Is Automated Patient Outreach the Same as Engagement?

Hospitals and health systems are aware of the fact that poor communication following discharge is a problem that contributes to preventable complications and readmissions. And poor support after discharge not only impacts outcomes. It also decreases patient satisfaction.

Patient feedback collected through Medicare’s HCAHPS survey confirms that patients who have been hospitalized feel there needs to be more hospital-led communication after discharge, with half of patients saying they were confused about some aspect of their care instructions after leaving the hospital.

To improve these statistics, more and more organizations are automating patient communications in an effort to help patients gain the knowledge, skills and confidence to manage their health, increasing their chances of an optimal outcome.

According to a 2016 West Health survey, 77% of hospitals follow up with at least one out of every two patients discharged from their facility. Results showed that 86% contact patients to deliver follow-up appointment reminders, 73% follow up to monitor health status, 53% connect with patients related to medication adherence, 38% reach out regarding medication reconciliation and 23% follow up to provide wellness information.

Traditional patient outreach methods

Historically, providers have had several methods from which to choose when it comes to automating communication with patients. 

  • Automated phone calls: Automated patient outreach phone calls can be helpful in reminding patients of upcoming appointments or to schedule a preventive visit. Automation removes the administrative burden from staff of manually calling every patient.
  • Patient portals: Patient portals are most often used for viewing laboratory test results, immunizations, medications and allergies, as well as securely messaging a physician. However, portals can be difficult to navigate, and many patients may struggle to understand the medical information contained in the portal.
  • Text message outreach: Automated text messaging can be useful for things that don’t require a lot of back and forth exchange, such as sending appointment reminders and educational content.
  • Email outreach: Similar to text messaging, automated emails are useful for appointment reminders and other tasks that don’t require dialogue between patients and providers.

Automated patient communication tools have certainly lightened the load on clinicians and staff. But patient outreach is not the same as engagement. Resources such as email or automated phone calls may be appropriate for limited outreach efforts, but they are ineffective at meaningfully engaging patients, driving behavior change, or producing improved outcomes.

A better engagement model

Meaningful and effective engagement demands more than sending reminders and educational materials. An effective solution must provide quick, specific and actionable value that is relevant to the patient. Effective engagement means have conversations about what is happening with the health of the patient, and continuing the conversation over a long period of time. Understanding what is happening to a patient in real-time is essential to determine what is likely to happen next.

A two-way patient engagement platform like GetWell Loop enables providers to have these conversations with each patient on a daily basis. From detecting complications early to reducing office calls and visits, daily two-way dialogue with patients offers several advantages that other automated patient outreach solutions simply cannot match.

Preventing adverse events: Daily dialogue with patients — with valuable information flowing back and forth — helps unearth complications early and prevent worsening outcomes. When it comes to outcomes, we’ve seen a 54% reduction in complications and 45% reduction in readmissions at GetWell Loop.

Reducing office calls and visits: Health systems and clinics field large volumes of questions from patients about their health and recovery from medical procedures. Physicians often spending hours returning calls after long days of patient care.  

Physicians using GetWell Loop have found that most inquiries can be handled by front-line staff. In many cases, because daily engagement gets the right information to the right patient at the right time, patients decide they don’t need to place the call at all. In fact, on average, providers see an 84% decrease in office visits from patients enrolled on GetWell Loop.

Positive reviews: We’ve also found that patients who are engaged daily by their care teams share their positive experiences with family and friends, as well as via online review sites. At GetWell Loop, 92% of patients are “extremely likely to recommend” their physicians to others.

PROMs collection: For providers collecting patient-reported outcomes measures (PROMs), GetWell Loop does much of the heavy lifting. Providers using GetWell Loop see a 74% PROMs completion rate without the need to add extra staff to help with data collection. 

Without an engagement strategy that allows for meaningful two-way dialogue between patients and care teams, an organization’s odds of reaching their success metrics — whether it is improving outcomes, patient satisfaction, or reputation — are a crapshoot at best.