Improving patient satisfaction and care with better communication

With the rise of value-based care, patient health outcomes are more important than ever. Healthier patients make a significant contribution toward increased reimbursement rates, but health outcomes are only part of the equation—patient satisfaction matters, too.

But that’s often easier said than done. With declining patient loyalty and the advent of consumerization in healthcare, patient satisfaction is difficult to achieve. It means your organization must make every effort to earn and retain a reputation for quality care that builds patient trust.

Technology plays an important role in keeping patients satisfied with their care. Dated solutions or disjointed patient care experiences can send them searching for smoother, more accessible, and more modern interactions.

In 2019, Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS)—America’s premier academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health—wanted to elevate patient outcomes and experiences by improving care team communication across the organization. To do this, they implemented PerfectServe’s enterprise Clinical Collaboration solution.

PerfectServe brought significant improvements to care delivery workflows while also reducing stress and frustration among care team members. Not surprisingly, better clinical communication, more efficient care delivery, and happier clinicians contributed to improved patient satisfaction.

In fact, Press Ganey survey results from the quarters before and after PerfectServe’s go-live showed increases in the following categories (on a 0-10 scale):

  •  “Hospital rating” increased by 2.3 points.
  • “Hospital recommend” increased by 0.9 points.
  • “Staff address emotional needs” increased by 1.2 points.
  • “Response to concerns” increased by 1.2 points.

Faster Clinical Response Times

Critical Lab Results

Before PerfectServe, HSS relied on a manual process for delivering critical lab results—the lab tech had to call the ordering provider and ask them to log in to Epic. Leaving a voice message was not permitted, as a live verbal exchange was required to satisfy HSS’s internal protocols.

But physicians’ hectic schedules and fluctuating workloads meant delays in this process were common. Precious time was lost, and the risk of patient harm increased.

But now, once a critical result is verified, PerfectServe automatically delivers an alert to the appropriate provider using its proprietary Dynamic Intelligent Routing® technology. With all relevant information and patient context in the message, the provider can acknowledge and act upon the message right from their PerfectServe inbox—no phones, no callbacks, no delays.

After implementation, HSS looked at 1,100 critical lab alerts and noted an average 42% improvement in acknowledgment times. The quickest turnaround—from verification in the Laboratory Information System to provider acknowledgment—was just seven seconds. That’s less time than it takes just to dial a provider’s phone number.

PerfectServe also tracks when each result is received, read, and either accepted or declined by the recipient. Accepting closes the loop, while declining sends a message back to the lab for follow-up. Messages that are unacknowledged after six minutes are automatically escalated to the next provider in line.

Specialty Consult Requests

HSS also relies on PerfectServe’s Dynamic Intelligent Routing to automatically direct requests for neurology and stroke protocol consults. Regardless of who’s on-call or what kind of schedule changes have happened at the last minute, the right provider receives the request almost instantly.

Since implementation, PerfectServe has helped contact preoperative medical doctors over 8,000 times, with 80% of urgent messages read in less than five minutes. Similarly, HSS’s neurology department has received over 500 consult requests, with 85% retrieved in five minutes or less.

Sepsis Notifications

HSS uses PerfectServe to send out sepsis alerts using a two-part workflow:

  • The nurse alerts a physician assistant (PA) about a possible case. Then, if necessary, the PA alerts the responsible physicians (Modified Early Warning Score [MEWS] and Pediatric Early Warning Signs [PEWS]).
  • If needed, an alert is sent to the Sepsis Response Team and automatically escalated every minute until a doctor responds.

Since going live, nearly 700 messages have gone out to the MEWS and PEWS groups, and only nine of those have been further escalated to the Sepsis Response Team. PerfectServe’s ability to quickly and preemptively initiate the MEWS and PEWS teams is largely credited for keeping the sepsis alert number low.

Rapid Response Teams

Additionally, PerfectServe reduced HSS’s rapid response wait times to less than two minutes. These are scenarios when a patient’s clinical condition may be worsening dramatically, so fast intervention is critical. A review of the “signal one” alerts (similar to code blue) determined that PerfectServe reduced the median response time from two and half minutes to just 40 seconds— an improvement of 73%.

Staff Response Times

Additional analysis found that PerfectServe enabled HSS PAs to read 96% of initiated conversations from the PACU and inpatient floors in under 15 minutes. These were part of 8,000-10,000 monthly conversations where the average response time was less than 3.5 minutes.

