Managing medical appointments in a healthier way during and after the coronavirus crisis

Topic: Healthcare

The coronavirus crisis has brought a near endless amount of challenges to healthcare providers’ doorsteps. One of the more logistically tricky to solve is how providers can manage their appointments with patients, given the changed social landscape that the virus is creating, and will leave behind. 

Given the severity of the situation and the number of cases being reported, healthcare providers need patient communication strategies which are fast, automated, traceable, engaging, and most of all effective. Unfortunately, traditional routes of patient communication like manual calls and letters don’t tick enough of these boxes.

What are the unique challenges that coronavirus creates for effective appointment management?

Before deciding on a strategy, healthcare providers need to carefully consider the new set of issues. Among those being:

  • How do we manage cancellations to previously made, non-coronavirus related appointments?
  • How can we reduce the administrative strain on in-house teams?
  • Can we automate appointment management?
  • What happens when there is another upsurge in demand for appointments?
  • How can we ensure all demographics have access to services/appointments in a timely and responsive way?
  • How do we make sure that people with non-coronavirus related issues are still receiving advice and care?
  • As well as appointment reminders, can we use any new communication strategy to distribute any other health advice (E.g. social distancing best practices) related to the coronavirus pandemic?

Thinking mobile for appointment management

When we consider the benefits of mobile communication for appointment management vs traditional methods, it’s easy to see why many healthcare providers had started the transition before the coronavirus pandemic. Some of the main benefits include:

  • Digital channels like SMS have a 95% open rate when compared to 75% for direct mail. This means that appointment reminders are more likely to be read, with appointments less likely to be missed. In fact, in some cases, digital reminders have proven to lower missed appointments by up to 30% (Source)
  • Managing appointments via text-based channels means more than one interaction can take place at a time, unlike via manual calling
  • Patients can serve themselves without having to wait on hold. This also reduces the strain on in-house staff
  • Messages are fully traceable meaning that healthcare providers know when a message has been read by a patient
  • Big cost savings can be made. E.g. 1,000 messages via post is around £500. SMS is £38 for the same number
  • Interactions can be completely automated via the use of bots

What are the mobile-focused options available for managing patient appointments?

SMS works great for simple text-based interactions with patients. They can be sent directly from your existing management system, a remote online portal, or even from your email account. Example applications include:

  • Confirmations/reminders
  • Appointment cancellation opportunities
  • 2-way chats with staff (E.g. rearrange appointments, remote consultations)
  • Emergency notifications
  • Comms with staff
  • Medication administration reminders
  • Satisfaction surveys

Mobile Journeys
Mobile Journeys are a great way for getting patients through any administrative process – including managing an appointment. After navigating to the Mobile Journey via a link (supplied via any digital channel) the patient would be asked to verify their identity before being guided step by step through the process. Example applications include:

  • Appointment reminder (via SMS) with links to re-arrangement facility (via Mobile Journey).
  • Securely upload images for remote condition diagnosis
  • Securely send any document like prescriptions/test results with identity verification
  • Collect patient data
  • Carry out patient surveys

Rich Messaging with SMS Landing Pages, RCS and WhatsApp
As technologies evolve so to do the demands of audiences, and that’s where the next generation of patient communications (like SMS Landing Pages, RCS, and WhatsApp) comes into play.

Healthcare providers can include richer content like images, video and branding, and also include interactive functionality like rich cards, buttons, and Google Maps referencing. For SMS Landing Pages and RCS, patients can even choose to add an automatically created appointment reminder to their mobile device’s calendar straight from the message. Example applications include:

  • Send personalised appointment confirmations/reminders
  • Add interactive buttons which can:
    • Add appointment details to mobile devices calendar
    • Link to appointment management portals
    • Start a chat with a member of staff to change appointment through a channel of the patients choice
    • Share practice location by linking to Google Maps
  • Processes can be handled automatically via bots

How can healthcare providers can get started with mobile messaging for better appointment management?

We’ve worked with a variety of different healthcare providers to provide better ways of managing appointments.

To find out how our powerful communication channels can form part of your strategy, please get in contact today with us on 0345 356 5758 or [email protected] to find out more.

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