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Streamlining healthcare delivery with effective mobile communications

Headshot of Dennis Adonis

Dennis Adonis


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4 Oct 2018
4 min read
A middle aged female doctor in a doctor's office looking at a phone

Effective patient communications can cut the costs of service delivery, and also improve standards of health care.

Traditional paper-based contact is slow and costly, and email alone struggles to cut through the volume of messages sent every day. The answer for many providers is coming in the form of effective mobile messaging, particularly as mobiles can now be used to send messages across multiple channels, including email, SMS, and social, making these the centre of a communications ecosystem, rather than a single outbound source.

Tackling the challenge of missed appointments.

Non-attendance for appointments in health care creates a significant disruption to workflow scheduling, resulting in wasted resources and negatively impacting service delivery. Studies put the DNA (did not attend) rate as high as 22% with simple forgetfulness being cited as a major reason for these missed appointments. Effective reminder methods are critical for managing this DNA rate.

Mobile and wireless technologies have become central to improving this equation. Pew Foundation Internet Research shows that 83 percent of text messages are opened and read within the first hour of receipt and more than 90 percent of Americans have their mobile phone within arm’s reach 24 hours a day. This makes mobile the natural delivery point for improving service efficiency.

Kaiser Permanente, the largest non-profit healthcare provider in the United States, conducted a well-documented study into the potential for improving patient communications with SMS, to reduce the number of missed appointments. In one month running the trial, there were 1,873 fewer no-shows; with a $150 savings per appointment, this equated into a total cost saving of $275,000.

detailed statistical analysis by Per E Hasvold and Richard Wootton showed a 34% increase in attendance by patients to appointments when a reminder was sent by phone, SMS, or automated phone calls, within 1 week of the appointment.

The cost involved in manually contacting patients is a limiting factor for many providers, and automated messaging is increasingly being adopted to bridge this gap. Messaging systems are able to deliver highly targeted, personalised appointment reminders to patient devices, with interactive capabilities built into the message.

Modern rich messaging technology allows patients to reply using the same communication channel, whether the message is sent by SMS, phone, or email, with options to accept or decline the appointment as well as indicate when they are available. Best-in-breed systems include accurate message tracking, with centralised dashboards to record delivery status, and an escalation mechanism when needed, such as for critically ill patients, or urgent notifications.

Message delivery can be automated through API integration with existing CRM and related health management databases, which reduces the cost of investment in new supporting technologies, and removes the need for manual human intervention.

Patient Follow-up

Messaging systems are also able to streamline the follow-up contact process for patients and families post-treatment. Modern messaging systems can be integrated via API into the organization’s electronic health record (EHR) and other patient systems, to automate patient follow-up messages based on attributes such as condition, and appropriately notify next of kins of patient progress.

External after-care management can also be facilitated, with rich multi-channel messaging allowing patients to interact with the message and confirm their health status without the need for manual intervention.

Key benefits are aligned to cost savings and efficiency from contact centre operations, as well as increased organisational efficiency with nurses, doctors, and other medical staff able to concentrate on patient care instead of administration.

Best Practice Mobile Engagement Insights

Multi-channel Messaging: Send messages to your patients in the way that suits them, whether that’s voice, SMS, Social Media, Rich Messages, or email, to improve the rates of delivery. Knowing that recipients will almost always have their mobiles close allows organisations to provide messages on all these channels.

Automated and Integrated Messages: Incorporating secure messaging systems through API integration with other customer-facing and internal technologies such as EHR, patient management, CRM, billing, and related databases reduces the need for manual intervention. This facilitates options for a range of automated, high-value communications options, including:

  • Constantly updated patient self-service portals;

  • Organisation-specific mobile health applications;

  • Remote area and regional patient management;

  • Automated surveys for generating feedback after treatment; and

  • Reducing costs, by lessening reliance on manual and high-cost channels such as call centres.

Unified Communications: Combining all of these communications streams into a single platform, with a central reporting dashboard improves cut-through in the delivery of messages and provides a mechanism for tracking all critical communications, giving recipients a way to respond appropriately. This allows informed, real-time decisions to be made from these conversations.

Mobile messaging can be used by Healthcare providers for internal and external engagement in a variety of ways, including staff and operational communications, crisis and incident management. In the next edition of our healthcare series, we'll show how messaging systems can be used for staff and system management, including shift fulfillment, technology notifications, and IT service management. Stay tuned!

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