patient engagement

Protecting Network Integrity in an Evolving Digital Landscape

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Protecting Network Integrity In an Evolving Digital Landscape

What exactly is network integrity?

According to The Advisory Board, “Network integrity is your system’s ability to keep patients within your defined network of providers who are employed, affiliated, or in some way aligned with your organization. This could include a hospital, employed medical group, an ACO, CI network, or an independent physician organization.

By this definition, network integrity is an enterprise-wide effort. Providers must be on board with a health system’s network integrity efforts to minimize patient leakage across the enterprise. One of the most important parts of network integrity is the patient experience. While patient experience involves a number of factors, including in-patient experience, communication with the provider and the care administered, an increasing component of patient experience is mobile engagement.

Mobile engagement and patient experience are both rapidly changing and increasingly important to health systems and practices. According to a July 2018 Black Box Market Research survey, consumer expectations for healthcare providers are increasing. 92% of healthcare consumers surveyed say that improving customer experience should be a top strategic priority for medical providers over the next twelve months.  

These changing expectations are changing consumer behavior at a rapid pace. To illustrate, 88% of consumers under 40 say they'll choose their next provider based on online presence. Simply put, if providers and health systems fail to meet consumer expectations, which include having provider profiles and schedules online—network integrity will diminish as patients switch to more modernized providers. The key takeaway is that provider switching and shopping is happening now—and is threatening network integrity for health systems and practices across the country.

How to Maintain Network Integrity in a Rapidly Changing Market

There are at least three things that providers can do now to invest in network integrity to achieve real benefits over the coming years:

1. Improve your digital front door and digital curb appeal

To welcome consumers and retain them, providers need a welcoming digital front door. Consumers should be able to access a practice and its providers through a variety of digital access points including search engines, maps, digital assistants and social media. Additionally, practices need to develop digital curb appeal online through a consistent brand experience that promotes the provider’s brand.

While digital front doors and curb appeal are often associated with customer acquisition, the rise of doctor shopping and switching have turned these components into core tenets of maintaining network integrity. Having poor digital curb appeal is a threat to any health system’s network integrity because loyalty is being replaced with rapid provider switching.

2. Syndicate provider profiles, location data and schedules across digital channels

While it’s clear that provider profiles need to be visible across digital access points, less literature exists on effective ways to achieve this. Fortunately, companies such as Yext syndicate provider data across digital access points. Solutions such as Yext allow for control over the brand experience, thereby promoting a health system’s brand and providers.

3. Referral management

It’s simple—broken referral processes cost the healthcare industry an estimated $150 billion each year. Therefore, referral management is a high impact piece of any network integrity initiative. While there are several ways to address referral management, including reducing lead times and sharing data across constituents, a comprehensive referral management solution should be in place to protect network integrity.

With referral management, patient-provider matching is an often overlooked component. By ensuring that patients are navigated to specialists with the right expertise, waste is reduced and the patient experience is enhanced.

Many factors including patient experience, referral management, digital front doors, patient-provider matching, patient access and patient engagement affect network integrity. At the end of the day, however, network integrity is about getting a few key things right: first, welcoming patients into your network at multiple access points; second, providing a positive experience; and third, making it convenient for consumers to return. In a rapidly evolving landscape, these core tenets can help protect a health system’s network integrity.

How to Reduce Waste in Your Health System by Tackling No-shows

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You’ve seen it time and time again—the patient schedules an appointment, your provider waits for them a few minutes past the appointment start time, the patient doesn’t show up at all. No text, no call. It isn’t just a poor experience for the doctor involved — it’s hurting the health system’s bottom line.

It’s no secret that hospitals and health systems across the nation are having issues with profitability. A large part of this equation has to do with keeping costs down. While you can’t just choose not to invest in your infrastructure, technology, or your people — something you can control is the money lost by no-show appointments. These no-show appointments are a colossal waste that lurks in your scheduling process and is estimated to cause the healthcare industry an estimated $150billion in losses each year.

