Hardly a day goes by where we don’t hear about the financial woes of the healthcare industry. “Banner Health’s net income plunges 55% in Q11.” "Why Major Hospitals are Losing Money by the Millions. "Operating Income Falls for Two-thirds of Health Systems.”
The news articles go on and on. For practices across the nation, saving money in every way possible is critical to success. This means that efficiency is no longer a luxury—it is an absolute necessity. There’s good news. You don’t need to increase your workload to increase your revenue.
Every healthcare organization—from large hospitals to the single doctor practice—can boost revenue by reducing the amount of money spent on administrative overhead. A change as simple as spending less time on the phone can help organizations save money. Why do practices spend so much time on the phone? Much of that time is used reminding patients of upcoming appointments—which is super important.
However, managing appointments by phone can mean up to 20 reminder calls per hour which ties up valuable staff resources. Personnel can’t spend face time with patients in the office while they’re making phone calls, which hurts patient satisfaction, retention, and revenue. Automated reminders are one of the best ways to address this problem. In addition to reducing workload, automated communications can actually make patients happier by reaching them the way they’d like to be contacted, whether that is by email, text, or phone. Doing this helps make your messages feel far more personal and impactful. It gives you the ability to reach patients when and where they are, and it keeps patients coming back.
How much money are you wasting?
How many missed appointments does your practice have each year? For most practices, the number is surprisingly large. No-show rates range from 15-30 percent in general medicine clinics and urban community centers, and as high as 50 percent in certain specialties (click here to see the national average no-show rate for your specialty and here to calculate your no-show rate). Every missed appointment means missed income. Added up over the course of a year, the financial impact can be huge. Here are four ways automated reminders and notifications can improve your organization’s bottom line:
1. Reduce no-shows with automated reminders
The number one reason patients say they miss a doctor’s appointment—36 percent of all no-shows, according to one study—is simply “I forgot.” But new technologies can play a major role in greatly reducing that number. Reaching out to patients via email, text, phone call, or even social media has been shown to be effective in reducing no-shows, and can be personalized for each patient’s or patient groups’ preferred method of communication. It’s more than just picking up a fancy new method of communication; using technology to remind patients of appointments actually works.
A study by the Robert Wood Johnson University Medical Group found that 23 percent of patients who didn’t get a reminder missed their appointments. The number of no-shows fell to 17 percent when patients were sent an automated appointment reminder. Another study showed that the no-show rate among patients who received email reminders decreased by 35 percent.
The best part of automating your reminders is that your staff will hardly ever need to pick up the phone.
Patients can simply reply to a text or click an email link to confirm. It’s not less personal—instead, it meets
people where they are. Today, 90 percent of cell phone users ignore incoming calls. Time spent on the
phone is wasted on voicemail messages that often go unheard and unreturned.
Text messages, on the other hand, are typically read within three minutes of their delivery, and more than 98 percent of people check email at least once a day. Automated reminders reach patients the way they want to communicate. Some reminders can integrate with the patient’s personal calendar. It’s as easy as the click of a button.
2. Retain patients and limit leakage with automated recalls
A patient leaving an appointment without booking the next visit can be costly. They may not follow through on an in-network referral, or they may forget to come back for a follow-up. Referral leakage averages from 55 to 65 percent for practices. This can result in losses from $821K to $971K per physician, per year. Retention is key.
It’s important to notify patients when it’s time to book their next appointment. This makes it easier for your patients to come back to your practice versus visiting a competitor. However, tracking and booking followups is a labor-intensive, time-draining process. An automated system takes this scheduling work away. It relieves administrative staff to spend more time running the best practice possible.
Postcards are a common method of recall, but they can be expensive to print and mail and take time to schedule. Customized emails and texts reach patients more efficiently. Done correctly, they also feel personal and can improve the patient experience. Automated recall can more than pay for itself in a short amount of time.
3. Promote new offerings and improve product pickups
New technology can distinguish one healthcare organization from a competitor nearby, so it is important to alert patients to new solutions your practice offers to differentiate yourself. This helps spark appointments, and can improve your reputation. These factors will ensure you see a quick return on product and tech investments.
For example, consider an OBGYN that invests in 3D sonograms. By announcing the new technology, the organization can acquire patients who would otherwise go somewhere else. But it’s not just about new patients. Sending notifications to existing patients about the upgrade can increase requests as well. Both cases help your practice increase revenue for a quick return.
Similarly, product promotion can set your organization apart. Popular products can bring patients back through the door. But to do so, your prospective patients have to know it is available first. Product notifications can also reduce time spent scheduling pick-ups. For eye care providers, for example, manually booking fittings for new glasses is time-consuming and inefficient. The same goes for new contact lenses. A product notification solves both problems. Automating the process frees up staff time and helps reach patients when and where they prefer to receive the message requests.
4. Improve collection rates with payment reminders
Outpatient practices typically report a payment collection rat of 60 percent. This means that for every $1 billed, only 60 cents is received. Automated payment reminder systems can greatly improve collections and are convenient for both the practice and the patient. You can set individual payment m inimums and customize patient scheduling.
This ensures each patient receives the right reminders at the right time. When reminders of this type help patients pay the way they prefer, they’ll pay faster. Some might pay online immediately after receiving an email but would forget about a bill in the mail. Reminding patients and offering multiple payment methods will improve revenue cycles.
Automated patient reminders and notifications are an important piece of patient relationship management. The right tools can help you better communicate with your patients. You can fill costly gaps in your practice including no-shows, leakage, and late payments. In addition to improving revenue, automated reminders and notifications can save money. They free staff to focus on high-value activities. Consistently delivering valuable messages with less effort and time reduces costs, improves outcomes and enhances the patient experience—all of which are essential to the success and well-being of your practice.
Learn about additional ways to automate your billing process in "4 Ways to Modernize Your Patient Payment Processes."