10 Strategies To Maximize Your Patient Outreach SystemPosted: March 15, 2023 - By Health Dev
Your patients are bombarded with messaging from all sorts of sources — family, friends, coworkers, school, church — you name it. Now, more than ever, those messages are coming at them faster than ever before. So how do you make sure that your important messages stand out?
That’s where patient outreach comes in. By definition, patient outreach is “the process of communicating with patients or their caregivers to promote health and wellness.” But really, it’s so much more than that. Patient outreach is a way to connect with your patients on a personal level and build relationships that last.
And when done right, patient outreach can have a huge impact on your bottom line. That’s because happy and healthy patients are loyal patients — they’re more likely to stay with you for the long haul and refer their friends and family to you as well.
This article will define strategic patient outreach and provide a brief overview of its importance before diving into crucial tips for optimization.
Defining Patient Outreach and Why It’s Important
Patient outreach is a system healthcare providers use to ensure their patients are receiving the medical care they need. By keeping in touch with patients and checking in on their health, providers can catch potential problems early and prevent them from becoming serious health threats.
The first step in proactive patient outreach is defining what population of patients you want to target. This might include all your current patients, or it might be a specific group such as those with chronic illnesses or those who live in rural areas. Once you’ve defined your target population, you need to develop a plan for how you’ll reach out to them. This could involve sending letters, making phone calls, or scheduling appointments for follow-up care.
Why are patient outreach efforts important? There are several reasons:
- They help keep patients healthy: By catching potential problems early, patient outreach prevents minor health concerns from turning into serious threats.
- They save lives: According to the CDC, cancer screening programs that use patient outreach programs have saved hundreds of thousands of lives since they were implemented.
- They lower healthcare costs: When caught early, many health problems can be treated quickly and inexpensively without requiring hospitalization or other costly interventions.
- They improve healthcare providers’ satisfaction: Studies show that when providers focus on preventive care and maintaining open communication with their patients, they feel more satisfied with their jobs. Plus, happy staff tend to stay at their healthcare organizations longer, providing continuity of care for their patients.
So, how do you make sure your outreach to patients is up to par?
How To Enhance Your Patient Outreach Strategy
Here are 10 tips to optimize your strategic patient outreach and extend the value-based care you provide.
1. Be Consistent and Specific With Patient Communication
It is important to be consistent and specific with communication when using an outreach system for patients. This means that all contact information should be updated regularly, and you should contact patients in a timely manner through their preferred channel.
For example, if you typically communicate with patients via email, make sure that you do not suddenly start calling them or sending them text messages. This can be confusing and may cause them to miss important information. Instead, stick to one method of communication and be clear about why you are contacting the patient.
Furthermore, it is important to be clear about the purpose of each call or message, as this will help ensure that patients are getting the most relevant information possible. It is also important to personalize each message so that it addresses the specific needs of the patient. Patients appreciate when their doctor takes the time to understand their unique situation and provides tailored advice accordingly. Finally, always make sure to thank patients for their time and participation.
2. Create Two-Way Communication
Patient outreach systems are designed to help doctors and other medical professionals reach out to their patients. However, these systems only work if there is good communication between the doctor and the patient. If there is no communication, then the system will not be effective.
One way to create two-way communication is by using a secure, regulatorily compliant messaging system. This way, both the doctor and the patient can send messages back and forth without having to worry about privacy concerns. Another way to create two-way communication is by giving patients access to their medical records online. This way, they can see what appointments they have coming up and can even message their doctor with any questions or concerns they may have before their appointment.
Both of these methods will help improve communication between doctors and patients, which will in turn improve patient outcomes overall.
3. Send Appointment Confirmations and Reminders
One of the best ways to optimize your patient outreach system is by sending appointment confirmations and reminders. This helps ensure that patients are aware of their upcoming appointments and allows them to cancel or reschedule if necessary. Appointment reminders can be sent via email, text message, or even through a phone call from a live person. Whatever method you choose, make sure that it is convenient for patients and easy for them to understand. This approach improves no-show rates more than you might expect. Text message reminders, for instance, have been shown to positively impact no-show rates.
Another tip is to offer online booking for appointments. This way, patients can easily schedule an appointment without having to pick up the phone or remember when their doctor’s office hours are. Online booking also allows you to keep track of which times are most popular so that you can adjust your schedule accordingly.
4. Implement Automated Patient Texting and Appointment Follow-Ups
Your patients are busy, and their time is valuable. So, when you make an effort to contact them outside of the office, it’s important to be as efficient as possible. Implementing an automated patient outreach system can help you optimize your patient engagement and improve your bottom line.
