How to connect with your patients – part 1

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Doctor and patient shaking hands

Picture of Dentist and Patient

As a healthcare patient, there are some occasions when you have such a great experience that you feel like you’ve really been looked after—and what is healthcare if not being looked after? You weren’t forgotten about, you weren’t left wondering what was happening, you knew what to expect and you just had this sense that everything was running smoothly. This may be a regular occurrence for you, but chances are; it’s not. Unfortunately for most of us, our experience is not akin to this. By no means is it the fault of the staff, who are rushed off their feet trying to get everyone seen to, and they do a wonderful job in doing so. Many clinics just haven’t got the right processes in place, and don’t feel like they have the time to put them in place.

Some clinics may be able to achieve a really high quality of service because they can afford to have enough staff to more than cover the needs. Private clinics for example. The question is, how can a clinic that is already performing at 100% acheive this without paying exorbitant expenses?

There are multiple facets that can be addressed when trying to answer this question. And in this first post I’ll cover a couple. Firstly it is worth looking at fixing the leaks, fixing the weak parts of the chain.

Appointment reminders

The quickest, and perhaps simplest, of which, is improving the number of people showing up to their appointments. It is quite a common problem all over the world; to have a sizable number of people missing their appointments, and the cause is often due to the patient forgetting about the appointment.

A communication channel that has proven to vastly reduce these missed appointments is SMS. Sending a simple SMS a day or a few hours before an appointment will remind the patient about it, and in turn give them a greater chance of attending. The more you remind the patient, the more likely they will attend. The reason SMS is the perfect tool for this is that you can send your reminders to a lot of people in a matter of seconds, unlike calling which would take hours. It is also better than using email because people will read the message, proven by the fact that the open rate for SMS is much higher; 98% for SMS compared to 22% for email. The cost of a missed appointment hugely outweighs the few cents it costs to remind them with an SMS.

Not only does this now improve your revenue flow, giving you more money to spend on patient care, it will also give the patient a great first impression for their upcoming visit. Starting their journey with a positive feeling will no doubt give them a better experience and make them feel more connected to your clinic. They will already feel like you care, and are already helping them before they even come to the clinic.

Shift filling

The next thing to do is improve the shift filling process, to ensure patients are getting the best care, because there will always be enough staff working. Oftentimes, if a member of staff calls in sick at short notice, the person in charge of rostering has to spend the next 30 minutes to an hour calling around their bank of staff trying to find a replacement. This is usually an experienced and well trained member of staff. If this yields no response quickly enough, they will resort to agency staff.

There are so many problems with this methodology. Firstly, the time of the staff member calling around is a huge drain on the clinic, not to mention a waste of their skills. Secondly, the person calling around will inevitably use the same call list. Many staff members who may want the shift, may not get a fair chance of accepting, as the favourites often take these extra shifts. Thirdly, the productivity of agency staff members is lower due to their lack of knowledge of the facility, other staff and the patients—not to mention their inflated wages as an extra cost.

Again, SMS to the rescue. Add all of your staff in particular groups—nurses, admin, doctors, etc.—to the SMS system. When , for example, a nurse phones in sick, a message can be sent to the group of nurses with the details of that available shift. Then, which ever nurse replies first gets the shift. This is fair, will cost significantly less than an agency nurse, will solve the problem within minutes and will be far more productive than using an agency nurse. As this will solve many of the above problems, the patients will be better looked after and cared for. There will be much less wasted time, and the nurses can attend to their patients rather than solving an admin problem or running around understaffed.

Summary

Using SMS for appointment reminders will decrease the number of missed appointments, and also give your patients a better service.

Using SMS for shift filling will be quicker, fairer, cheaper and result in a far more productive staffing arrangement—no unfamiliar agency staff working.

All resulting in better connection to, and care for, your patients.

 

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Andy

Marketing man at Esendex.