Hospitals

How one health system is using SMS to improve patient satisfaction

Park Nicollet Health Services, a large integrated health provider in the Twin Cities was one of the beta testers of a novel new service to track customer satisfaction in real time using a text messaging service. The pilot was meant to test the value of the service, called CareWire, that was developed by Healthy Heartland, […]

Park Nicollet Health Services, a large integrated health provider in the Twin Cities was one of the beta testers of a novel new service to track customer satisfaction in real time using a text messaging service.

The pilot was meant to test the value of the service, called CareWire, that was developed by Healthy Heartland, a Twin Cities firm, in five primary care locations. But less than halfway into the pilot, the overwhelming success led Park Nicollet to decide to expand the service.

As a result, Park Nicollet became the first commercial customer of mobile health startup CareWire Inc.

Starting June 1, the text-messaging service will be available to all 19 of its primary care locations in the Twin Cities, said Brett Long, vice president of strategy and growth. Long added that several pilots will be introduced to test the service in its specialty centers as well as select in-patient service areas such as surgery.

“All the feedback from the patients, but even from the staff, was that they really liked it,” Long said. “It made our staff very proud that we were doing something so innovative and that we were getting into the 21st century. Healthcare lags in terms of technological advances.”

So how does CareWire work?

Patients receive a text message on behalf of Park Nicollet a few hours following an appointment when they can rate their experiences on a scale of 0 to 10. If a response is negative, it helps Park Nicollet figure out where a problem is.

“Basically it is an early sensing, early warning system for healthcare providers to understand when or where and potentially why patient dissatisfaction is starting to occur in their patient population,” said Scott Danielson, CareWire’s CEO  in a previous interview.

Mercy Medical Center and another large provider in Chicago have also tested CareWire. Danielson declined via email Friday to disclose the cost of the one-year contract with Park Nicollet, but provided some clues as to pricing.

“For Primary Care, we say CareWire costs less than the price of a postage stamp — per patient visit,” he said. “For specialty and surgery, we charge between $3 and $4 per visit based on complexity of message sequences and required patient interaction.”

 

CareWire’s service also allows the healthcare provider to know all the details about the person’s appointment, including which provider he saw. Once he responds with a negative rating and maybe even some written comments, the service asks if the patient will provide permission to be contacted. Many did and that allowed a clinic manager to follow up with patients and get to the bottom of their issues.

One common complaint that emerged was long wait times — either in the waiting room or in the exam room, Long said.

“When the clinic manager follows up, it’s essentially an apology for patients,” Long said, which they appreciate.

That helps to boost satisfaction rates, the single biggest driver that led Park Nicollet down this path of adopting CareWire.

The other attraction is that the information comes in real time. Previously, Long said the health system would have to wait to hear from dissatisfied customers if they took the time to call or wait to send out patient satisfaction cards or do surveys on a section of the population.

And surveys may not capture satisfaction data fully. Park Nicollet sees 2.5 million patients a year and the survey does not go to every single patient, Long said.

But other than serving as an early warning system, the service which generated an 86 percent to 87 percent opt-in rate, helped to dismiss two myths at Park Nicollet: One was about the provider’s own data collection system, and the other about the demographics of people who text.

“We used to think that we didn’t capture cell phone numbers in our system, but we do,” Long said. “It may not be in the mobile field, but more people are giving their cell phones as their primary numbers” and CareWire’s system can recognize which ones are mobile numbers.

The second thing Park Nicollet learned that even older people are comfortable with technology.

“People over 60 do text,” Long said.

For a video on how CareWire works, go to the presentation that the company’s chief operating officer provided at the HealthBox accelerator program in Chicago.