These efficiency gains freed clinicians’ time and contributed to HSS’s improved Press Ganey survey results. Scores for both the “Response to concerns” and “Staff address emotional needs” categories rose by 1.2 points on a 10-point scale.

Reducing Readmissions

Because PerfectServe also provides HSS with a system-wide answering service, covering roughly 175 clinics, all the organization’s clinics have a built-in workflow for post-operative patients.

When one of these patients calls an HSS clinic, PerfectServe enables an immediate connection to a clinical nurse practitioner with the press of a button. Regardless of the reason for the call or the level of urgency, giving post-operative patients quick and easy access to a provider is a key part of care plan adherence and avoiding potential problems.

Better Communication, Better Care

Reducing obstacles that impede fast, accurate communication can go a long way toward improving patient care and satisfaction. Manual, inefficient workflows have been around for so long that they can sometimes seem like the only option. But for every delayed communication cycle, misdirected consult request, or unactioned critical lab result, there are countless potential ramifications that can negatively impact patient outcomes.

Thankfully, technology exists today that can automate clinical workflows, remove error and confusion from the communication process, and ensure that care team members are free to focus on keeping patients happy and healthy. Isn’t that the way it should be?

Reach out to learn more about how PerfectServe can transform the way your organization cares for patients while making your clinicians’ lives significantly easier. You can also download the HSS case study to learn more about their experience with PerfectServe.

Is your medical practice disaster and emergency proof?

Emergency and Disaster Checklist banner

It’s easy not to think about unprecedented circumstances and how they could impact your practice … until one occurs. By the time a wildfire, hurricane, earthquake, snowstorm, or pandemic happens, some practices are caught behind the eight ball, trying to frantically plan for remote patient access and communication.

These types of situations put you, your practice, and your patients under tremendous stress, making timely communication between providers and patients more essential than ever. Providers and practice managers need to proactively identify communication risks, create protocols, and employ solutions to minimize risk, so you’re not left scrambling to react at the onset of an emergency.

Open Lines of Patient Communication

When an unforeseen disaster or emergency takes place, it’s important for the lines of communication between your patients and providers to remain open and accessible. Even if your medical practice closes its doors, your communication solution should still be fully functional—routing patient messages, escalating urgent calls, and helping you and your patient base stay connected.

Unfortunately, not every practice communication service is capable of maintaining functionality virtually during a disaster or emergency.

Considerations for Selecting Practice Communication Solutions

When you’re identifying your communication risks and evaluating your current service’s performance, consider the following:

Solution Infrastructure

Does your solution have a protocol for extended power outages or office closures? Are there backup protocols in place to prevent lost or delayed messages?

If the answer to either question is “No,” your patients won’t have any way of reaching the right on-call provider during a disaster or emergency. Damage to communication infrastructure is common during disasters. Power outages can affect landline phone service, especially if you depend on broadband connections, like VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol).

In the event of a forced office closure, how would your medical answering service contact your providers? A practice communication solution that is cloud-based enables providers and patients to connect quickly regardless of location, outages, or facility closures.

Automated Routing and Escalation Capabilities

What happens when your medical answering service can’t take your overflow, after-hours, or overnight calls and messages due to closure? What happens if the on-call provider is unable to answer their phone?

Make sure the solution you choose offers rerouting and escalation policies for urgent messages when notifications are not answered. Look for 24/7 automated call and message forwarding that doesn’t rely on middlemen, so your patients can always reach the right providers in times of need.

Remote Patient Monitoring and Communication

If your practice is forced to close during a natural disaster, how will your providers manage patients with a chronic illness or conditions? During widespread illnesses, how will your practice mitigate risks of infection?

Search for solutions that enable providers to send two-way provider-to-patient text messages tailored to each patient’s unique circumstance. Look for the ability to:

  • Broadcast messages to patients during community-wide disasters and emergencies.
  • Assess symptom severity and gauge pain levels.
  • Initiate patient phone and video screenings.
  • Send details on how to access care.
  • Prescribe new treatment plans.
  • Share best practices for staying safe, proactive, and healthy.

To help ensure your practice can avoid interruption of essential functions and services during unexpected events, we’ve created a Medical Practice Disaster & Emergency Preparedness Checklist.

 

Create a plan to stay connected with patients in critical moments.

Engaging Millennial Parents to Increase Well-Child Visits

Scheduling well-child visits can be problematic for young parents. Many don’t know how often to bring in their children or understand the importance of regularly scheduled visits. Regular visits are particularly critical during the first three years of a child’s life to track growth and development, help prevent illness, and allow early intervention when necessary for optimal outcomes.