What is a no-show appointment?

A no-show appointment is an appointment that a patient 1) makes with a provider; 2) fails to arrive at; 3) does not cancel before the time of the appointment. These are different than cancellations. In a cancellation, the patient reaches out to the provider before the appointment, giving the provider sufficient time to fill the slot with another patient.

Why are no-shows so wasteful?

With cancellations, there is an opportunity to schedule another patient in the canceled time slot. Usually, the window that you have to fill these canceled appointments will be as short as 24 hours but can be as long as three weeks. We call this the replacement window because this is the amount of time that you have to replace the canceled appointment with a new patient. In a no-show, the replacement window is zero, which is why you cannot get your money back. These no-shows translate to lost revenues which hurt your health system’s bottom line. By allowing your health system to continue this wasteful process systematically, you are undermining its profitability.

What tools exist for reducing these wasteful no-show appointments?

Fortunately, there are a few different approaches and tools at your disposal for tackling no-show appointments. The first approach is the old-fashioned punish and reward system. It goes like this: financially punishing no-shows while rewarding (either through a small discount on their bill or another incentive like a sweepstakes drawing) patients who show up on time. However, this carrot-and-stick method isn’t enough to move the needle by itself. While you may limit the return of no-show patients, you aren’t increasing the replacement window or maximizing patient volume.

Thankfully there are technologies already on the market that are designed to reduce no-show appointments and maximize your replacement window. The most effective of these are digital, multi-channel appointment notifications. To appeal to a broader range of patient demographics, we recommend offering reminders via several media, including text message, email, and phone calls. To maximize the effectiveness of reminder notifications, they should include appointment confirmations with options to cancel or reschedule. Additionally, these notifications should have appointment reminders within 24 hours of the appointment start time, and any other information pertinent to the appointment. Examples include directions to the appointment location and appointment preparation procedures.

For additional engagement, some solutions like DocASAP’s Consumer Connect include a calendar appointment that can be saved to the patient’s schedule. Consumer Connect provides a mobile-first, patient-centric solution that helps not only with patient engagement, but also reduces no-show appointments. On average, DocASAP’s Consumer Connect solution, which includes DocASAP Reminders, cuts down the no-show rate by over 35% in the first year after deployment.

How online appointment scheduling maximizes the replacement window

If appointment reminders are a powerful way of reducing no-show appointments, then online appointment scheduling is its significant other, maximizing access which optimizes the replacement window. Think of it this way: you are now reducing your no-show appointments, but still have some patients who elect to cancel or reschedule. Online appointment scheduling, proven to expand patient access, increases the chance that another patient will be able to fill your empty timeslot. By expanding patient access, you can increase the likelihood that you fill empty slots in your provider’s schedule. This maximizes patient volume, which translates to money in the bank. Appointment reminders can truly work in tandem with online appointment scheduling to improve your health system’s bottom line.

To summarize, if you want an impactful reduction in no-show appointments, you need to use an appointment notification service that includes multiple notification types and mediums. To make further improvements, you need to maximize your replacement window by implementing intelligent online scheduling. Marrying reminders with online scheduling is one of the most impactful ways to start reducing waste in your health system — ASAP.

Four cost effective marketing strategies to attract and engage more patients

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One of the key questions that marketing departments ask themselves is: how can I improve patient acquisition and retention? While there are many flashy and expensive ways to get the attention of patients such as radio ads, TV commercials, etc., not every healthcare organization has a large marketing budget but is tasked with bringing in as many patients as possible. Your organization is doing great things to help patients live healthier lives such as online scheduling, telemedicine, etc., but it’s challenging to get this message across.

Below are some cost effective ways that you can improve your patient acquisition and retention strategies while not breaking the bank.

#1: Utilize all the Google products you can for your organization.
Google has many products that you can do for free or for a decent fee. Since it’s the number one search engine, you are bound to get more bang for your buck. 

