While it seems improbable, a practice can have the best patient and clinical communications, strategy, tools, and policies and still fail to connect effectively with a segment of your patients. How? Because tens of millions of Americans depend on caregivers, typically family caregivers, to manage and coordinate their care. If you’re unable to communicate meaningfully with caregivers, there’s a good chance you aren’t effectively reaching the patients they assist.
Nearly one in five Americans is providing unpaid care to someone aged 18 and up, and that number continues to grow. Of those, 85% of caregivers are family caregivers and attend to the healthcare needs of a relative or other loved one:
- 42% care for a parent
- 15% care for a friend, neighbor, or non-relative
- 14% care for a child
- 7% care for a parent-in-law
- 7% care for a grandparent or grandparent-in-law
With such a sizable percentage of your patients relying on caregivers, it’s vital to the success of your practice—not to mention these patients’ health—that you know how to communicate with their patient advocate or caregiver.
How important are caregivers to ensuring your parents get the care they need?
From the above data, it’s easy to see that the majority of caregivers are directing and arranging care for older patients who likely have one or more chronic conditions. Nearly 60% of Americans have a chronic disease and nearly 30% have multiple chronic ailments. Without caregivers, their loved ones would be unable to receive care crucial to managing chronic conditions, let alone get appointments for routine preventive visits.
In a very real sense, caregivers act as a kind of “lifeline” for patients who depend on them to receive timely medical, dental, and vision care. Caregivers’ commitment to their loved ones’ healthcare helps patients avoid gaps in care that can lead to serious complications, hospital readmissions, and poorer health outcomes and quality of life. In that light, caregivers are an integral part of your patients’ care teams and, in effect, your practice’s lifeline to ensuring your patients:
- Make and keep appointments
- Adhere to care instructions and plans
- Fill and take prescribed medications
- Manage their chronic care conditions and receive preventive care
- Eliminate gaps in care to support better health outcomes.
Your ability to communicate effectively with caregivers can largely determine how well your practice is able to deliver care when it’s most needed. Similarly, the more successful you are in building closer ties and relationships with caregivers, the greater your ability to increase your appointment volume, boost revenue, and grow your practice.
How can practices connect better with caregivers to successfully guide their loved ones through the appointment workflow?
Just like most patients, caregivers lead crazy, busy lives as more than 60% of caregivers are also employed. So the easier and more convenient it is for them to converse with you through modern technologies and caregiver communication tools, the more likely your messages and communications will reach a receptive ear.
Text messages are quick, easy and very convenient for most folks. Others will prefer email or phone calls. Your job is to identify and align your communication type with each caregiver’s personal preferences.
Next, you need to be able to connect with caregivers at every stage of the patient journey to help them easily navigate the process. The following are key tools and solutions that can help your staff more effectively and efficiently make the right connections:
Appointment reminders are a tried-and-tested method to help guarantee patients actually show up for their scheduled care appointments. A digital reminder tool can be your practice’s best friend in ensuring patients and their caregivers get reminders at proven intervals so they never miss an appointment. Messages can be sent via text, email, or voicemail, and caregivers can easily confirm the appointment or reschedule. Reminders reduce no-shows and help you keep your schedule filled.
It’s also vital that patients and caregivers receive pre-visit instructions to ensure they arrive properly prepared for the appointment. For example, a patient may need to complete lab work, fast, or complete any number of prerequisites in order for the provider to deliver the right ongoing or follow-up care during the visit.
A digital messaging tool allows your staff to automatically text or email personalized pre-visit instructions to caregivers. That way, caregivers know well in advance what needs to be accomplished prior to the appointment making last-minute rescheduling unnecessary.
Post-appointment care instructions
Fifty percent of patients forget the details of their care plans while patients of all ages forget 80%-90% of care instructions they receive during a visit. Caregivers can’t help their patients get well, recover, or treat chronic diseases if they can’t remember crucial parts of the provider’s care plan.
Easily avoid this pitfall by texting or emailing caregivers a copy of their patient’s care instructions. These might include instructions for home therapy exercises, changes to medications, or specialist referral and contact details. Sending patients and caregivers post-appointment care instructions can significantly improve care and medication adherence and support more positive outcomes.
Patient education newsletters
Caregivers often try to keep up to speed on the latest medical innovations, treatments, and prescription drugs related to their loved one’s condition so they can impart sound advice. Practices can help keep patients and caregivers educated and informed by passing along key health information, times and news regarding the patient’s case.
With a patient education & marketing tool, you’re able to automatically email patients customized newsletters with new information about their chronic condition or other ailment based on various addressee criteria like the patient’s age, sex, or diagnosis. Quickly and easily give patients and caregivers the information they need to make more timely and informed decisions about their healthcare.
It’s difficult for patients, let alone their caregivers, to remember when they’re due (or overdue) for a preventive screening, routine exam, or other preventive or chronic care management visit. Eliminate the guesswork by sending patients and caregivers notifications to schedule needed follow-up visits, lab tests, or dental hygiene appointments.
A digital recall tool lets you automatically send personalized text, email, or voicemail messages to patients and caregivers to book provider-recommended care. That way, the caregiver knows the proper timing for scheduling an appointment and helps their loved one avoid gaps in care. Meanwhile, you’re able to minimize recall activities to less than 30 minutes a day and create a consistent stream of monthly revenue. Practices using a robust recall solution can generate an extra $120,000 annually in recall revenue.
No one these days wants to get tied up on a phone call when a simple text message will suffice. A two-way texting tool allows patients and caregivers to quickly and conveniently ask questions, confirm a visit, or reschedule.
For practices, two-way texting helps minimize call volumes and allows staff to easily reply to patient/caregiver texts in between other tasks. You get a more efficient front office while patients and their caregivers get easy, instant access to your practice staff.
To successfully deliver care to your patients and minimize gaps in care that can lead to poorer outcomes, it’s critical that caregivers be kept in the loop. You can develop stronger relationships with your patients and their caregivers by fostering an ongoing dialogue with them through easy, convenient and effective communication solutions for patients. Your patients will receive better, more timely care while you’ll reap the benefits of greater front office production and efficiency in the form of increased retention rates, higher appointment volumes, and a healthy bump to your bottom line.
To learn more about how you can strengthen relationships with your patients and their caregivers to boost retention and acquisition, download the new guide, “5 Keys to Transforming ‘Patients’ into Long-Term ‘Practice Champions.”
Read the Guide