Text message reminders have become an expected touchpoint for dental appointments, vet visits, car maintenance, and various other services for today’s consumer. But some providers have been slow to engage parents via text to help keep their children on track with recommended care plans.

Millennials, who are accustomed to checking their text messages regularly throughout the day, respond positively to businesses that reach out to them via text. Young parents want the efficiency and convenience of smartphone messaging in most aspects of their lives, including appointment reminders.

See how Park Nicollet utilized PerfectServe’s Patient & Family Communication functionality to launch a text message appointment reminder program helping new parents more closely adhere to the recommended well-child visit schedule.

Constructing the Program

In 2016, Park Nicollet, part of HealthPartners, a nonprofit healthcare system based in Minnesota, launched a text-message-based reminder program to proactively support young parents in scheduling well-child visits from infancy to late childhood. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends six visits in the first 15 months (Health Plan Employers Data and Information Set [HEDIS] measure), which fits into the broad scope of 12 recommended well-child visits by age three.

To promote parents’ adherence to the advised schedule, our team set five goals aligned with best practices from AAP’s Bright Futures initiative:

  1. Keep children on time for well-child visits.
  2. Prevent missed visits and gaps in care.
  3. Improve the patient and parent experience.
  4. Support Bright Futures—recall and reminder system.
  5. Improve the HEDIS measure.

A program was launched using an algorithm based on birth dates to send text messages at appropriate intervals to parents of children aged two months to 36 months. Instead of waiting to reach out until after appointments were overdue, preemptive texts encouraged parents to schedule before the next well visit, offering a direct link for parents to easily schedule an appointment. The seamless and automatic process allowed Park Nicollet to reclaim precious staff time that was previously used to manage reminders.

Program Structure

Birth to Three Years

A SMS text message is sent to the child’s family or primary caregiver 30 days prior to the next well-child visit,
based on the child’s date of birth. Then, text reminders are only sent if an appointment is not scheduled in the appropriate timeframe.

Three to 10 Years

A text message is sent to the child’s family or primary caregiver two weeks prior to the next well-child visit, based on the date of the child’s last well-child visit. Then, a text reminder is only sent if an appointment is not scheduled in the appropriate timeframe.

Launching the Program

Launching the program with a small patient population (birth to three years) enabled Park Nicollet to see results quickly; early results showed that the text outreach was positive. Patient satisfaction increased among parents, who loved the ease and convenience of the program. Prior to the texting program, patients were seen an average of one month after their recommended well visit. Only three to six months after initiating the text reminder program, the one-month average gap was cut in half, meaning patients were seen closer to AAP recommendations.

Implementing the program on a smaller scale provided an opportunity to identify and address problems before expanding to the larger population. The biggest challenge involved parental consent and whether to design an opt-in or opt-out program. Park Nicollet defaulted to an opt-in program, requiring parents to provide consent to start receiving text reminders. Eventually, this obstacle overcome by training frontline staff to have parents sign consent forms, but the face-to-face process limited enrollment to the parents who were already making and keeping appointments.

Efficient enrollment and expansion required automation and updating of the electronic health record (EHR). Following the EHR integration, enrollment consent was captured in the EHR and parents didn’t need to be present in the office if they had consented to text messaging as their preferred appointment reminder.

With enterprise-wide expansion of PerfectServe’s Patient & Family Communication to all HealthPartners facilities in 2017, the automated process increased enrollment by over 35,000 and increased well-child visits by 10%. Based on the last reported 12-month period, enterprise-wide enrollment has over 79,000 active patients, which includes HealthPartners and Park Nicollet, and over 43,000 enrolled patients for Park Nicollet alone (see Table 1).

Table 1

Development and Expansion

With expansion of the program to Park Nicollet’s entire clinic care group in 2019, they began using text reminders for well visits for children up to age 10. Future initiatives with the program for Park Nicollet included incorporating additional languages (a sizable subset of HealthPartners patients is non-native-English speaking). In addition, increased enrollment of the millennial population presented opportunities to address various patient population needs—such as:

  • Reminders for flu vaccines and other immunizations.
  • Health metrics monitoring.
  • Checks for postpartum depression.

