Outreach is the Best First Way to Combat Social Determinants of Health

Outreach is the Best First Way to Combat Social Determinants of Health

Patient outreach is where the care journey begins. Pain and illness often require guidance from a trusted healthcare provider. But getting to care in the first place can be tricky for patients with limited access to care, and you need to connect with patients outside the four walls of your clinic or system to bring in revenue for your business. 

About half of patients referred to a provider never end up establishing contact with the provider. And those are just the patients in need of care we can track. There are so many reasons why patients may forgo care, and many of them can be traced back to social determinants of health, or SDH — the limited resources, health literacy, and access that get in the way of health and wellbeing. Here are our tips for instituting an effective outreach program that keeps in mind the SDH so many patients experience.

Modernize outreach with a text-first approach

Traditional methods of outreach are becoming less and less effective. Today’s patients of all backgrounds and income levels do not have the time, especially during business hours, to play long games of phone tag to get an appointment. A majority of American households no longer have landlines, and that percentage is actually higher for low-income Americans. Relying on phone calls to establish contact with patients prevents many from accessing care.

Providers can do wonders for patient health outcomes by instituting a modern outreach program. Being open, flexible, and accommodating in 2019 involves offering a new level of convenience for your patients to streamline access to care. Communicating patients via text (which can reach 99% of patients), and allowing them to confirm, reschedule, or cancel an appointment via text opens new doors for patients who are used to healthcare being a headache-inducing time-suck. A text-first approach to patient communication will make you far more accessible to patients, and you’ll start seeing the appointments roll in. 

Want to learn more about the power of the text message? Check out our infographic.

Keep your communications culturally and linguistically competent

You know how critical in-language communication is between you and your patients. Without it, it is impossible to ensure they understand their care plan and the steps they need to take to get on the path to healthy. One in five people living in the U.S. speak a language other than English at home. The communication difficulties that these language barriers create have consistently been shown proven to lead to decreased medication adherence, lower patient satisfaction, and negative health outcomes. It can also be harmful to the patient-provider relationship, which has a ripple effect on patient health and your organization’s health as well.

The good news is conducting outreach in the patient’s language of choice can be a breeze. Sending invitations to care, appointment reminders, health education content, and pre- and post-visit instructions straight to the patient’s device of choice, in their language of choice, has never been easier. This ensures that patients come to you for care. Ultimately, you need to meet patients where they are — ¡es nuestra responsibilidad! 

Dedicate extra time to reach out to high-risk patients

Saving time with automated, modern outreach methods means you can devote more time to your high-risk patients. Patients with multiple comorbidities, recent hospital discharges, or multiple social determinants of health may require extra attention. 

Take patients who live in more rural, isolated communities, for example. Going a step beyond in-language text messages, one effective tactic may be deploying “wellness coordinators” to travel and visit patients at their home. Investing in staff to serve this role pays off. Studies have shown wellness coordinators are cost-effective because they are able to close care gaps and provide key preventive care services and screenings that may have otherwise fallen through the cracks. That extra touch and higher level of care coordination can help these patients get on the path to healthy, helping you drive outcomes while you increase patient loyalty. With these outreach strategies, both you and your patients can win.