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How to close gaps in care with automated patient outreach

Scheduling an appointment shouldn’t be complicated. Yet too often, patients are left to figure out their next move alone, with just a single phone number to call.

Frustrated and confused, patients may drop out of the scheduling process entirely or miss the appointments they’ve already booked. Missed appointments can lead to critical gaps in care, poor health outcomes and possible readmissions, and they are also unnecessarily costly for providers.

But what if you could make scheduling easy? Minimizing the burden on patients could close more gaps in care, improve the patient experience and reduce call center workload at the same time. Automated, targeted outreach campaigns can help you do exactly this.

Using a simple text message or voice message, you can prompt patients to book their next appointment right there and then. Here’s how:

5 ways automated patient outreach can help close gaps in care

1. Quicker and easier for patients to book care

An automated solution can send targeted text messages (SMS) or interactive voice calls (IVR) to patients to remind them to book an appointment. By providing a self-scheduling link in the message, patients can book their appointment immediately. Patients are often more likely to schedule when they’re given a reminder plus a booking link, compared to a reminder message alone. There’s less risk of appointments being forgotten, sealing any potential care gaps from the start.

2. More appointments booked

Automation also means you can contact and schedule more patients than if your call center was contacting each person individually. One large Medicaid managed care plan saw a 140% increase in their scheduling rates since using

Patient Schedule. They’re able to match patients to the right provider first time, protecting calendars from errant bookings and eliminating the dreaded three-way calls between member, provider and payer. 

3. More patients showing up to appointments

When automated patient outreach is paired with digital scheduling, patients are far more likely to show up to appointments. The Iowa Clinic found that when patients book online, they’re not only more likely to show up, but they feel more engaged and eager to follow their care plan. Their patient show rates are as high as 97% for appointments scheduled online. If those patients are also more engaged, that’s a good sign that care gaps can be minimized too. 

4. Better coordination of transport services

One obstacle to attending non-emergency appointments that is often overlooked is the lack of access to reliable transportation. With automated scheduling software, this can be easily fixed. Once a member has booked an appointment, data analytics can flag up a potential need for transportation, so the member can be sent an automated text reminder to book transport. And if they need to reschedule for some reason, the transportation booking will auto-update too. Patients (and staff) no longer need to wrangle two separate systems for booking appointments and transportation.

5. Better management of wait lists and reduced call times

Another way to close gaps in care is to give patients the option to book an earlier appointment, if a slot becomes available. Seeing their doctor sooner can mean quicker treatment and reduce the chance of a patient disengaging with their care plan because of a long wait.

With automated outreach, you can send an automatic message to offer an earlier appointment, and then cancel the old booking (and offer it to others) at the same time. This enables better wait list management and can reduce call time for staff by an average of 50%.

Automated patient outreach is a win-win. It’s far more convenient for patients, and drives down costs for providers and payers. Learn more about how automated appointment reminders and digital patient scheduling can help your organization improve the patient experience and close costly gaps in care.