A Roadmap for Getting Started

Leveraging technology with a trusted and experienced partner enabled the team at Park Nicollet to create a program that worked for patients’ families. Following a digital roadmap, PerfectServe and Park Nicollet worked together to build reports derived from actionable, engaging, timely, and relevant data. Based on these insights, here are five recommendations for implementing a successful texting program:

  1. Partner with a solution that has proven expertise with EMR systems and experience providing reliable, secure communication to patients and their family.
  2. Engage a project champion to guide project design, implementation, effectiveness, expansion, and quality assurance.
  3. Assemble a multidisciplinary team—mobile communication technology partner, EMR vendor, physicians, quality improvement specialists, health information management (HIM), compliance and legal experts, growth strategists, and frontline managers—and solicit input from all stakeholders.
  4. Launch a scaled down program with a small population to identify and address problems before expanding to a larger patient population.
  5. Initiate the process with a mindset of patience. Avoid trying to implement the program hastily and without forethought. This endeavor demands careful preparation to ensure success.

PerfectServe’s Patient & Family Communication solution gives providers a simple and elegant way to engage directly with patients. From sharing directions to your office before an appointment to checking in with patients post-discharge, text messaging is a quick, effective, and easily automated way to stay connected with any patient population—most of all millennials.[/vc_column_text]

Learn more about how PerfectServe supports patient-provider communication by contacting one of our Clinical Communication Specialists below.

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Patient Benefits of an Advanced Automated Answering Service Solution

Patient experience is the most important factor when it comes to patient retention at any medical practice. An essential touchpoint to optimize in modern medical practices is to standardize the way your patient calls are handled. The right 24/7 answering service solution can free up valuable provider and staff resources to focus on patient care while reducing unnecessary interruptions and ensuring urgent messages reach the right provider at the right time—every time.

Removing human error and delivering an automated and reliable service for both providers and patients, advanced answering service solutions are being implemented by more and more practices to enhance both patient and provider satisfaction.

Here are just a few key patient benefits of an ideal automated answering service solution:

Less Frustration

Your patients have busy lives but your practice is busy, too. If your practice experiences call volume congestion, your patients still need to be able to reach you without being put on hold. The right answering service solution will differentiate messages based on urgency and use your on-call schedules to accurately route communication to the right provider based on escalation policies set by your practice, speeding time to treatment.

Timely Communication

Efficient practice operations help decrease the time patients spend waiting during appointments and on hold when they call your practice. Automation allows patients to reach your practice at any time, during any circumstances to get the answers and help they need. The best answering service solutions offer smart routing that ensures providers are only interrupted to address urgent requests that require responses in a timely manner.

24/7 Care Access

Although many answering services are only used for after-hours coverage, an automated answering service solution delivers around-the-clock coverage as needed. Just because you don’t see your patients on a 24-hour basis does not mean it shouldn’t be easy for them to manage their appointments and make routine requests such as medication refills whenever they think of them, which might not be during regular office hours. An automated answering service solution can support call volume overflow when the main line at your practice is busy and serve as a 24/7 backup during emergency events when your practice is closed.

Better Onsite Service

Your staff need to be able to do their jobs, but when they face constant interruptions and take on the additional task of call filtering, concentration is broken, efficiency is lost, and providers can become unable to best care for their patients. Implementing the right automated answering service solution can free up your team to focus more on what they do best—patient care.

If providing an excellent patient experience and running an efficient medical practice are priorities for you, an advanced automated answering service solution might be just what the doctor ordered.

Let’s discuss more about how the ideal automated answering service solution can benefit your patients.

 

4 Simple Steps for Reducing Third-Party Vendor Costs

Medical Vendor Landscape Explained

As mergers and acquisitions continue to build momentum, healthcare organizations are taking on immeasurable costs through third-party services. When a health system acquires a private or independent group practice, the health system inherits all the practice’s third-party services and systems, including:

  • Electronic Health Record (EHR)
  • Practice Management
  • Revenue Cycle Management
  • Medical Answering Service
  • Security, Maintenance, and More

When healthcare organizations merge, issues with purchased vendor services compound as the health system takes on all existing service contracts from the practices affiliated with the previous organizations. Additional costs come from administrative staff tasked with negotiating this pile of vendor contracts. Purchased services represent as much as 20% to 25% of an organization’s annual spend,1 so consolidating services is a valuable opportunity to save on spending.

Standardizing third-party processes and technology can be an untapped source of savings across the healthcare supply chain. To help you identify areas in need of improvement, here are four steps that can help successfully lower your organization’s purchased services costs:

Step One: Mine the data.

