What Comes to Mind When I Say Healthcare?

By Detta Donoghue

Many would first say hospitals, while others might say their primary care physician, and still others might think of the local clinic they depend on. Clearly all of these are appropriate responses, depending on the health status of the individual answering the question. Even though each of these function differently, there is one common thread that links them all: patient care. Today hospitals, group practices, and clinics are in a competitive environment, at times fighting (in a civilized way, of course) to gain the attention of new patients.

Securing new patients, however, is just the beginning. More than ever healthcare organizations are looking at technology to help them keep and retain their clientele. For example, the patient portal, unheard of five years ago, is now a standard and has made its way into private practices, dental organizations, and even veterinary medicine. Yes, you can now track Fido’s health online.

So why would any organization jeopardize all this progress and not do everything possible to make sure the patient shows up at the appointed time? I’m speaking of the standard the appointment reminder message we all get today. These messages are not just for healthcare anymore, but have become a standard business practice where applicable. I personally receive them for hair appointments, restaurant reservations, and most recently for a hotel and tour reservation.

Clearly nobody wants to lose the revenue generated from missed appointments, lose the potential downstream revenue that appointments can generate, or let resources go unused for the appointed time slots from missed appointments. Studies show that as much as $20,000 can be lost when a patient does not keep a healthcare appointment.

This happened to me recently when I failed to show up for tests that had been scheduled. Why didn’t I show up? Simple: I didn’t get the appointment reminder. To make the situation worse, when I asked why I did not receive the reminder – no call, no text, no email – I was told that the information was on my patient portal. There was just one problem: I had not signed up for the portal; I didn’t even know the practice had one. So the tests had to be rescheduled. Luckily the results were good – it could have easily gone the other way, and waiting almost a month for potentially lifesaving treatment would have been due to not receiving an appointment reminder.

The point of this little story is simple: Don’t lose sight of your audience. I’m pretty technically savvy, and I never thought to ask about the patient portal. Frankly, even if I had, I wouldn’t have thought it would replace the function of an appointment reminder.

If your organization is encouraging the use of a patient portal, be proactive in making sure your patients know how to use it. Next, if you have something that’s working well, make sure your new technology takes your facility or practice to the next level of patient care without any loss of service. Finally, when deploying new technology, ask what can or cannot be integrated with what you already have in use currently. Often you can leverage what you have already invested in by adding other levels of service and solutions.

Don’t let technology get in the way of serving patients. Don’t overlook something as simple as an appointment reminder. Your patients’ health is at stake – along with lost billing.

Detta Donoghue has been working in the technology industry for over forty years, holding a variety of positions servicing the IT and telecom disciplines. As the director of marketing and communications for CI, Detta provides branding, collateral, presentation, and educational support for both the channel sales group and company as a whole. Detta was formerly the director of marketing and vendor relations for SDC, director of channel sales for Amcom, served on Avaya’s DevConnect committee, and was president of the Siemens user group.

[From AnswerStat October/November 2015]