Statistics show that more than half of patients ages 65 and older aren’t proactive with preventative health measures as recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. According to the Centers for Disease Control, only 46 percent of men and 47 percent of women ages 65 and older are up-to-date on recommended screenings and stay current with regular preventative care appointments. Let’s take a look at why this is the case and what you, as their provider, can do to improve these statistics and make sure that your older patients are receiving the care and support they deserve and need.
Many Patients Don’t Realize They’re Not Up-to-Date
Dr. Leslie Kernisan, a board certified and practicing doctor since 2006 in internal medicine and geriatrics says that the majority of the senior population are at least aware of the preventative screenings they need, but may have forgotten when they were in last to have one performed. She explains that when it comes to the more basic preventive healthcare screenings for the senior demographic, such as blood pressure testing and vaccinations, patients aren’t quite sure how often they should visit your practice in order to stay current. Living her passion, Dr. Kernisan provides practical tips for senior health and family caregivers to offer ongoing support for better health while aging.
Do Preventive Services Require Too Much Time?
Although it would seem that with a large percentage of seniors over 65 who are retired and should theoretically have more time, nearly half of them say they don’t. Making sure that their visits are quick, painless, and as efficient as possible will help address this concern. Here are some suggestions that you and your practice staff can do to make sure your older patients schedule their preventive check-ups regularly, and then actually show up:
- Choose a patient relationship management platform for patient communication that is right for you and your patients. There are many options out there, but you may want to consider a more sophisticated appointment reminder software system that will integrate seamlessly into your EHR and allow you more flexibility and customization. Seventy-seven percent of elderly patients say they’d be more likely to schedule their preventative care appointments in response to an appointment reminder from their doctor. An intelligent system will keep track of when every patient’s next appointment should be and send out automated appointment reminders prompting them call or get online to schedule their upcoming appointment. You will likely see a significant improvement in the number of preventative screenings scheduled with your office. Dr. Jen Brull was able to increase her patients’ colon cancer screening rates from 37 percent to 81 percent just by sending out a reminder that it was time to schedule their screening.
- Conduct multiple screenings or services in one visit. Since there are several different types of preventative health screenings recommended, it would help to do as many of these as possible at one time for greater efficiency and convenience for everyone. Keeping these appointments as short as possible will help keep patient satisfaction high and increase the likelihood that they will be more proactive about staying on top of their regular screenings.
- Educate throughout the continuum of care with patient newsletters. Staying at optimum health is typically a high priority to everyone. When patients fall behind on keeping or scheduling regular care appointments, it can often be chalked up to ignorance. In between their visits, stay in touch with monthly patient newsletters to keep them informed of current health trends or concerns. Some patient relationship management platforms will even allow you to create groups and subgroups within your patient outreach to more specifically and effectively target your communication with patients throughout the continuum of care. Whether they have diabetes or high blood pressure, you can stay in touch with ongoing education to keep your practice and their health top of mind and improve health outcomes.
- Provide them a ride. With Uber now participating in the healthcare arena, your patients now have access to a dependable ride that will ensure they get to your practice on time for their scheduled appointment if they don’t have other means of transportation. Through the Solutionreach platform, your patients will get an appointment reminder with a link included that will allow them to schedule a ride right from their reminder text.
What Type of Communication is Best?
It might not surprise you that nearly half of the senior demographic surveyed preferred a phone call to remind them to schedule their preventative care appointment. There are very few patient communication systems available that offer a natural voice landline option, which results in a win-win for patient and provider. With this unique feature, your practice can still offer a personal touch with a pre-recorded message from one of your staff members that reflects the personality and tone of your practice, in order that you don’t have to waste valuable time making appointment reminder calls to every patient. The patient is allowed flexibility within that call to confirm their appointment, request to reschedule or leave additional contact information to be added to their records.
More and more of the older demographic are becoming comfortable with technology. Due to that transition, an email reminder ranked second in preferred contact for an appointment reminder. Despite what most people and even practices may think, senior citizens are quite savvy within the digital healthcare realm, more than they are given credit for. They are anxious to keep up with the ways that technological advances have made requesting prescriptions or appointments or even rides to their appointments easier and more convenient than ever before.
If you are thinking that sending postcards in the mail are an effective way to reach your patients to remind them to schedule their screenings, you might want to be aware that direct mail actually weighed in as the least effective method of outreach, with only 11 percent of patients reporting this to be their preferred method for an appointment reminder.
As technological advances in digital healthcare continue to move forward at a steady and rapid pace, patients will begin to have the option to start measuring their vitals and doing self-screenings from home and electronically transmit the data and results to their care provider.
Dr. Kernisan indicates that although under-screening is an issue with senior-aged patients, over-screening can also prove to be a significant time-waster. Just as patients should be aware of when they need to visit their healthcare provider, doctors should stay informed of current screening recommendations and make sure to keep their patients updated with regard to preventive service recommendations.
Assisting your patients in staying healthy is important, but so is the lifeblood of your practice. Bear in mind that keeping your patients on track for their regular preventive visits will also prove to be a dependable and consistent source of revenue for your practice.
A big shift is taking place within preventive health, and being able to provide value-based care is a big component of that. Helping patients stay on top of their health through preventive services and screenings will ensure that providers have the best chance at helping keep acute health emergencies at bay, and patients are satisfied that they are working as closely as possible with their provider to establish a solid game plan for improving or maintaining long-term health.
To find out how Solutionreach can help you improve patient engagement customized specifically for your patients, contact us!