Organizations juggling multiple modes of patient communication

Indiana University Health develops guiding principles that provide focus for use of communication technologies to interact with consumers.

Consumers have varied ways of communicating with providers, and organizations are looking to optimize these interactions to improve effectiveness.

Provider organizations are looking to improve communication with patients, but they are challenged to bring more rationality to their efforts.

Organizations such as Indiana University Health are trying to communicate effectively with patients, in their preferred way and throughout the range of an encounter, from early in the care sequence to afterward, when payment discussions are involved.

These initiatives to optimize patient communication are the focus of an educational session in the upcoming HDM KLASroom educational series on improving patient experience and engagement. The series, to run Tuesday and Thursday mornings from September 20 to 29, will focus on adopting and applying technologies and approaches to better address healthcare consumerism.

Jeremy Rogers, Executive Director Digital Marketing & Experience at IU Health, shares guiding principles used to establish a patient communication process.

Evolving approach

Early initiatives aimed at patient communication had simple goals, such as sending reminders about appointments to reduce no-show rates, says Dan Czech, senior insights director at KLAS Research. The Orem, Utah-based health IT has increased its focus on consumer perceptions of providers and technology. It will share its research involving 13,000 consumers during the HDM KLASroom session, planned for 11 a.m. ET Tuesday, September 27.

 Early efforts were to “drive more of a provider-centric outcome,” Czech explains. But increased maturity among communication platforms has resulted in a dialogue with consumers that “extend far beyond just appointment reminders to broadcast messaging, payment collections and clinical type communications.”

Such broader communication is essential as patients' expectations grow and care teams' increasingly want to provide streamlined communications – pioneering institutions are starting to see the importance of seamless communication as a key determinant in patient experience.

The variety of types of communication has resulted in more attention being paid to patient journeys at IU Health, a 16-hospital system that also operates more than 300 primary and specialty care offices throughout the state.

KLAS Research's Dan Czech and IU Health's Jeremy Rogers look at research around the many patient communications solutions available

Key inflection points

The system has sought to better understand the variety of communication channels it has with patients, says Jeremy Rogers, executive director of digital marketing and experience for the system. “In terms of automation and prioritization, today there are many – it’s really kind of a checkerboard, because there are automated and manual outreaches to patients.”

As healthcare organizations gain experience in patient engagement, they need “better, deeper communication … to help drive better outcomes, to drive better retention, better engagement and better partnership in (patients’) health,” Rogers contends.

Communication requires nuance and respect for patient preference, he notes. A patient may want a text message for an appointment reminder but would not want that form of communication for a clinical result or a billing reminder. Many providers “inundate our patients with messages throughout the week, throughout the day; you need to take a step back and really begin to inventory them,” Rogers adds. “What are all the different ways we're connecting with our patients today? Are those properly orchestrated? Is there a better way to sequence them or stagger them or prioritize them? So if a patient has to decide what's most important, they shouldn't be guessing from multiple communications from your brand from your health system.”

IU Health has set out a set of guiding principles for its patient communication strategy. They include using a patient engagement framework; fostering patient-centered decision making by meeting their needs, wants and preferences; and reflecting governance and maturity models.

Rogers says the organization has developed hundreds of “patient segment journeys” that fine-tune its efforts to communicate with patients, and he will discuss the rationale for these during the upcoming HDM KLASroom session.

To register for the event, click here.

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