COVID-19 is creating stress for, and placing burdens on, many healthcare clinics. I recently hosted a webinar discussing strategies practices can use to weather the storm of COVID-19 and was honored to be joined by one of our FQHC customers — Samantha Guthman, COO of Alexander Valley Health Center.
Text-First Patient Communication Tips
Samantha and I discussed a number of best practices and I wanted to share the highlights.
One strategy I shared was to send targeted text messages to screen and triage patients who are at risk of contracting COVID-19 or of experiencing health complications. More details about this best practice are shared in our Coronavirus Playbook.
During the early stages of COVID-19, it was vital that every patient receives instructions on best practices for staying healthy. Even seemingly obvious messages to promote hand-washing and social distancing, and reiterate that patients should not drink bleach, were helpful. Other messages were sent to educate patients about operational changes at their healthcare clinics, including clinic closures or dates for reopening.
Sending broadcast messages, leveraging a text-first approach, is a great way to boost health literacy and ensure that patients are receiving the information they need from their provider.
“Texting is an incredibly important tool for our patient-base.,” Samantha said. “Two-way, multilingual text messages can increase equitable access to care as the vast majority of Americans own a cell phone.”
Targeted messages are another essential component of an advanced patient messaging system — for example, messages can be tailored to high-risk populations to inform them of their increased susceptibility to COVID-related complications and to give them tips for staying healthy.
We’ve already started to see these shifts in patient communication occurring on our platform. In our latest report, COVID-19 Ushers In Patient-First Care Model, our data scientists compiled key insights from the millions of communication exchanges on Luma Health’s platform. We’ve observed an increase in cancellation rates, but patient engagement rates have surged as well. Overall, many more patients are communicating with their providers to ask questions, reschedule appointments, and more.
Best Practices for Delivering Remote Patient Care
In light of clinic closures and appointment cancellations, telehealth is a “critical need” for providers. If you’re considering how you can make telehealth accessible to your patients, it is important to remember that some telehealth platforms cannot accommodate the needs of each clinic and patient population.
As a practicing physician, here are some key points to consider:
1. Simplicity is vital to telehealth’s success. Many providers now using Luma Health’s solution have told me that they abandoned previous forays into telehealth because the platforms were simply too difficult for patients and providers to use. They weren’t intuitive for staff to manage, and they required patients to download apps or other complicated technology — put simply, they just didn’t work. 2. Telehealth should take the burden off staff members. As we discussed in our recent blog centered around administrative professionals, most front-office staff at healthcare clinics are working tirelessly to field calls from concerned patients. They shouldn’t be tasked with figuring out a complicated telehealth solution, too. Scheduling and conducting telehealth appointments should be an automated process. Telehealth solutions should allow patients to schedule appointments and receive appointment reminders with minimal staff effort.
Telehealth helps maintain access to care at a crucial time. It can be a way for patients who are infected with COVID-19 to stay in contact with their healthcare providers, or it can allow patients with chronic illnesses to continue ongoing health maintenance. Plus, Medicare coverage has been expanded in light of the COVID-19 crisis to ensure that providers receive payment for virtual appointments — allowing providers to make virtual care more accessible.
From the clinicians’ perspective, telehealth is valuable for maximizing reimbursements and keeping revenue coming in the door. Like most industries in the American economy, healthcare has been hit hard by the pandemic, and many rural or small clinics are struggling to stay afloat.
As the leader of an FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Center), Samantha is an expert on reimbursements. She noted, “Telehealth is a key source of revenue. Telehealth and other virtual care strategies benefit both patients and clinics by ensuring that all patients are able to stay healthy while clinics can continue to maintain revenue flow — a true win-win.”
Interested in getting more tips? We made sure to record the webinar and save the slides so that anyone can watch at their own leisure. These are busy, stressful times, so we know that maximizing convenience is more important than ever. The webinar can be accessed at any time using this link.
Please stay healthy and safe, and remember that we are here to help navigate these uncharted waters as your partners in patient engagement.