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Appointment Technology Doing Its Job?

I recently assisted a client in reviewing Appointment Technology to improve the patient experience in their clinic, which caused me to question why their current technology was not working. I discovered that there are many new features in this technology which can improve patient satisfaction and even market to patients while they are on line. In this particular instance their current technology was not set up to text patients, which the patients were requesting.

The new technology can be programmed to send messages to patients reminding them of new offerings in the clinic and the need for health screenings through text reminders as well as reminding them of appointments. The technology can also allow the patient to respond with a text rather than going to listen to a voice mail that then require calling or going to the internet to respond.

I used to hear the complaint that practices with elderly patients could not use text because they did not have cell phones. However, the possibility that an elderly patient has a phone and can send or receive a text message has dramatically increased over the past couple of years. This has been driven more by the desire to keep up with their family of millennials who spend more time on text and social media than on phone calls.

One new platform for this increased phone use had been developed by companies that are managing Chronic Care programs. These new technology platforms encourage the use of phones to deliver health improvement messages, as well as, regular contact by a nurse each month. These platforms provide rewards for increased communication with the physician and nurse on call which results in fewer hospital admissions. The use of cell phone technology has significantly improved patient follow through with health care recommendations from the provider.

The downside of the Appointment Technology, however, is that there is still a problem with employee response to messages and texts which are required to improve the patient experience. If there is not enough time in the day for staff to respond to these requests, patients are even more frustrated. Patients depend on their technology to communicate and the practice staffing must be sufficient to respond to these requests daily. The practice leader must be able to enlist the staff support to utilize the technology and improve their communication with patients in order to be successful.

I recently read an article that focused on the challenges in scheduling appointments with specialists. An interesting perspective was that there is no financial incentive for specialists to extend hours or hire more staff to facilitate more prompt scheduling. With the reductions in reimbursement over the past years, there is little money in the practice overhead in a small practice to pay for increased staffing in order to see patient’s quicker. The article in Health Data Management clearly identified the challenges in specialist appointments can increase hospital admissions because of the length of time it takes to get an appointment.

The moral of the story is that you can have great technology, but if your staff is not taught to manage that technology effectively, it increases the frustration level of your patients. Encouraging the commitment to excellence in your practice and rewarding employees that go above and beyond for patients can dramatically improve outcomes. Recognize these employees in your social media platform. This improvement in communication will be communicated to others through the social media of your patients and in return attract more patients.

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