For many healthcare organizations, simply gaining visibility into third-party contracts and expenses can be challenging. Contracts are often managed by various people throughout healthcare organizations, or even services outside organizations, such as group purchasing organizations (GPOs).

Start gathering the actualities by creating an inventory of all third-party vendors used throughout your organization, as well as the associated stakeholders and contracts. It’s important to speak with each stakeholder and review each contract thoroughly.

Next, collect all financial data for your vendors. Check with your accounts payable department and take a look at current and past purchase orders. While purchase orders won’t tell the whole story, they are a good place to start to get an idea of total cost. Many third-party vendors have variable costs that make it difficult to get an accurate account of how much they’re truly costing. Reviewing your general ledger will help you uncover variable costs.

Here are a few questions to consider when reviewing your medical vendor service contracts:

  • What rate is this vendor currently charging me and how often?
  • Is there an auto-renewal in place? If so, when?
  • What are the scaling terms and are there fees associated with scaling?
  • Are there any termination clauses? If so, what are they?

Place vendors into categories to get a more accurate picture of how much your organization is spending in specific areas. You may find that the individual costs of many of your third-party vendors are relatively small, but when aggregated by category, the numbers compound quickly.

Step Two: Gain Executive Buy-In

Equipped with your data, it’s time to engage your decision makers. Engaging organizational leadership early in the process is a great way to build a case to move forward. Speaking with executives can help you understand the different viewpoints and situational nuances in your organization, which helps you navigate roadblocks and build the business case to make changes. Here are a few ways to get buy-in from the medical executive c-suite:

  • Understand and align the message to your audience. Is it a CEO, CMIO, CIO, or CNO?
  • Explain how it aligns with the medical organization’s goals.
  • Highlight the benefits for value-based care, patient safety, and patient satisfaction.
  • Show how it helps nurses and physicians reduce burnout.
  • Is it cost-effective? Compare the numbers.

Step Three: Evaluate Performance

Analyze vendor and service performance in three key areas:

  1. Comparing Spend
  2. Assessing Utilization
  3. Evaluating the Quality and Effectiveness

Some vendors charge hidden or variable fees, so looking at one month’s service charges can be misleading. Look at each vendor’s historical cost, trends, and variability. Then, consider local benchmarks: What prices are other vendors in your area offering for a similar service? Do any of them offer monthly, flat rates for predictable expenses?

Another important aspect to consider is utilization. Here are a few simple questions that can help you assess your organization’s use of a particular service or vendor:

  • Who is actively using the service/vendor?
  • How is the service/vendor being used?
  • Could the service/vendor be used more efficiently?

Finally, do some digging to find out your staff’s level of satisfaction with the third-party service/vendor:

  • What level of results is the service or provider currently delivering?
  • Are your stakeholders satisfied with the performance?
  • What kinds of performance metrics can the service or vendor provide?
  • Does the service or vendor meet your organization’s performance metric needs?
  • Does the service or vendor make your staff’s job easier?

Step Four: Consider Standardization Options

Completing steps one through three will give you a firm grasp on the types of vendors you have and the services you’re paying for, how they’re being used throughout your organization, and your staff’s readiness to try new solutions. When consolidating options, check to see if the vendors have the capability of integrating with other medical service providers.

If you do consider replacing multiple similar vendors with a single standardized solution, make sure the solution you select does the following:

  • Addresses all stakeholder needs and goals.
  • Decreases (and if possible, helps to standardize) your organization’s overall spend.
  • Contributes to your organization’s strategic objectives.

Find A Provider that Works for Your Needs

When your organization undergoes a merger or acquisition, it’s important conduct a high-level review of the spending and operating efficiency of the larger organization. At the end of your evaluation, you should be better prepared to make specific service and vendor selections based on your analysis and your organization’s strategic priorities.

Consider evaluating PerfectServe’s solutions for your hospital or group medical practice. Take a few minutes to meet with one of our consultants for a free explanation and demonstration of our medical communication solutions.

1Vizient, 2020

5 Warning Signs Your Answering Service Might Be Hurting Your Practice

Medical answering services are essential to modern practices for triaging patient calls, delivering urgent messages at night, and allowing receptionists to focus on imperative tasks during business hours. An effective answering service solution can help practice managers, providers, and staff improve the overall patient experience and increase patient satisfaction.

Unfortunately, some medical answering services are susceptible to manual errors and environmental challenges. Routing mistakes and connectivity issues can negatively impact both patient and provider satisfaction.

