For the past two years, Houston Thyroid and Endocrine Specialists used secure messaging software to reach patients before upcoming appointments to confirm that they intended to show up for scheduled encounters.

That worked pretty well, says practice owner Fareed Elhaj, MD, because secure messaging was more effective and less time-consuming than making 100 or so phone calls each day to remind patients.

Now, the messaging vendor—Luma Health—has significantly enhanced the messaging service by launching a platform that automates patient communication. It’s able to send unique texts that are customized for each patient.

For example, a diabetes patient can receive a text from Elhaj about coming in for their annual foot and eye exam, take a prescribed medication, bring in their bone age report and past pathology reports from other physicians as well as any recent thyroid blood tests. The text message also will remind the patient to make sure a family member or friend can drive the patient to and from a procedure. The text messages also encourage patients to submit questions in advance of the appointment.


Also See: Why technology isn’t solving patient appointment issues

Such preparations make the appointment smoother for doctor and patient, Elhaj says. “You have a doctor who is more productive and reads charts and plugs the information into the electronic health record, and if the patient has questions, we’ll go through them during the appointment. A lot of specific tasks are done in a practice over and over, and now, those tasks are automated. Staff spends less time on tasks and more time on care.”

If a text message exchange finds that a patient is cancelling an appointment, that time slot is highlighted to get Elhaj’s attention, and he then can fill the slot with another patient appointment. The platform software also automates referral outreach to other clinicians and enables patients to self-schedule.

Other features of the platform enable anonymous online reviews from patients, secure exchange of information relating to insurance, the ability to communicate test results and images, and a scheduling website that shows patients available times for an appointment.

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