How to leverage the phone system to improve patient engagement

COVID-19 has reshaped how the healthcare industry operates. Read on to know how having a phone system can help you improve patient engagement.

With upcoming technologies bridging the communication gap, modern patient engagement techniques involve outreach via media like phone, emails, and messaging to improve wellness. The healthcare industry is finally catching up with the rest of the business world and recognizing that to grow and be successful in a competitive marketplace, patients need more information, quality, access, and accountability. The healthcare perspective has now shifted, with medical practitioners now reaching out to patients to help care for them rather than the other way around.

Let’s see what patient engagement is and how technology is transforming where it is headed.

What is patient engagement?

Patient engagement involves encouraging patients to engage more in their healthcare procedures to drive better care, improve health benefits, and achieve lower costs. It involves the methodologies used to facilitate patients to manage their care with communications designed to promote positive outcomes.

With technology spurring movements like the anti-vax, patients nowadays have started showing more inclination towards their healthcare. Engaged patients will be able to make better decisions about their healthcare options. As healthcare consumers, we are asking for more transparent, responsive, and open healthcare processes. We expect practitioners to keep us more involved in the decision making process. Though this may vary at an individual level, better awareness has led to more people demanding transparency and involvement in their health.

Advanced engagement programs build upon subsequent interactions to help drive better health outcomes, like better adherence to medication and lifestyle changes to accommodate health benefits.

Benefits of patient engagement

Lifestyle choice is a primary factor determining health outcomes and the subsequent need for follow up healthcare procedures. Patient behavior influences the disease state, starting from prevention, treatment of the illness, and its cure. Patients more engaged in their healthcare have reported having seen positive outcomes. According to this study, less engaged patients are three times more likely to have unmet medical needs.

Benefits of continuous patient engagement include:

  • Overall improvement in health outcomes

Continuous monitoring and effective communication help patients keep track of their health. It also empowers them to make decisions in consultation with their healthcare provider to lead a better lifestyle that’s more suited to their health.

  • Quick access to medical records

Continuous engagement helps patients access their medical records quickly, and patients who can access their medical notes are 60% more likely to follow the medical plan, and engaged patients are likely to adhere more to their healthcare plans

  • Patients take part more in their healthcare

Following up with patients motivates them to be more involved in their health, thus helping achieve better RoI, both in terms of time and money.

  • Increased patient satisfaction

Patient engagement works on continuous communication, which helps medical professionals share more information regarding their health. Based on these constant inputs, patients can work on continuous improvement of their health, leading to better overall satisfaction.

  • Reduced costs

Continuous communication helps prevent no-shows and reduces the likelihood of costly emergency procedures. This ultimately helps with patient retention and helps maintain your patient base. Coupled with technology like Electronic Health Records(EHR), patient engagement enables you to increase the overall revenue.

What can you do to increase engagement with your patients?

Now that you know how patient engagement can be beneficial, you also need to be aware of what strategies/techniques you can use to keep your patients involved in their healthcare. Here’s a brief look at a few patient engagement strategies that will help your patients achieve overall holistic health:

Personalize interactions

Personalization is the buzz of the modern era, and it’s no different when it comes to healthcare services. Healthcare needs are highly specific to each individual, and it is important to center your communication and outreach strategies around those needs to achieve the required results. Understand the personal attributes about your patients, and craft your engagement strategy based on their needs.

But personalization at an individual level is not possible when you are doing outreach to create awareness. For this, make use of the good old population segmenting. Demographics play an important role in determining your outreach, and stratifying your base based on that can help you narrow it down even further. And then, based on the responses you receive, you can create individual patient journeys/maps to achieve personalization at a personal level.

Once you create a journey map, the next step is to define and establish further means of communication. While emails are a sure-fire way to be seen/heard, subsequent follow-ups will work only with more personalized communication forms like a phone call or message. Have in place a good phone system that will help you track your patients and schedule regular follow-ups.

Use and integrate technology

Identify and integrate necessary technology into your process to enhance the patient journey and engagement levels. Let’s look at a few technologies that will help you with this:

Electronic Health Records (EHRs)

This is a no-brainer, with everything digitized today. It helps you cut all the massive paperwork associated, saves time, and provides better accessibility. Integrating Healthcare Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software and your EHR will help you plan and time your outreach and provide a deeply personal experience.

Marketing automation tools

This will help you automate outreach to patients and to create a continuous patient engagement journey. Using automation tools, healthcare organizations can execute a structured patient engagement strategy by sending out timely emails or social media posts. This will primarily help you create awareness on the health benefits of being engaged in healthcare, following which you can use other tools like a phone system to achieve a more personalized approach.

