MedCity Influencers, Patient Engagement

How can providers align schedules with patients to keep them returning for preventive care?

A key strategy for catering to consumerized patient expectations is creating engagements that are proactive, convenient, and make it as easy as possible for the patient to return for continued care.

Note: This is part of a series on the consumerization of healthcare 

Engaging with providers today – even for things like making an appointment – can be cumbersome, and as a result, patients are only likely to engage when they absolutely must.

With an industry-wide shift to value-based care models, where both healthcare organizations and patients benefit from more frequent visits to ultimately improve health outcomes, it becomes even more important to make it easy for patients to return for continued care. Therefore, in an effort to keep patients returning for regular, preventative care, more healthcare organizations are identifying new ways to proactively engage patients and serve up an experience that’s most convenient for them.

Making the scheduling process easier

The first way that healthcare organizations can encourage patients to return is to transform how they schedule their appointments – converting a tedious, time-consuming process to one that’s quick, simple and painless. Amber Parkinson, Director of Patient Access at Adventist Health System, shared that “a number of our patients – or consumers, rather – have expressed a desire to use an online scheduling platform because it can be accessed at their convenience. The 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday – Friday call center schedule doesn’t always work with their busy schedules, and they want to be able to schedule their appointments on their time.”

Not only are healthcare organizations looking to implement scheduling systems that adapt to patients’ daily lives, but they also want to remove any potential obstacles in the patient’s booking process by making it as seamless as possible.
For instance, Jerome Garrett — Director of Access for Ascension Medical Group in the Wisconsin market — explained that the organization’s online scheduling strategy is designed to meet patients where they are.

“Seventy-seven percent of our patients go online to do a search before booking an appointment,” he said. “Our goal is to connect with them during that process and point them to our online scheduling service so that they can make an appointment that works for them, right then and there. Our promise is to deliver personalized and compassionate care and an excellent patient experience. So when we provide same day access, when and where our patients need it, we’re delivering on our promise to our patients.”

It’s also important for healthcare organizations to be engaging with patients proactively in order to get them to come in for certain types of care, rather than wait for the patient to decide when and where they’d like to receive a particular service – and potentially go elsewhere.

“We are trying to be more proactive in engaging patients and more intentional about planning ahead,” said Garrett. “For example, if someone comes in for their annual physical, we are aiming to preemptively schedule their annual for the next year during that same visit.”

Looking at all the information available about a patient’s health is another way organizations can plan ahead and get patients scheduled for visits down the road – which leads to better preventative care in the long term.

The Director of Patient Access within a major Illinois-based health system explained that the schedulers at one of its hospitals will use pieces of information they receive, such as orders sent to them from physicians, to proactively encourage patients to schedule other appointments.

“Based on information like age and gender, for instance, we can ask patients who reach out to schedule a visit if they’d like to schedule other relevant services, like mammograms or colonoscopies.”

By planning ahead and getting patients to engage proactively and consistently with their care, organizations stand to see more success in their transition to value-based care models.

Brent Bowman, Vice President of Strategy of Patient Experience and Expansion Markets for Kaiser Permanente Colorado, noted “we give great ‘sick’ care, but a model of ‘keeping people healthy’ versus just treating them when they’re sick works best when we can engage with patients in a way that’s proactive and not simply responsive to acute care needs.”

The goals of a value-based care model can best be met with proactive engagement when the group is managing chronic care before it becomes an acute care situation.

“Failing to take this proactive approach undermines the fundamentals of a value-based model.”

As the experiences of these healthcare organizations have shown, a key strategy for catering to consumerized patient expectations is creating engagements that are proactive, convenient and, essentially, make it as easy as possible for the patient to return for continued care.

This post appears through the MedCity Influencers program. Anyone can publish their perspective on business and innovation in healthcare on MedCity News through MedCity Influencers. Click here to find out how.