Tips for Enhancing Physician-Patient CommunicationPosted: November 12, 2021 - By Health Dev
Patient scheduling is an essential front office function that affects the productivity of your medical practice. When scheduling appointments, you must balance two goals: your clinical team’s ability to provide thorough care to each patient and our practice’s opportunity to maximize revenue. How can you achieve both objectives in the most efficient way possible?
Following proven appointment scheduling best practices is critical. Fortunately, today’s advanced technologies can help you eliminate much of the manual intervention involved in scheduling appointments so that you can focus on quality care and a superior patient experience.
Use Block Appointment Scheduling
For best results, many medical practices schedule appointments in blocks starting at noon each day. They start scheduling morning appointments at noon backward and take afternoon appointments starting at noon forward.
With this approach, you can put any unfilled blocks of time to productive use. An open hour can be the perfect time for holding a team meeting, catching up on paperwork, or attending online training. You may even be able to schedule late arrivals or early departures for some team members to cut overhead costs and increase morale.
Implement Self-Scheduling Technology
In recent years, many people have grown adept at going online or using apps to interact with businesses, including their healthcare providers. It’s a logical next step to capitalize on this momentum to allow patient self scheduling for appointments.
With self-scheduling technology, patients can request appointments at any time — days, nights, or weekends. They don’t need to wait for your business hours, place a phone call, or stay on hold to secure an appointment time. The convenience of digital appointment scheduling can save time and improve patient satisfaction.
For your staff, a patient self-scheduling system can significantly cut down on their repetitive administrative duties. Instead of fielding incoming appointment scheduling calls — each of which can take five to ten minutes — your team members can redirect their focus on more important tasks. Often practices dedicate a full-time role just to appointment scheduling. This expense can be eliminated keep your staff focused on higher-value work with a patient self-scheduling solution.
Send Out Appointment Reminders
Making it easy for patients to schedule appointments is important, but you also need to remind them about upcoming visits. This process is another area where technology can help you achieve dramatic productivity gains.
You can set up an appointment reminder workflow that meets your practice’s unique business needs with the right solution. Perhaps you need to create reminders to go out one week before visits, then follow up with reminders the day before and the day of the appointment. Once you establish your reminder cadence, you can apply it across all appointment types to ensure patients stay informed. You can also allow each patient to confirm, change, or cancel appointments with ease to keep your schedule up to date and free up time to see others who have more immediate care needs.
Best of all, you can deliver appointment reminders across multiple channels to reach more people. You can send reminders out via phone call, email, or text to connect with patients on the channels they prefer. This multi-channel approach increases the likelihood that patients will see your reminder and make their scheduled appointment time — helping you cut down on costly no-shows.
Automate Care Reminders and Recalls
In addition to routine care reminders, you should also let patients know about recurring care needs through text, phone, or email. Remind patients about annual care needs, important preventative screenings or tests, seasonal vaccinations, and more.
You can set up bulk communications to your entire patient community or send custom messages to specific populations. That way, you can encourage patients to schedule appointments to address all their health needs while staying in touch and letting them know your practice values them.
Keep a Patient Wait List to Cover Cancellations
Is your daily schedule almost always fully booked? That is good news for your financials but can be frustrating for patients who have to wait to get the care they need. However, you can help patients see their provider more quickly by keeping a waitlist.
A waiting list can also help you cover late cancellations and no-shows. Instead of costly downtime, you can book a patient visit earlier than expected — which is a win for you and your patient. To streamline waitlist management, look for solutions that let you bulk text to individuals on the list to give them the option of taking free appointment times.
Avoid Unnecessary Appointments with Secure Two-Way Messaging
Although you want to generate revenue, you don’t want to overload your schedule with unnecessary appointments. At times patients may have a simple question for their physician or a clinical team member that doesn’t require a visit.
Implementing secure two-way messaging can help you answer many straightforward patient questions with minimal effort. Patients can initiate contact and receive personalized responses from a medical professional. Often your staff can resolve questions within one business day, which can make patients feel appreciative of your attentive care.
If one of your healthcare team members discerns that a patient has more complex needs that require evaluation by a physician, you can book an appointment. You will have gathered helpful background information to make that visit productive and helpful.
Transform Your Practice with Enhanced Appointment Scheduling
For many patients, scheduling an appointment is the first experience they have with your practice. If you can offer streamlined booking using online and digital tools, patients will have a good impression of your practice from the start. Plus, you can cut down on burdensome administrative work that diminishes front office efficiency.
Technology can also empower you to send out appointment reminders to make patients more likely to keep their scheduled times with their healthcare providers. Also, you can remind patients about routine care, such as annual check-ups, using text, email, and phone. And you can use two-way messaging to keep in touch with patients between visits and answer many simple questions.
With the right appointment scheduling approach, you can optimize the efficiency of your front office and deliver better patient experiences. As a result, you can create a standout medical practice that demonstrates an unwavering commitment to providing high levels of service to every patent.
Use Technology to Streamline Outbound Communications
The good news is that enhancing doctor patient communication doesn’t have to be a time-consuming chore. With today’s advanced PRM solutions, you can establish routines that make sense for your practice and let other team members take over critical communication tasks. Your efforts to improve physician-patient communications will pay off as patients develop a stronger affinity for your practice and refer more people to you.
If you want to reach patients with ease, implement an email communication program that is fine-tuned to the needs of your practice. With PRM technology, you can create email templates to copy and update to make content creation easy.
