
  • EDUCATIONAL & PREVENTATIVE - Communications that improve patients' health outcomes.
  • PATIENT ACQUISITION - Now more than ever, a consistent marketing effort is key to keep new patients coming in the door.

The rationale behind 5 Phases of Patient Communication is that practices need to really evaluate the patient experience and the interaction the ENTIRE practice has with a patient. It’s not just the provider who impacts the patient experience, but your front office staff, the billing department, the lab staff, and so on. At any point during the patient registration process or visit, do you ask your patients how they wish to be communicated to? You should.

Check Out These Stats

Did you know that nearly 4 out of 5 Americans prefer email for their communications, and that 91% check their email at least once a day. (Exact Target 2012)

According to a new Pew Study, one-third of respondents surveyed preferred texting to talking. In fact, of the 4.1 billion cellular phone subscribers worldwide, an estimated 3.05 billion use text messaging. Text messaging is now the most used communication tool on the planet exceeding email and instant messaging.

Automated Messaging — So Much More Than Appointment Reminders

Are you still relying on manual phone calls and processes to communicate with patients on scheduled appointments, lab results and more? Or, have you invested in a messaging system that really only promotes appointment reminders?

An Accenture survey of 1,100 U.S. patients shows that 88% of patients want to receive digital reminders, such as email and text for preventive or follow-up care. More than 35% of those who don’t follow a provider’s instructions said they would be more likely to do so if they received reminders from their doctors via email, voicemail or text. 

Enter POS Messaging

POS Messaging is much more than appointment reminders. POS Messaging helps keep your patients healthy, educated, current on their balances and up-to-date with their screenings. It also allows you to engage patients in two-way communication via email, phone, text or mail.

Communicating During the Entire Patient Communication Lifecycle

New Patient Communication
So we start with the basic appointment reminder. Some estimates show missed appointments costing a single physician as much as $150,000 in lost revenue and additional labor costs a year. Sending appointment reminders via email, text, phone and mail can help save you money and keep your schedule full. But don’t stop there. Consider other ways to welcome patients and keep them coming back. Send thank you’s, patient satisfaction surveys, important registration forms and links
to your website.

Diagnostic and Treatment Communication
The patient has been seen by the doctor and treated. How can you keep the patient informed and engaged in their healthcare? Send notifications of lab results, pre- and post-appointment instructions and more.

Financial Communication
So now the patient has been seen, and it’s time to pay the bill. Patient-owed balances continues to be a challenge for practices. Communicate an online bill pay option, past-due notices, statement notification, etc.

Education and Preventative Communication
Don’t just communicate when they are sick – be proactive. Send seasonal reminders, recall for annual appointments, practice newsletters, and holiday and birthday greetings.

Patient Acquisition Communication
Look to the future. Practices will compete for new patients. Reach out to patients with patient referral programs, thank you’s for referrals, marketing programs and more.

In Summary

There is a wealth of research data that supports the benefits of effective communication and improved health outcomes for patients and healthcare teams. For more than 40 years, POS has provided practices with the patient communication tools they need to improve the patient experience and their practice profitability. POS Messaging is just one solution to help your practices be heard among the ‘noise’.