Eight out of nine patients or consumers use the phone as the primary channel with which to contact their healthcare provider, which translates into 12-16 million phone calls per year for a $10 billion health system. – Adam Silverman, MD1

Here are five warning signs your medical answering service might be negatively impacting your practice:

1. Poor Provider Satisfaction

With provider burnout on the rise, providers’ wellbeing is essential to their satisfaction, livelihood, and ability to provide quality care for patients. Key contributors to burnout include receiving non-urgent calls after hours, getting unnecessary interruptions, and dealing with other technical communication challenges. All interfere with a provider’s daily workflow.

Contacting medical providers at the wrong time is a common mistake. When the answering service makes an error and contacts your provider at midnight on their Saturday off, it annoys the physician. Even when a physician is working, these interruptions for non-urgent messages can detract from time with patients, which brings down provider satisfaction and makes it more difficult for your practice to retain top talent.

When unable to work at optimal performance, some physicians may experience burnout and decide to leave your practice. Losing providers reduces patient satisfaction, lowers revenue, and increases your recruitment and onboarding costs.

2. Declining Patient Experience

It’s important to let patients know you care about them. Even so, missed, ignored, and lost messages are a common issue with most medical answering services. Are there clear prompts and accurate call routing systems for your medical practice?

If agents for your answering service lose patient messages, fail to take thorough notes during a call, delay sending urgent messages, or send messages to the wrong provider, your patients will begin to feel frustrated and undervalued. If the call is not directed to the right provider at the right time, patient readmission rates may start to increase, and follow-up treatments can rack up more clinical practice expenses.

3. Negative Impacts on Your Practice’s Reputation

To patients, your answering service represents the “face” of the medical practice—so much so that errors and poor patient encounters with live answering service agents can be detrimental to your practice’s reputation. This could result in one-star online reviews and a reduction in valuable word-of-mouth referrals from patients.

It is imperative to ensure your answering service—which many patients do not know is a third-party service—is delivering the quality of care and experience your patients deserve from you. If they get clear instructions about their prescription refill, office hours, and who to contact for a specific medical question, they won’t be left in the dark. Keeping your patients satisfied and confident with their care improves patient retention rates.

4. Fluctuation of Practice Operating Costs

Your medical answering service may be costing you much more than you originally intended. Many answering services have fluctuating fees and charges based on call volume and duration, causing practices to spend more on the service than was budgeted. 

For a more accurate account of how much your medical answering service costs, look at your month-over-month charges and take note of the changes. Hidden fees can add up quickly when practices don’t pay close attention and consistently follow up on billing. 

One idea is to compare pricing with various vendors. Do they have hidden surcharges based on volume? Are there flat-rate pricing plans for the medical answering service? 

5. Inability to Support Patients During Emergencies

Healthcare doesn’t stop when inclement weather, natural disasters, or other emergencies happen. Keeping lines of communication open between your providers and your patients is essential during times of crisis. Your medical answering service must be available and connected to take patient calls and route messages correctly and quickly at all times.

If your medical answering service depends on live operators, a natural disaster or similar emergency could make it impossible for agents to respond to patient calls and messages. What happens to your practice if the Wi-Fi goes down or cell service is unavailable? You can learn more about identifying risks to prepare for unprecedented circumstances in our Medical Practice Disaster & Emergency Preparedness Checklist.

Not all medical answering services provide the same level of service and support.

Use the factors above to assess your current medical answering service vendor. With the next annual or monthly budget analysis, maybe it’s time to ask the question: Is it time to shop around and compare options?

Consider how an automated medical answering service solution can help strengthen your practice.

Instead of inadvertently pushing providers and patients away with frustrating or inefficient processes, think about the systems and workflows you can automate for your practice. Your staff and patients will appreciate an approach that respects their time and ensures a high-quality experience in every circumstance. 

The right answering service solution will provide a consistent patient experience, reliable connectivity, accurate message routing, and appropriate escalation while eliminating variable costs and supporting work-life balance for your providers.

Let’s discuss how your practice can benefit from PerfectServe’s medical answering service solution.

1Silverman, A. (2021, April 18). Infusing call centers with strong human connections. MedCityNews. https://medcitynews.com/2021/04/infusing-call-centers-with-strong-human-connections/

How much is your answering service costing you?

medical answering service warning

Sometimes, traditional medical answering services come with hidden costs that could be undercutting the success of your practice. Costs associated with human error—such as lost and delayed messages, negative patient interactions, inaccurate symptom descriptions, and more—carry significant risk for your patients and your practice.

