by Scott Zimmerman
Utilizing this technology will ensure that you’re getting the best out of your patients — and that they’re getting the best out of you.
The chiropractic profession is facing some big issues that can affect your practice’s ability to thrive — perhaps even survive.
And the rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is one of them. Provisions in the law prohibit health plans and insurers from discriminating against providers based solely on their license. States that devise their own insurance exchanges can create their own lists of what essential health benefits will qualify to fulfill the federal law’s 10 mandated categories. Chiropractic isn’t necessarily assured a spot among them.
Another big issue is the expectation of future penalties for Medicare providers who don’t become meaningful users of electronic health records under the requirements of The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.
Add to that the general trends of insurance carriers reducing their fees and margins being squeezed from every direction. You have enough on your mind without having to worry about making up the loss from no- show appointments, too.
Studies from the Medical Group Management Association show that the average no-show rate for physician offices ranges from 5 to 8 percent.
It’s in your best interest to get ahead of the problem. That solution involves engaging more proactively with your patients, so they don’t forget about appointments in the first place. Your CAs can take the lead and, in all likelihood, you’ve made efforts to have them stay on top of the task.
Good intentions aside, reminder phone calls have a tendency to fall by the wayside.
Making those calls can be time-consuming, but it’s not unrealistic to have staff members spend an hour or two each day doing them. If you run a smaller practice with just one assistant it becomes even more challenging for that person to find time for this task.
In larger practices, it’s difficult dedicating employees to this effort, as a couple of hours a day can impact other staff members who will then have to cover other tasks.
Of even greater concern is how effective these outreach efforts actually are. The optimal time to contact patients is probably in the early part of the evening. But that can conflict with what may be some of the busiest times in your own practice, as well. Your staff winds up making calls earlier in the day and leaving voicemail messages for patients.
Technology can make the difference
These problems can be solved when you take advantage of engagement communications technology such as automated phone, email, and SMS text messaging.
Pre-recorded, scripted reminders about an upcoming appointment can be personalized with specific information, thanks to integration with practice management systems. Natural voice technology leaves the impression that a live call was received. Make it easy for the patient to confirm or reschedule the visit by similar means as well.
A survey of almost 3,000 healthcare practices has shown that nearly 50 percent of those that don’t deliver appointment reminders have an average no-show rate of more than 10 percent. But no-show rates of more than 10 percent are found in slightly less than 30 percent of practices that do deliver appointment reminders.
Reducing no-show rates, however, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits of reaching out to your patients.
Engagement communications technology also can be the gateway to building better relationships with your patients. This ensures that your practice is always on their radar when they need chiropractic care.
You can also record and store as many scripts as you like. That includes prepping regular scenarios, from birthday greetings to automated reminders about treatment advice. Such communications motivate patients to take a more active role in their own healthcare.
Consider the possibilities for emergency use, as well. If you have a practice with multiple locations, and one of them is having staffing problems with its X-ray technician, you can use the technology to redirect patients who are going to need that service to an alternate location. They’ll appreciate the advance notice, and you’ll appreciate being able to offer it with ease.
There are other equally critical occasions when you’ll need to engage with patients.
Chiropractic is, literally, a hands-on profession. Engagement communications technology simply takes the idea of close contact to another level — one that can have profound implications for your business and your patient relationships.
Originally published on Chiropratic Economics, January 2013