It takes just minutes to set up a template for a monthly newsletter that you can use to keep patients apprised of the latest happenings in your practice. You can also establish emails to remind people about annual or seasonal health needs, such as check-ups or vaccines. In addition, you can add a personal touch with physician profiles, birthday greetings, or congratulatory emails to patients who reach treatment milestones.
Another benefit is the ability to segment your patient community and send distinct messages to each group. For example, a family practice provider may send one communication to young adults with children and a different style of communication to empty nesters and retirees.
One of the best features of email marketing is that the results are highly measurable. Your PRM solution will include a dashboard that gives you an overview of the performance of your various email communication campaigns. That way, you can easily understand factors like open and click-through rates to determine which emails are most effective in reaching your target audiences. You can learn from these metrics to improve your emails and achieve better results and more effective communication.
For many people, texting is their preferred contact method. You can expect that most patients have a mobile phone and engage in texting with friends, family, and other businesses. It’s time for health care professionals to capitalize on this momentum.
Through a PRM solution, you can send bulk texts to patients who have opted-in to receiving communication from you. For example, you can send text reminders to let patients know about upcoming appointments. You can also send feedback and review requests via texts and let them respond with a few taps. With that approach, you can continuously collect and publish new reviews o high-visibility sites like WebMD, Yelp, Google, and Facebook to showcase positive sentiment and attract new patients.
In the past, getting in touch with a physician was notoriously difficult. Patients needed to call into the office and leave a message, either on a machine or with a staff member, and wait for a return call from their doctor. Because of the complexity and time such contact required, patients may have let their questions go unanswered and missed opportunities to get expert advice from their physician.
Today, physician-patient communication can occur with far less effort through a PRM solution. The highest-quality PRM tools include a two-way, short messaging feature that makes it effortless for patients to reach out to their medical team to ask questions or gain personalized advice. Physicians or other staff members can respond and often answer many patient inquiries without a phone call or an office visit.
While prompt replies are always appreciated, patients may be willing to wait a short while for answers and still feel delighted when they get the information they need. To streamline the process of managing two-way messaging, health care teams can dedicate blocks of time each day to respond to incoming queries from patients. Also, if a patient’s needs are too complex to understand and address through messaging, you can easily schedule an appointment. It’s clear that two-way messaging is a critical element of an effective communication program for today’s medical practices.
Making calls the day before appointments have long been a common practice for healthcare practices. While helpful in cutting down no-shows, these phone-based reminders have become less effective communication as more people use the internet and digital technologies. But there is a better way to communicate about am upcoming visit. By establishing a more dynamic electronic communications approach that takes advantage of today’s technologies, you can keep people informed about upcoming appointments while a fostering stronger connection to your practice.
In today’s world you can deliver appointment reminders across multiple channels, including phone, voice, and text. You can also allow people to confirm, cancel, or change appointments with ease to keep your schedule up-to-date. This approach benefits patients as well by letting them maintain control of their personal schedules while getting the health care they need.
Implement a Patient Portal to Keep Patients Connected
One of the most powerful ways to enhance patient physician communication is through an online asset called a patient portal that is a key element of today’s leading PRM solutions. When you offer patients a portal you provide a secure and private space for access to health care information, appointment updates, and educational insight that supports a healthy lifestyle and an improved patient outcome. In addition, your patient portal can be a home for secure two-way messaging. With the right PRM solution, your patient portal can become your patients’ communications hub, an invaluable tool that helps them enhance their health and well-being while staying in touch with your practice.
Make it Easy for Patients to Access Your Portal
Unless they’re familiar with the benefits of patient dashboards, your patients may not choose to proactively sign up for your portal. A good strategy to increase adoption is to send an email to patients during or immediately after a visit with you. Send a link that takes them straight to an account setup page, use their email as the login, and ask only for a personalized password. With that approach, setting up a new portal account takes just minutes. You can even encourage people to sign up while in the waiting room and coach your front desk staff on how to help patients set up their portal accounts.
After establishing an account, each patient can log in directly from your website and review personal data available only to them. You can supply necessary documentation and forms, test or evaluation results, bills, patient education materials, and more to each patients’ private portal dashboard.
Improve Physician-Patient Communication with a Robust PRM Solution
Physician-patient communication doesn’t just happen during in-person or virtual medical visits. Instead, you should reach out to patients throughout their patient journey to deliver a connected experience. Although difficult in the past, today’s PRM tools give you the unprecedented opportunity to send group and individualized messages to each patient without adding more burdensome tasks to your already busy day.
When you enhance physician-patient communication, you’ll build trust with your patients and encourage them to turn to you as a primary source of medical advice. In today’s digital world, having strong relationships is a must since researching and switching to other providers is extremely easy. With a robust communication program and a top-notch PRM solution, you can deliver patient education materials to help people stick to treatment plans and make appropriate health choices. Good communication can help ensure people follow medical advice and achieve positive patient outcomes. Another potential benefit is increased patient satisfaction ratings, which can lead to good reviews and draw new patients to your medical practice.
Once you use effective communication approaches and high-caliber technology, you can make more medical information readily available to patients. You can position yourself as a knowledgeable clinical expert who cares about patients as people and strives to understand patient needs. Those qualities can make you stand out in the crowded healthcare space and earn you a positive reputation in your area of focus.