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January 21, 2020

Phone Calls: the Silent Killer of Effective Healthcare

Patient Texting SoftwareImagine this. You’re working as part of a busy physician's office and need to relay to a patient that a test result came back as normal. Would you rather…

A – Leave a voicemail message for the patient and ask them to call you back (as you can’t leave confidential test results on their voicemail). You know they’ll probably call you back as you’re calling other patients so you’ll need to retrieve that voicemail and then try and reach them again. The phone tag game begins. Time required: at least 20 minutes

B – Use a secure text solution, you send them a HIPAA-compliant secure text link where they can verify their identity and then receive the news their test results are normal. Time required: 2 minutes.

If time and money matter to your practice, chances are option #2 looks much better. Even worse – imagine you have 10 patients to call with test results, 4 prescription refill requests that need follow-up information from the patient, 3 patients who need their appointments rescheduled and 15 patient questions that need transcribed, relayed and replied. You’re going to be on the phone all day (with even more voicemails coming in).

It’s no joke when we say the telephone is healthcare’s real enemy. The manual process of leaving messages, retrieving voicemails, getting additional information and then replying to calls – over and over again – takes up too much time that could be better spent on patient-facing tasks.

These days, most of us carry a cell phone but we’re not using it for actual phone calls. A Jive Communications study reported that 61% of Americans regularly don’t answer phone calls. And only 18% of people listen to voicemails from numbers they don't know according to eVoice, a virtual phone services provider.

The bottom line is your staff keeps calling and your patients aren’t answering. So, how is this working for your business? Since patients aren’t as willing to pick up the phone, you’re paying an awful lot for staff to leave messages that are going unheard and calling patients who aren’t picking up. Then, repeating the process once the voicemails pour in. There’s got to be a more efficient way to engage patients and communicate with colleagues.

Tapping Out of the Phone Tag Game

The good news is that there are easier, more efficient ways to communicate with your patients. They’re more likely to text or use video chat than picking up their phone. Face it, we’re all texting and FaceTime-ing more. Various sources report that 98% of users open SMS messages, while 45% respond to text messages. Using these more commonly accepted forms of communication, physicians, pharmacists, staff and patients can easily communicate in just a few minutes, avoiding the time wasted playing phone tag or leaving voicemails that go unheard.

Texting, with options for both traditional SMS texts and HIPAA-compliant secure texts, allows for quick, easy response to patient questions. Texting is a timely, easier way to collaborate with care teams, coordinate referrals, reduce patient no-shows, prepare patients for appointments with instructions, update forms or insurance cards, answer questions or exchange documents or videos. Texting also allows for practice communications within or outside of the office. It’s more time- and cost-efficient than phone calls or traditional email.

“I don’t leave voicemails anymore. Texting has been a game changer for us,” says Steve Coomes, RPh, owner of Aubrey Health Mart Pharmacy. “Voicemail was frustrating as we would leave messages with questions or requesting information and patients would call back and say ‘I missed a call from you’ but hadn’t listened to the message. We’d have to figure out who had called them or what information we needed to get. With text, we can send the information they need to receive or the question we have. They can call or text back if necessary and it’s a much quicker, more efficient process.”

Video Chat allows for back-and-forth communications in just a few minutes – without phone tag or waiting on hold. Today’s telehealth technology eliminates the need for web cams or special apps that need downloaded. Video Chat is just as easy to use as FaceTime and can be HIPAA-compliant with the ability to be billable, depending on insurance, services offered and location.

The value that telehealth offers goes beyond simple reimbursements. About 90 percent of telehealth patients say that, when possible, they prefer talking to doctors over video chat versus making appointments and traveling to in-person visits.

Pioneering practices use telehealth in place of in-person consultations, reducing needless office visits, saving time and money, and making it easier and more accessible to get patients to receive care. You can use telehealth to replace phone calls for day-to-day communications, conduct non-billable appointments that might usually require an in-office visit (like a routine check-up or a post-surgical follow up), consult on illnesses or injuries that don’t require an in-person visit, and provide second opinions from specialists.

“When you consider telehealth, even if it’s not eligible for reimbursement, you have to think about the full cost for that visit. You don’t have to bill for everything you do. A post-op appointment is not something we’re going to bill for anyway,” says Marcy Hatch, CMPE, practice administrator, University General Surgeons. “Video Chat just makes so much sense. Patients are happier. Staff is happier. It’s a win-win.”

If you’re ready to save time and sanity – we’re here to show you how Secure Text and Video Chat help you engage patients, collaborate with colleagues and put more time and money back into your day – benefitting yourself and your staff.

Topics: Physicians, secure text, Blog, patient engagement, communication, video chat, burnout, secure video chat, healthcare technology