AdWords: Set up AdWords campaigns to increase the attention capture of the patient since Google is most likely where they will go first when searching for a physician or specialty. Below are some pointers to better refine your AdWords campaigns.

  • Search network only: Allow for the campaigns to be set up for only search. 
  • Location: Set location for the region of your entire health system vs. the entire United States. There may be similar names and keywords for a region that does not pertain to your health system.
  • Display ads: Enable display ads after the AdWords campaign is set up. The Cost-Per-Click (CPC) is far less and the display ad content can easily and automatically be generated from the branding from your website. To enable the display ads, go to Tools > Display Planner.
  • Ad extensions: Enable ad extensions to fit more content into your ad. General ad extensions allow you to add links below the three lines of text allowed by a simple AdWord ad. We suggest you look at all options that make sense for your health system. To enable these extensions, go to Ad Extensions > Dropdown that begins with “View” right below the Ad Groups tab.
  • Callout extensions: These are unique selling points about your health system. Include “Book Online Now” or “Set up your televisit” as one of these selling points.
  • Structured snippet extensions: These are specifics about the services your health system offers. Include “Find Specialty Doctors” and “Book an Appointment” as a couple of these services.
  • Location extension: These allow for specific locations to be showcased within your ad.
  • Conversion code: Have your webmaster paste the conversion code generated in AdWords to your website to monitor conversions. You should have this coded to the “Book an appointment” button on your website.

Google My Business Page: Create a Google My Business page to help improve the success of patients finding your health system, providers and practices when searching on Google. The entire process takes approximately five minutes to set up, and three to five business days to verify the listing. This is a free service from Google. As part of the setup, we recommend that you add images of your brand and providers to populate the photo section. 

#2: Develop ongoing engaging content across your social media channels.
You probably are already running ads and sponsored updates on all social media channels. This is great but how effective are they in causing a consumer to click to learn more? Develop your social media channels into the best curation of content. Below are some ideas on how to create a go to for information channel.

Your blog: If you aren’t doing a blog, you are missing out. Creating a 500 to 700 word blog is a piece of content that can have a lot of legs and can be spread everywhere. Use (and reuse) your blogs throughout the year. If you want to promote your blogs on Facebook, make sure you sponsor it. Facebook’s news feed algorithm will force the status update to lose prioritization in the news feed if you link to an external website such as your blog.b

Events: Another great promotion idea for engagement is not only to promote your events but other events within the community. Promoting a local farmer’s market or blood bank locations are ideas that will attract patients to not only the event but to your brand as being the promoter of this event even though it’s not being held by your organization.

#3: Be consist with your email communications.
Let’s face it: email campaigns can take some work. However, there are ways to use and reuse existing content in campaigns that run automatically on their own for 4 to 6 weeks. A marketing automation tool such as Pardot or MailChimp can make all email communications automatic. Here are our favorite ways to keep our audience engaged with important content.

Drip campaigns: Creating a drip campaign can take time but all that time is front loaded. Yes, you have to develop a series of emails prior to launching the campaign but once the content is created, you can have the campaign run for several weeks or months. How does it work? A drip campaign is an email campaign that automatically sends emails based on the activity of the recipient. Basically, it’s based on whether the recipient did or did not open the email. For example, if an email reminding patients to come in for a flu shot is ignored (i.e. not opened), the drip campaign will trigger another email about a recent blog that showed the top 5 ways to avoid a cold this season. Perhaps the patient already received a flu shot prior to the flu shot email so there was no interest in opening the email but will open the second email about avoiding a cold. Set that cadence so that the next email doesn’t go out until a week after the prior email was either opened or unopened.

