Co-authored by Bronwyn Spira, PT, and Tejal Ramaiya, DPT, CSCS
One of the most frustrating issues plaguing physical therapy practices has to be no shows and late cancellations of scheduled visits. Poor patient attendance results in lost revenues and poor patient outcomes. Practices traditionally employ rudimentary strategies to counter-balance the impact of missed appointments including reminder calls and charging hefty cancellation fees. Unfortunately, these solutions require additional administrative time and effort and can create poor relations between the patients and administrative staff. There must be a better solution!
The answer may be one that 78% of Americans keep in their pockets or purses: a cell phone. The average American spends 619 minutes per month on their phone and, according to a ComScore study from March 2010: 63% of Americans are using text
The use of SMS or text alerts as patient reminders has been shown to reduce the ‘no- show’ rate by 73% (or 1,837 fewer ‘lost’ visits) according to a recent study for Kaiser Permanente by mobilStorm. Kaiser was able to contain their communication
infrastructure costs, while saving $150 per appointment (their no-show cost) which equaled a total cost savings of more than $275,000 at just a single clinic.
Ideally, SMS text and/or email alerts should be integrated into a clinic’s scheduling system; automatically alerting patients to upcoming appointments or schedule changes. And why stop there? The potential impact of these alerts could extend to reminding patients to complete their home exercise programs, or give therapists updates on symptomatic responses to new treatment regimens.
A study conducted by comScore found that daily use of Smartphones to access emails rose by 40 percent in the last quarter of 2010. Laptops and desktops it seems, have become primitive mediums for real-time communication. As our patients become more and more tech-savvy, they will begin to expect these type of mobile conveniences from their service providers.
In addition to the considerable cost-saving benefits, automated communication can also serve to improve patient/therapist interaction, increase patient participation in their rehabilitation regimen and thereby improve patient outcomes. Have you considered integrating automated SMS text or email alerts into your clinic?
Co-authored by Bronwyn Spira, PT, and Tejal Ramaiya, DPT, CSCS
Consistent and frequent communication between patient and therapist can improve patient attendance and overall satisfaction.2,3 When patients are more integrated into the rehabilitation process, we see improved outcomes. How to professionally engage with patients outside of treatment is the real challenge. Many physical therapists default to email as a form of communication with their patients, however this is not a recommended or secure method of sharing personal health information. Email can also quickly cross professional boundaries. So how can we best interact with with our patients about their rehabilitation outside of the clinic?
The answer is a HIPAA compliant portal based system which offers one-to-one communication in a secure environment. The system needs to be password protected and messages need to be encoded to prevent hackers from accessing patients’ personal health information.
The Beryl Institute conducted a recent study on a hospital-based electronic messaging system that enabled patients to interact with health care professionals using in-room monitors. The interactive monitors helped boost patient satisfaction with educational materials by 42 percent and lifted overall satisfaction scores by ten percent. "Rather than an amenity, interactive technology is emerging as a critical partner in the health care experience," the organization states.3 Patients feel they are getting better service and quality of care when they have a method by which to contact their health care provider.
Automated SMS and email alerts can also enhance patient-therapist communication. No shows and late cancellations plague physical therapy practices. Poor patient attendance results in lost revenues and poor patient outcomes. Practices traditionally employ rudimentary strategies to reduce missed appointments including reminder calls and hefty cancellation fees. Unfortunately, these solutions require additional administrative time and effort and can create poor relations between patients and administrative staff.
In other areas of health care, electronic alerts are already common practice for notifying patients of future appointments. Ideally, SMS and/or email alerts for physical therapists would be integrated into a clinic’s scheduling system; automatically alerting patients to upcoming appointments or schedule changes. And why stop there? Alerts can remind patients to complete their home exercise programs or give therapists updates on symptomatic responses to new treatment regimens.
Our patients are tech savvy. They already communicate with their banks, airlines and other professional services over their mobile devices. Soon, they will begin to expect mobile conveniences from their physical therapist. In medicine, the conversation has begun. Dr. Matthew Davis, from the University of Michigan states: "I think it's inevitable that physicians will move more toward it (e-communication), if only because society expects and insists on it as the progressively dominant form of communication today."1
In addition to the considerable cost-saving benefits, a secure messaging system and automated electronic alerts can serve to increase patient attendance and participation in their rehabilitation regimen, thereby improving patient/therapist interaction as well as patient outcomes.2
1. Beaulieu, Debra. Regular e-communication with patients is 'inevitable’. http://www.fiercepracticemanagement.com/story/routine-e-communication-patients-inevitable/2011-03-30
2. Downer SR, Meara JG, Da Costa AC. Use of SMS text messaging to improve outpatient attendance. MJA 2005; 183: 366–368. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16879098
3. Jackson, Sara. Use of interactive technology boosts patient satisfaction
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- Evidence-based practice
- Patient Compliance
- Patient portal
- Physical Therapy
- Social Media
- Video Exercise