Mistakes that were once par for the course with answering services have become largely avoidable in a modern healthcare environment. Since quality communication between patients and providers (before, during, and after business hours) is a fundamental pillar of patient care, it would be wise for any organization using a live medical answering service to ask yourself the following questions:

Are your patients being served a positive experience with your practice?

Any negative encounters with your practice (including over the phone) can begin to erode the trust and positive relationships you have built with your patients. Many patients perceive the answering service as an extension of your practice—not a separate, third-party service. That makes live call agents a contributing factor to your overall patient experience, a factor you have limited control over.

If a patient feels at any time as though their medical needs are not met with the level of urgency they feel is necessary, their trust in your practice quickly dissolves into frustration, fear, and motivation to seek care elsewhere. Whether or not a patient leaving costs you any recurring revenue, word of mouth can impact your organization’s reputation for care quality and, therefore, your ability to bring in new patients.

Is your staff empowered to use their time as efficiently as possible?
It’s tough to assign a dollar amount to the frustration of having to resolve a breakdown in patient care caused by miscommunication. It’s impossible to quantify the impact of anxiety your staff can develop when they feel unable to deliver the best patient care due to issues with the clinical communication process. But if your communication process isn’t optimized to help providers focus on delivering proper patient care, you may wind up calculating costs in terms of turnover and other negative effects of low provider satisfaction and burnout.

Are you legally or financially at risk?

Some unlucky practices have discovered a best-kept secret of certain deceptive answering services: subcontracting. In some cases, live “medical” answering services turn out to be subcontracting their work out to other answering services that don’t always have a medical focus or adhere to HIPAA compliance standards.

Few medical practice leaders would knowingly risk placing subpar answering services between their patients and their providers or practice. In fact, a practice in this situation is at risk for fines and penalties associated with breaches involving PHI and unsecure communications.

Another scenario in which a practice using a live answering service may be at risk includes one where the answering service is referencing an outdated provider shift schedule.

Consider this worst-case scenario A patient, unknowingly suffering from a stroke, calls your practice after hours to report blurred vision and confusion. The medical answering service, operating off of an inaccurate on-call schedule, fails to deliver the patient’s message to the correct on-call provider for another hour. Due to the time-sensitivity of this ailment, your practice could be at risk for a malpractice suit.

An unforeseeable and adverse incident like the one above could become a substantial loss for your practice.

Are you safeguarding your reputation?

Imagine another unfortunate scenarioA critical care surgeon with his own practice routinely performed emergent consults for a local hospital. But then, the hospital stopped calling. They felt the surgeon’s medical answering service was unable to deliver messages in a timely, efficient manner. The hospital now works with other providers instead.

Don’t let the above scenario happen to you. Your credibility and reputation in the healthcare community can be negatively affected if outside consultants and hospitals cannot reach you quickly in times of emergency. The impact of an unreliable reputation can be detrimental to your providers and your practice. It may seem easier to stick to the status quo with a live answering service, but is it worth letting avoidable lapses in communication tarnish your reputation?

Have you uncovered all hidden fees?

Most medical answering services are upfront about their fees, but practice leaders and managers seldom realize how many fee-based events they’re actually being charged for on each single after-hours call or message. Varying types of hidden fee-incurring events include:

  • Taking the call or message.
  • Relaying that message to the right clinician.
  • Relaying the clinician’s instructions back to the patient.
  • Recording and logging the conversation as a whole.
  • Recording and logging each communication.

These events can incur minute fees that can account for an unexpectedly substantial amount of overtime.

What is the real cost of your answering service?

Take a skeptical look at your answering service’s monthly invoice to understand the hard costs. Think through how your current answering service effects patient safety and satisfaction, as well as your providers’ satisfaction. Is your answering service a compliance risk? Can it harm your professional reputation? At the end of the day, these are the costs that put your practice, providers, and patients at risk.

What is the best solution to eliminate the costs and risks of your answering service?

In the age of digital communication, automated tools are commonly used to eliminate human error, simplify communication processes, and streamline accurate connections. These advantages are perhaps most valuable in a clinical environment. An ideal medical answering service solution can sync with the most up-to-date shift schedules, protect providers’ caller IDs, escalate urgent messages, and save non-urgent messages for regular business hours.


Let’s discuss how your practice can benefit from the right answering service solution.