Do you think that coming up with the content for a series of emails is too much work? Check out these recommendations for easily creating a series of emails with easy and replicable content for a drip campaign:

  • Use and reuse your blog content. Each blog can be its own email. After 6 blogs, you have a drip campaign.
  • Find healthy recipes and at-home workouts on Pinterest. You can easily write a summary paragraph, use a picture (either your own or from the webpage) and link to a recipe and/or at-home workout to promote wellness. After 3 recipes and 3 workouts, you have a drip campaign.
  • Ask a doctor for the best tip they give patients. After 6 doctors’ tips, you have a drip campaign.

#4: Conduct contests for patients.
Some health systems do a good job of developing campaigns on patient stories and promoting those campaigns across many verticals such as radio, television, social media, etc. Highlighting patients is a good engagement strategy because patients will relate to one another and it shows that your organization cares about its patients. Also, they will promote themselves if highlighted or showcased in a public setting. 

By holding contests, you will be able to glean a ton of content that was created by your patients. Not sure what to do a contest on? Below are some recommendations on contest ideas and incentives:

  • Ask a series of questions about the care they received, a doctor that helped them and how your organization changed their life in a small or large way.
  • Ask patients for tips and/or ways they are preventing injuries and illness.
  • Survey patients for things they want to see at your organization that don’t currently exist such as online scheduling for urgent care.

While there is a lot of noise out in the world in the form of information overload, it doesn’t hurt to do these cost effective marketing strategies to further promote your brand and wellness.

Promises, promises. How to get everything you deserve from your Online Appointment Scheduling (OAS) solution partner

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Picking a technology partner can be difficult and confusing. And it doesn’t help when your partner makes promises that they can’t keep. A good OAS solution partner should help you understand the value of their solution –  meaning, how they’ll help you meet your stated business objectives, such as a volume or percentage increase in traffic, a jump in total number of appointments or a boost in revenue. 

But don’t just take their word for it. Everything about OAS is digital and has the ability to be measured. A good OAS solution partner will show you how running analytics on your data can help you reach and report on your progress. In addition, make sure to talk about the difference between reports and insights. The key to meeting your business objectives is uncovering what the data is telling you and mapping it to your objectives in order to determine the business impact of your new OAS solution.

Below are some key metrics that an ideal OAS solution should analyze and how you can use the insights to make informed business decisions about your healthcare clinic or system. 

  1. Patient demographics: Demographics are captured at the time of booking an appointment, so you’re able to see daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly data trends. This data helps you identify trends in online scheduling such as average patient age, highest performing care center or most common visit – all reasons that could also impact your staffing, hours, locations and other business functions. 
  2. Patient booking behavior: What time of day do patients generally book appointments? Often it’s after hours when your office is closed. How many days before an appointment do they book? What devices are commonly used to book? These questions all have clear answers when we take the time to look at the data. And the insights can help you modify business processes or staff behaviors to better meet the needs of patients. 
  3. No show data: It’s important to understand the reasons behind no show appointments because they cost you money. Your OAS solution should capture information that provides visibility into why an appointment was canceled. Knowing how far in advance the appointment was scheduled, if the patient had insurance, and other data points can help you visualize behavioral trends so you can take proactive steps to reduce future no shows.

When evaluating an OAS solution partner, make sure to discuss your business objectives up front. Then, have your potential partner walk through all the ways you can positively impact your business objectives by tapping into patient behavior data and insights. Only by showing you how they can support your business over the long haul shows you how an OAS partner keeps their promises. 
 

Post-booking blues: How an OAS should promote your brand after each booking

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If you’re thinking about implementing an online appointment scheduling (OAS) solution – or switching your OAS partner – one of the questions you may have is, “Can an OAS help promote and protect my brand after a patient has booked an appointment?” We think that’s a great question, and we’re here to answer it. This is part two in our two-part series of using an OAS to protect and grow your brand. You can find part one here.

Fiction: An OAS has no impact on my brand once an appointment is booked. 