Appointment follow-ups are also critical for ensuring that patients keep their appointments and show up on time. By following up after their appointment, you can confirm that they received the patient care they needed and help address any issues or concerns they may have had. Automated texts can be extremely helpful in providing other important updates or information as well. Incorporating automation and follow-ups into your patient outreach system can significantly improve its overall effectiveness in reaching and serving your patients.
5. Consider Online Reputation Management and Review Responses
By considering online reputation management (ORM), you open the door to a more efficient and smooth-running patient outreach system. ORM is the process of monitoring your digital footprint and working to shape public perception of you and your brand. This encompasses everything from responding to reviews left by patients on sites like Yelp, Google, or Facebook to engaging in social media marketing efforts.
A key component of successful ORM is review responses. Whenever a patient leaves a review — positive or negative — it’s important that you take the time to respond. Whether you’re thanking them for their kind words or apologizing for falling short of their expectations, acknowledging reviews shows that you value your patients’ feedback and are committed to providing them with the best possible care experience.
6. Start an Effective Outreach Campaign Via Email
Outreach campaigns are designed to target specific groups of patients with information about a service, product, or condition that might be beneficial to them. Email is an effective way to reach patients because it allows you to send customized messages directly to their inboxes. To maximize the effectiveness of your patient outreach system, follow these tips:
- Segment your email list by interests and health conditions. This will allow you to send highly targeted messages that are more likely to be relevant and useful for each individual patient.
- Personalize your emails as much as possible. Include the recipient’s name in the subject line and body of the message, and make sure the content is tailored specifically for them based on their interests and needs.
- Timing is everything. Make sure you send your emails at a time when people are most likely to read and open them (typically weekday mornings).
As a bonus tip: Consider how you can integrate any patient outreach software with email marketing capabilities.
7. Provide Automated Patient Satisfaction Surveys
By surveying your patients, you can obtain valuable feedback that can help improve the quality of care and service you provide. Furthermore, regular surveys can help identify areas where your practice may need to make changes or improvements.
When sending out automated patient satisfaction surveys, it is important to keep a few things in mind:
- Send the survey at an appropriate time. For example, after the completion of a treatment or procedure.
- Ensure the survey is short and concise. Avoid asking too many questions, as this will only serve to frustrate patients.
- Include an option for patients to leave comments or suggestions. This feedback can be invaluable in helping you improve your practice.
8. Outline the Patient Journey Ahead of Time
Identify the specific steps that a patient will take from when they first contact you until they become a regular part of your practice. By outlining the journey ahead of time, you can more easily identify any potential bottlenecks or areas where patients may drop off. Additionally, this will allow you to tailor your outreach activities to each stage of the journey, ensuring that patients receive timely and relevant information at every step. This form of patient education is crucial to improve patient response rates.
9. Try a Postcard Marketing Strategy
Postcard marketing is an effective way to reach out to patients, especially those who may not be engaged with other forms of communication, such as email or social media. With postcards, you can target specific demographics and up your response rate with personalized messaging. Plus, postcards are relatively inexpensive to produce and mail. They also give you an edge among your older target audiences, who will instantly appreciate the more “offline” approach. Just remember to:
- Decide what kind of offer will resonate most with your target demographic. Whether it’s a free consultation or 10% off their next purchase, make sure your offer is clear and appealing.
- Keep your messaging short and sweet. You only have a limited amount of space on a postcard! Get right to the point so recipients know what they’re getting before they even read the fine print.
- Design eye-catching visuals that complement your message while still remaining professional in nature. Your goal is to stand out from the competition so that recipients actually take notice of your card instead of immediately throwing it away without giving it a second glance.
- Include a call to action (CTA). The CTA tells recipients the next steps, whether it’s visiting your website or giving you a call. Without a CTA, your postcard marketing campaign is likely to fall flat.
10. Use Technology To Track and Measure Patient Outreach
Big data is inevitable in healthcare. The industry is shifting from a fee-for-service model to a value-based care model, and technology is the enabler. To stay ahead of the curve, you need to make sure that you’re using technology to track and measure patient outreach.
There are many different ways to use technology to track and measure patient outreach. One way is using an electronic health record (EHR) system. EHRs can help you keep track of patients’ medical history, medications, appointments, and more. You can also use EHRs to send automatic reminders for appointments or follow-up care instructions after a procedure.
Another way to use technology to track patient outreach is through self-help dashboards or patient relationship management (PRM) systems, which let patients access their medical records 24/7, schedule appointments, pay bills, and communicate with their provider. They also allow providers to see which patients are due for preventive screenings or checkups so they can proactively reach out.
These tools can significantly streamline your patient outreach.