4 outreach strategies to improve real-time engagement with patients and employees

Healthcare systems are using flexible messaging capabilities to drive business, boost communication, improve care and engage employees.

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Healthcare organizations can use communication platforms to achieve a variety of goals to engage patients and their own staff members.

Healthcare organizations across the spectrum have come to appreciate the power of surveying patients and employees to improving experiences, gather feedback and reduce stress on providers. In recent years, the power of technology has made real-time engagement possible in new and innovative ways that go far beyond surveys.

Familiar engagement strategies leverage the power of technology and automation to segment users and educate them. But other forms of outreach often get overlooked.

Following are a few use cases that illustrate how healthcare systems are using a communication platform’s flexible messaging capabilities to improve engagement in four areas: driving business, increasing communication, improving care and engaging with employees.

1. Engagement to drive business: Get patients in the door

Messaging is about more than communication; it’s a valuable tool for driving business in healthcare. The goal is to get patients in the door while publicizing the provider and raising awareness.

One example is using appointment reminders to help ensure that patients don’t forget about their upcoming visits.

These days, people are busier than ever, and missed appointments – and missed revenue – can be all too common.

These days, people are busier than ever, and missed appointments – and missed revenue – can be all too common. A quick text message with the option to re-schedule if needed is a simple way to make sure clinics don’t lose business due to no-shows.

Wellness reminders are another useful strategy for getting patients to schedule appointments. National campaigns, such as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, present a great opportunity to suggest scheduling an annual check-up or mammogram. Using a communication platform, it’s easy to include direct links so patients can engage with a single click.

New awards or recognition also offer an opportunity for outreach.

Has your clinic recently received an award or been recognized for its outstanding service? Have you been rated No. 1 in the state or opened a new location? Marketing campaigns can send messages directly through the communication platform to let the public and the community know, with a link to learn more.  

Millennium Physician Group, an independent physician group with more than 600 providers and over 150 locations throughout Florida, successfully used messaging to grow its business and help patients rebook appointments.

The group practice saw a sharp decline in patient volume early in the pandemic due to fear and uncertainty around visiting doctors in person. It used a patient outreach platform to initiate outreach to every patient who had missed an appointment, offering the option to reschedule in-person visits as telehealth appointments.

Ultimately, Millennium Physician Group was able to rebook over 2,000 appointments in under eight weeks, getting patients back in the door – or the virtual door – and driving revenue.

2. Engagement to increase communication: Educate and inform

Communication in healthcare should go far beyond managing an appointment calendar. Providers can effectively use messaging to engage and educate patients and make them aware of time-sensitive process updates.

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Welcome messages sent to new patients of a clinic or hospital can help to get them engaged even before their first visit. A link with directions and a map of the facility helps ensure first-time patients don’t get lost on the way or once they arrive, and that they show up in the right place on time.

Patients miss appointments for a variety of reasons. Many are unaware of community resources, such as free transportation services, that can prove helpful. A friendly message with a link to more information about such services can be just what the doctor ordered.

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Valley Professionals, a Federally Qualified Health Center for medically underserved populations in Indiana, as creatively used this functionality to keep its community in the know. The organization notifies patients about education and information sessions held throughout the year. This intentional outreach comes to patients directly via text with a link to easily register – in case they forget or miss announcements posted elsewhere.

The health center also uses messages to announce facility updates, including closures, holidays and new hours. For example, when it had a staff training day, it sent out the closing times for all their locations so that none of their patients would be surprised.

3. Engagement to improve care: Focus on a successful recovery

Improving outcomes is the golden ring in healthcare, and messaging can be a powerful lever to do just that. Providers can use communication platforms to engage with patients – as well as their families and caregivers – for better coordination of care, especially during crucial recovery periods.

Alerts that a loved one is ready to be discharged, medication reminders with clickable care-plan details, and messages with links to recovery resources go a long way toward ensuring positive outcomes. This provides peace of mind to patients and providers alike, allowing them to focus on what’s most important: recovery.

For example, Montana Health System, a multispecialty group serving local communities in Montana, uses these types of messages to improve care coordination and patient flow. The organization not only notifies caregivers when a patient is ready for discharge, it also asks for an estimated pick-up time. This gives the health system a better understanding of how long the patient is going to be in a bed or how long they need to hold that individual, making resource management and handoffs more efficient.

4. Engagement with employees: Beat the burnout

Healthcare organizations also can use a communication platform’s functionality for engaging with their employees. The sector has been besieged by increased workloads and burnout since the onset of the pandemic, and boosting engagement among staff is a top priority.

For instance, busy workers appreciate a reminder when flu shots become available, with a direct link to sign up. This functionality has also been especially useful for providing reminders about COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters.

Messages are also a great way to let employees know about new resources, such as retirement planning portals, as well as educational opportunities, including mental health clinics, giving them the option to click to learn more and register.

One organization that has used a communication platform to improve communication to its staff is Aveanna Healthcare, which has over 40,000 employees across the country, ranging from private-duty and home-health nurses to administrative and operations teams. Given the organization’s geographic footprint, it has many opportunities to inform workers about process changes.

When moving payroll services online, the organization sent out a notification to all its employees with useful information to ensure the key details weren’t overlooked. It has also used its communication platform to screen for COVID exposures. This has proven particularly useful with remote staff, who can’t be monitored in person.

Patient and employee engagement

Successful engagement strategies can improve both the patient experience and the employee experience. Often a simple text message is all it takes to make a difference. Healthcare organizations that leverage the full capabilities of communication platforms can streamline their businesses to achieve better outcomes and greater customer satisfaction.

The blog previously was published by Feedtrail here.

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