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Spring 2019 vs Spring 2020: COVID-19 Effects on Patient Communication

Spring 2019 vs Spring 2020: COVID-19 Effects on Patient Communication

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, physicians have been faced with new challenges in patient communication and making care available to non-urgent patients. Providers and patients alike both had to start considering the best ways to mitigate any risk of virus transfer throughout the care delivery process. Oftentimes this process inevitably resulted in appointments having to be canceled or rescheduled. 

In a previous blog post, we went into depth about the ways in which COVID-19 has caused major shifts in access to healthcare amongst our customers. In this blog post, we will be revisiting these metrics along with some new ones to show how the months of March, April, and May of 2019 stack up as compared to the same timeframe of 2020.

Through this comparative analysis of both appointment and patient communication data across two time periods, we will highlight the ways COVID-19 has shifted the priorities of patient communication.

COVID-19 has shifted the priorities of outpatient communication in order to mitigate any risk of virus transfer throughout the care delivery process.

Changes in Patient Appointment Rates

Throughout March – May 2019, appointment confirmation rates remained healthy and consistent ranging from 65 – 68%. Cancellation rates also remained consistent at 25 – 26%. However, in March 2020 confirmation rates dip to as low as 36% and cancellation rates rise to about 50% on the week of March 22nd. This inflection point shows a clear period of adjustment as practices scrambled to accommodate federal and state guidelines and worked to ensure the safety of both the patients and the staff.

From April 2020, we see both rates begin to normalize back to 2019 levels as providers reduce the number of available appointments and start to provide more alternative modalities of care to their patients such as telehealth.

Changes in Message Topics for Patient Communication

By looking at the distribution of messages by type, we can see the stark ways in which COVID-19 has shifted patient communication priorities.  In 2019, appointment reminders made up almost half of Luma Health’s total message volume. When combined with the next most popular message type of referral followups and appointment offers, the top three message types  make up 79% of total message volume.

We see quite a different picture when looking at 2020’s data with broadcast messages being the most popular at 31% of total message volume. Broadcasts are closely followed by appointment reminders, generic, and feedback reminder messages. Combined, they make up 76% of the total message volume of Mach – May of 2020. 

Download the COVID-19 Data Report EBOOK to learn how providers have adopted telehealth solutions to address backlog of patients in need of routine and chronic care.

The decrease of appointment reminder popularity is in line with what we would expect, especially given the increase in appointment cancellations driven by COVID-19. The increased allocation of both broadcast and generic type messages in 2020 can be attributed to the more proactive modes of communication that practices may be taking to update their patient base.

These messages can be about any cancellations, resources, or process updates centered around COVID-19 risk mitigation measures. Many of the generic type messages can also be attributed to direct communications between providers and individual patients about how COVID-19 may affect any specific health concerns and future appointments. 

Metrics such as these provide a means to track the evolution of healthcare as providers and patients both continue to adapt to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. With the growing popularity of virtual modes of communication and care such as telehealth, it will be interesting to see which new trends and tools adopted during the COVID-19 crisis will grow to become permanent aspects of patient communication and care. 

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Patient volume and revenue are down as a result of COVID-19. See how engaging patients with targeted communications can help.

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