My cell phone rang. I ignored it. Just a few weeks into a new job and I didn’t want to waste time on a personal call. Minutes later, a voicemail came through.
A voicemail. Who does that?
The local hospital radiology department, it turned out. They had called to schedule a much-needed MRI. But I didn’t have the time to call back, wait on hold, and eventually excuse myself from our open office to talk to a live person.
Why can’t they just text me? I wondered.
Patients want texting in healthcare
I’m not alone. Four out of five people want to communicate with their healthcare provider via text message. The key word here is communicate. Texting in healthcare has existed for more than two decades, but it hasn’t allowed patients to text back. WELL’s two-way texting has answered patients’ desire to text.
Here are the top 10 benefits WELL clients have achieved using our patient communication platform.
#1 Reduce call volume
Perhaps the most frequently cited statistic among WELL clients is a significant reduction in call volume. The Santa Monica Orthopaedic Group, SMOG, saw their call volume drop by 20 percent after implementing WELL.
#2 Answer calls with a live person
SMOG also increased the number of calls that were answered by a live person, instead of a recording, from 50 percent to 85 percent.
“WELL has transformed our patient communications. It has blended naturally and intuitively into our practice operations, and we actively look for ways to use it even more. WELL gives patients a choice they never had before, and they absolutely love it.” Siobhan Palmer Director, SMOG.
#3 Decrease no-shows
Several features of the WELL platform contribute to reduced no-show rates and appointment confirmations. Not surprisingly, appointment reminders are one of them. So too is our ability to collect co-pays in advance of a visit.
Mountain View Family Practice in Oregon cut their no-show rate in half using WELL, leading its Chief Operations Officer, David Swartout to say, “Implementing WELL was the best decision Mountain View Medical Center made all year.”
#4 Decrease money in collections
Mountain View also saw the amount of money in collections decrease by 10 percent after they implemented WELL. “We’ve discovered that people can’t ignore text messages; it’s just ingrained in us,” said Practice Relations Manager Tina Kelley. “Often they are surprised that they have a balance at all, even though we had mailed statements and called multiple times.”
#5 Understand patient experience
Sansum Clinic in Santa Barbara, California found that texting their patients through WELL not only increased appointment confirmations and reduced no-shows, but also helped them gain greater insight into their patients’ experience.
“This was a way for the patients to tell us ‘We really enjoyed coming to you’ and ‘Thank you for being there,’” said Betty Lee, Director of Patient Access. But even when a patient isn’t satisfied, “they can text as many words as possible to tell us how they really feel. They’re comfortable enough to just type away,” she said.
#6 Increase patient visits
As the physician workforce shortage becomes more and more apparent, increasing the number of patient visits to your clinic is especially important. It’s good not only for your bottom line, but also for patients who need care. Vista Community Clinic in Southern California saw a 14 percent increase in patient visits following implementation of WELL and an increase in patient satisfaction.
#7 Increase portal enrollment
If you’re having trouble getting patients to enroll in their portals, use WELL to send out a broadcast text message with a link to enroll. Cedars-Sinai used WELL to increase MyChart enrollment by 19 percent.
Before, staff had needed to email a portal link to hundreds of patients per day; now, the automation did it for them. “It’s naturally part of your workflow. It just immensely improves it,” said Ramin Rasoulian, Lead Applications Specialist.
#8 Improve Google rating
Columbia Pain and Spine Institute in Oregon suffered from a particularly poor rating on Google, due in part to an absolutely overwhelming call volume. After using WELL’s bidirectional texting, their customers noticed and within four months, their Google rating rose from 2.6 to 3.2. It has continued to rise since then, now at an even 4 stars.
#9 Utilize fewer staff
When Columbia Pain and Spine Institute found WELL, they plunged right in. “Other than trying to hire 40 people and have them sit answering phones like a call center,” Maksimov said, WELL was the best fit for their needs: medical assistants could text their patients rather than playing phone tag, and the practice could send bulk messages out to patients after procedures, asking them to text if they had any problems. Doctors and staff also liked that the messages would be traceable, remaining in patients’ communication channels for future reference.
#10 Streamline workflows
Ortho Northeast, ONE, located in Indiana, has five locations, 32 providers, and sees 150,000 patients a year. A streamlined workflow is essential to their operation. An impressive 96 percent of ONE’s patients opted in to receive texts, and ONE leveraged WELL’s campaign module to automate bulk-outreach to pre-defined patient populations. In the first four months since going live, the ONE team ran over 190 individual messaging campaigns, which helped streamline a number of workflows, such as the completion of new patient paperwork, patient notifications of approved pre-authorizations, and enrollment of patients in their clinical portal.
Not only did this improve staff workflows, but it also improved patient experience. “With the consumerization of healthcare, our patients now have more power than ever before. WELL allows us to focus on retaining them, making them happy, and most importantly focusing on our core competency,” said Tia Brown, Appointment Reception Supervisor.
If you’re not texting your patients, you should be
Your patients want to text you, in fact, many of them already are. That’s what Vista Community Clinic found. They didn’t even need to announce their new capabilities; patient texts were already coming in.
Eventually, I did schedule that MRI. And when I received the patient satisfaction survey, I urged the hospital to implement two-way texting. Maybe they’re reading.
What messages are you missing from your patients? Call WELL’s patient communication specialists today to see what two-way texting can do for your organization.♥
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Pamela Ellgen is WELL’s Health Editor. She began her career in community journalism at The Asian Reporter and later covered business at The Portland Tribune. She is the author of more than a dozen published books and a graduate of Washington State University.