The healthcare journey begins with patient outreach — and as the first step in the process, outreach is, by definition, one of the most crucial steps. You’ll struggle to grow a practice without putting in a concerted effort to attract new patients and re-engage existing ones. The market for healthcare providers is competitive, and patients are naturally going to choose the provider that is able to make the fastest, most effective outreach to them.
This all may seem like a no-brainer, but studies show that far too many clinics fail to take matters in their own hands. Instead, they rely on patients to schedule a visit — a visit that never happens. As a result, the healthcare industry’s not operating at full capacity, and that’s causing providers to lose valuable revenue while patients’ clinical outcomes suffer.
Proactivity Is Key
Patient outreach is all about being proactive. In healthcare, time is of the essence. This is particularly true when you’re in a crowded market of providers: you need to beat out your competitors. There’s no time to wait for patients to come to you first.
A major mistake that many clinics fall prey to is the expectation that patients will automatically flock to them. It’s important to recognize that with the high number of providers on the market, nobody can take patients for granted. Patients, like any other customers, need to be convinced that you present the best fit for their needs, and they need to have a consistently top-tier experience along every stage of the care journey.
To ensure this, you should be using personalized methods of outreach to reach every patient, such as customized, automated text messages that engage patients. And while it’s a common misconception that seniors don’t text and that texting is less effective than a phone call, our data has shown otherwise: out of Luma Health patients, the reminder confirmation rate via text is 56% for the 65-84 demographic and 49% for patients age 18-25.
Again, proactivity is essential in this step: your messages must include the important health information that patients expect, such as appointment preparation, rescheduling instructions, and details about the time and place of the appointment. That way, you’re anticipating questions before they’re asked and saving both you and your patients from unneeded back-and-forth exchanges.
Leveraging technology is key to improving patient outreach. Traditional methods of patient outreach are losing their effectiveness, as they can often lead to frustrating games of phone tag. If your practice is going to continue thriving, you must streamline and automate as many processes as possible to reach the maximum number of patients. And no, practice automation won’t remove the human side of healthcare. If anything, it’ll enhance it, by lifting administrative burdens on providers and freeing them up to focus on their time with patients. Check out our blog “3 Common Myths About Automation, Debunked” to learn more about why the term “automated processes” is nothing to be afraid of.
Create a Positive Feedback Loop
Another indispensable tool in the age of technology? The Internet. This is where your patients will flock to leave reviews—good or bad—after their visit to your practice. Rest assured, these reviews will be seen by others: the majority of patients searching for a new healthcare provider use the Internet to assist them in their search.
Your job is to ensure that you provide patients a 5-star experience and encourage happy patients to leave a glowing review. This creates a self-perpetuating cycle in the best way possible, as it encourages more patients to choose your practice over competitors. According to our 2019 Patient Engagement Trends Report, text messages are crucial for creating this positive feedback loop: patients are twice as likely to respond to requests for feedback sent via text than via email. This means that you need to leverage new technology solutions that automatically route the happy patients to leave five-star online reviews.
Manage Referrals Efficiently
Referrals are a woefully under-utilized source of new patients. If your clinic accepts referrals, it’s in your best interest to reach out to referred patients immediately. Again, this may sound like basic common sense, but studies show that 54% of faxed referrals never lead to scheduled appointments, translating to lost revenue and patient care gaps.
When it comes to referral management, the onus is on organizations to handle referrals— as a provider, you can’t place the burden on patients to handle it themselves. Approximately 33% of referred patients never follow up with the specialist to whom they were referred, showing why proactivity is so critical. Plus, 40% of the patients who make that initial outreach don’t continue maintaining contact for follow-up care. This breaks the continuum of care and can lead to long-term issues. It should be the responsibility of providers to handle outreach in order to ensure a smooth, seamless care journey.
Enhancing Preventive Care
Preventive care is another key component of patient outreach that, if done properly, boosts revenues and improves outcomes along the patient journey. Successful outreach ensures that patients aren’t just going in when they’re in urgent need of care. Instead, it creates a continuum of care that starts much earlier. 83% of patients depend on providers for their well-being, and you need to ensure that you’re fulfilling that weighty responsibility by catching and treating any health issues early. You can do this by sending patients reminders for preventive care; for example, encouraging them to schedule colonoscopies, mammograms, and other preventive tests.
Patient outreach is all about being on the ball. You must show your patients that you care about them and are prepared to take responsibility for their well-being, and the best way to do so is through proactivity. Adopting a modern approach to outreach will put your clinic on the path to long-term success and help create relationships with your patients rooted in trust.