The Role of Patient Engagement in Remote Patient Monitoring

What is Remote Patient Monitoring?

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) allows healthcare providers to monitor patients outside of the clinical setting. Particularly important for the management of chronic diseases, RPM is helping improve patient outcomes and reduce healthcare delivery costs. If physicians and healthcare providers treat patients with remote telehealth solutions, it increases patient engagement by letting them know their healthcare provider cares about their medical needs. While there are several options for remote patient monitoring systems and devices, choosing the right one for your patients should be simple and hassle-free.

Example of a remote patient visit and follow-up:

Why Patient Monitoring is Critical

It is important to remember that patient monitoring is essential, especially when it comes to combating chronic diseases. More than 40% of all the adults in the US (roughly 157 million people) suffer from at least one chronic health issue such as diabetes or asthma, and almost a quarter (81 million) live with multiple chronic conditions.1 By 2024, 30 million patients will be using remote patient monitoring solutions to address their symptoms and follow-up care.2

One of the best ways to treat chronic conditions is with regular and consistent treatment. However, the average American struggles with care plan adherence. Roughly half of all-American patients do not take their medication as intended; one out of five prescriptions are never actually filled. Medication non-adherence is estimated to cause 125,000 deaths per year. Poor medication adherence results in 33-69% of medication-related hospital admissions, with medication non-adherence costing the industry as much as $300 billion in direct and indirect costs every year.3

In 2019, the Medicare fee schedule attached reimbursement to general physiological remote monitoring of chronic conditions. This new schedule recognizes the value of patient-reported outcomes and RPM in improving health outcomes and reducing healthcare costs. According to KLAS Research, one-fourth of healthcare organizations say RPM reduces emergency visits and readmissions.4 Further, 13% of organizations report RPM improves medication compliance, 17% cite quantified cost reductions, and 25% report greater patient satisfaction.5

To effectively treat chronic illnesses, patients must adhere to a strict treatment regimen: taking their medications as prescribed and regularly attending follow-up appointments. As well as being a waste of clinical resources, a patient’s failure to attend their scheduled appointments (no-shows) often can be an early warning sign of care plan non-adherence. With the CARES Act and health-related legislation impacting how providers get reimbursed, increasing patient engagement methods will continue to impact healthcare revenue streams. See the research and results on how using patient texting solutions are making a difference in health systems.

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Text-First Approach to Patient Monitoring

Using cancer clinics as an example, many implementations of RPM and patient-reported outcome systems are tied to in-clinic appointments or discharge, but not all include routine outreach.6 In other instances, self-reporting RPM systems may be cost-prohibitive or lack integration with the hospital infrastructure required to support clinical workflow.

Healthcare organizations can leverage text messaging to collect data for remote patient monitoring and gather patient reported outcomes with simple surveys. Healthcare organizations can text a link to a secure web survey to assess wellness, pain levels, specific measures (e.g. blood glucose levels), or potential medication side effects.

Other clinical communication modalities are not as effective or efficient. Only 20% of emails are opened. Patient calls from the clinical staff have a very high administrative cost. In comparison, text messaging is extremely quick to administer and 90% of messages are read within 3 minutes of being sent.7

PerfectServe’s text-first patient engagement solution can automate the collection of RPM data and other patient-reported outcomes. Survey responses that pass a predefined threshold are automatically escalated to expedite early intervention. All messages support two-way text messaging with healthcare professionals and the option to invite patients into an encrypted channel for secure chat. PerfectServe customers report:

  • 70% ongoing response rate for patient health status
  • 0.9 point reduction in A1C
  • 12.6% reduction in no-show rate
  • 32% reduction in readmissions

Empowering patients to participate in remote monitoring activities improves patient care plan adherence and patient satisfaction alike. The net result improves outcomes and reduces costs. Find out if using PerfectServe can help you improve your patient engagement outcomes.

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Resources:
1https://www.nationalhealthcouncil.org/sites/default/files/AboutChronicDisease.pdf
2https://www.insiderintelligence.com/insights/remote-patient-monitoring-industry-explained/
3https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3234383/
4https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/remote-patient-monitoring-cuts-hospital-admissions-er-visits-report-finds/539073/
5https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/remote-patient-monitoring-cuts-hospital-admissions-er-visits-report-finds/539073/
6https://www.curetoday.com/publications/cure/2019/spring-2019/patient-heal-thyself-those-who-self-report-symptoms-may-live-longer
7https://www.voicesage.com/blog/sms-compared-to-email-infograph/