Fact: Remember in part one when we said that not all OAS solutions work the same way? Yeah, that’s the theme of this series, so we’re going to keep reminding you of that fun fact. At DocASAP, we feel that ongoing engagement with your patient is one of, if not the most, important aspects of online scheduling. Keeping your patients informed has a huge impact on brand perception, but you won’t get it from all OAS vendors. 

Think about it. We know ongoing engagement is positive from our own experience. No one likes to wonder if an appointment is actually confirmed or if the time you took off work for this appointment will be worth it. But we also have data to back it up. 

Using an OAS is actually proven to reduce the number of no shows and improve overall patient retention. Therefore, when looking at an OAS partner, consider one that offers these brand-supporting ongoing engagement features.  

  1. Notifications via email or text: This is a bit of a no-brainer, but it’s also important to allow the patient to be able to choose their preferred notification channel. When you interact with patients on their preferred devices, they are happier and say nice things on social networks about your brand.
  2. Ability to cancel or reschedule from email or text reminders: It’s common for patients to forget about an upcoming appointment. While reminders are helpful, patients often get these on-the-go. So why not let them cancel or reschedule directly from the text or email with just a few clicks? Having to call or log onto a website later often leads to no shows, but also makes it difficult for patients to interact which can be damaging for your brand. 
  3. Post-appointment care-driven reminders: With everything on our minds, patients don’t always think about preventative or post- care. However, a good OAS can remind patients of important actions that help them manage their health in an ongoing manner. Non-appointment related updates can help remind patients of the value of your brand, and help patients feel as if you are helping them stay on top of their health needs.
  4. Referral management: Telling a patient they need to see a different physician can be frustrating, especially if the patient also has to deal with booking another appointment. However, you can reduce frustration when your OAS has a built-in referral management solution that allows you to directly schedule an appointment online for a patient with the physician you’re referring to. This closed loop scheduling also keeps the patient within your network which is key to patient retention and brand loyalty.

There you have it. A good OAS shouldn’t drop engagement activities with patients after an appointment is booked. But some do. Pick the right one and see how much better your brand can be in the eyes of your patients. 

Does your organization run a risk of patient loyalty liability?

According to a recent Accenture Study, the providers in the healthcare industry have low loyalty metrics, making them vulnerable to patients switching to competing health systems. Many patients, roughly 40% only stay with their current providers because they view switching as difficult. However, this lack of wanting to switch does not make them loyal.

As the healthcare industry explores and expands its digital capabilities and technologies, health data sharing and access has drastically improved. Health systems that digitize access (i.e. electronic health records (EHRs), online appointment scheduling, patient portals) are more attractive to the modern patient. These capabilities not only increase patient access to providers, but also make it easier for the patient to switch providers if they are unhappy with the quality of service provided. One combatant to this is the power of personal recommendations. According to the study, 44% of patients choose their provider based on personal recommendations, a percentage which is higher than any other industry. However, patients are less likely to advocate for their healthcare providers and are twice as likely to complain about their providers.

So, do you make your patients loyal?

Strategy #1: Give your patients a reason to stay. 
Implement methods that expand your brand awareness and market reach on websites that patients use and trust, such as Google. Providing an easy point of access through online appointment scheduling is a powerful tactic because it removes the hassle of booking an appointment which is the first step in getting the patient in the front door.

Strategy #2: Empower patients to be proactive in recommendations.
The traditional comment card tactic is still alive today. It’s in a more digital format but it’s still an effective method to garner feedback and incorporate it into your everyday business processes. Allowing patients to leave reviews and feedback on the provider who delivered care via a digital pathway or the more traditional comment card route will help your organization improve and become more efficient because you are hearing exactly what the patient wants.

Strategy #3: Let the road lead to you.
Making it easy for patients to find you will improve their perception of your health system. The more you can modernize the access to your organization, the easier it will be to retain patients. By streamlining one of the most hassling parts of a care visit, scheduling the appointment, patients will view your organization as forward-thinking and proactive to their needs.