Healthcare phone system

As discussed before, targeted messaging and timely phone calls will help you achieve better outcomes. Talking to a human always gives a personal touch, especially when it comes to healthcare. Having a reliable healthcare phone system like Freshcaller will also help you keep track of call frequencies, and you can set up reminders to have follow-up calls. Make use of a cloud-based phone system that will help you record calls, take notes, and schedule subsequent follow-ups. You can integrate the existing CRM with your phone system to achieve maximum results.

Leverage nutritionists and physicians

Patient engagement doesn’t stop just with healthcare marketing; physicians and nutritionists have their roles to play. By establishing frequent contact with patients and providing tips on diet and lifestyle choices like exercise, yoga, etc., they play an essential role in keeping patients involved in their healthcare. Establish contact with the local physicians in your target area, and absorb them into your patient engagement solution to achieve holistic results.

How COVID-19 has reshaped patient engagement strategies

Disruption in industries can create vast impacts – both positive and negative. COVID-19 is one such disruption that has helped accelerate the awareness of healthcare and the benefits of continuous nurture. With masks and social distancing being the norm, people are unwilling to step into healthcare places unless necessary. This has forced the industry to develop remote healthcare strategies to help patients take care of themselves while staying home and safe.

Telehealth

Telehealth is defined as delivering healthcare services via electronic channels like email, telephone calls, messaging, and mobile health apps. Remote Patient Monitoring is an example of a service that comes under telehealth.

With COVID-19 forcing people to stay indoors, access to physical or face-to-face consultations has reduced. Telehealth facilitates virtual patient engagement by enabling services like virtual consultations via video conferencing, telephone, and live chat. It also facilitates participatory healthcare and brings care to the patient’s doorstep rather than actively seeking it. It helps you provide a more proactive rather than reactive healthcare.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) in patient engagement

Another technology that COVID-19 has spurred is Artificial Engagement (AI) in patient engagement systems. The world’s response to COVID-19 has included regulatory and policy changes, including relaxations in HIPAA, enabling clinicians to practice medicine across state borders. This has helped increase the use of readily available consumer healthcare apps to treat patients remotely. With data pouring in from different directions, AI will be essential to how healthcare providers operate, keeping in mind privacy, and patient consent.

A survey of over 300 clinicians and health systems reported that more than 70% of them have less than 50% of patients highly engaged, and 42% of them had just about 25% highly engaged. – SolveEdge

AI-powered patient engagement solutions help provide real-time insights on patient health, behavior, and reaction to medicines administered. By tracking these metrics hourly or daily, health professionals can provide insights in real-time, thus transforming how telehealth operates.

Use of conversational AI like chatbots to help patients navigate the healthcare experience, for example, by helping book consultations, procedures, etc., based on the available time slots of doctors. This seamless experience results in better engagement in their care and help boost overall satisfaction.

What role does the phone system play in patient engagement?

Having a dedicated phone system for engaging with patients helps with personalization and better care. Regular catch up via phone calls can help elderly patients and those with chronic health conditions keep track of their situation and stay in control. Having a reliable phone system that is integrated into your CRM will help you:

  • Interact with patients regularly via phone, resulting in better care and engagement
  • Connect the right patient to the right physician through the help of Interactive Voice Response systems. The key to patient engagement is ‘right person, right message, right time.’
  • Have a dedicated number on which patients can call you anytime for consultations/emergencies
  • Schedule callbacks/reminders for follow up at regular intervals to provide personalized care

Conclusion

Having a patient engagement strategy is important to help people take care of themselves, however, the strategy has value only if followed through to the end. It is important to identify and recognize technologies that will enhance patient engagement and employ them actively to provide a satisfactory experience. Healthcare providers can help patients reach their healthcare goals by implementing a seamless communication platform through which two-way communication must be possible at all times. Having a cloud-based phone system is one such technology that will help you provide personalized care, and you can also have dedicated numbers on which patients can reach out to you.

This will help you provide a great healthcare experience overall, and satisfied patients tend to invest more in their healthcare. A reliable phone system will help healthcare organizations ensure that the last mile of care is as strong as all those before it. It’s the key to a happier, healthier patient journey.


About Freshcaller

Freshcaller is a modern-day reimagining of our everyday phone system for customer support, sales, IT, and HR teams. With Freshcaller’s cloud-based architecture, it brings together the best of legacy features like IVR and advanced capabilities like Smart Escalations, Call Routing, Custom Call Center Analytics to help you set up a state-of-the-art business call center. Freshcaller offers phone numbers in 90+ countries, requires zero phone hardware, and is extremely easy to use.

If you want to find out more about what we do, check out www.freshcaller.com.

Image Illustrations: Mahalakshmi Anantaraman