A majority of EHR data capabilities are geared toward you, the doctor. This includes a number of communications options to keep patients in the know.
When a person’s health is threatened — whether due to a major pandemic or if they’re facing a diagnosis on a more singular level — having a health care provider who keeps the lines of communication open can provide solace in what feels like a chaotic world. It offers a sense of peace, a person they can go to if they have health-related questions or concerns.
Staying in touch with patients even after the storm has passed provides benefits as well. For example, a 2018 systematic review published in Implementation Science reports that engaging patients results in them having higher levels of self-esteem. They also tend to feel more self-empowered and independent.
Your electronic health record (EHR) system can help you keep in touch with patients in a variety of situations and conditions, providing this type of value while strengthening the doctor-patient relationship. Which EHR communication tools are best for improving patient engagement?
Using EHR data for effective patient communications
A majority of EHR data capabilities are geared toward you, the doctor. This includes keeping a detailed medical history, recording treatment notes, and billing and coding. However, there are a few tools that enable you to stay in touch with your patients. They are:
- A patient portal. Thanks to the internet, people have access to information 24/7. By offering them this same type of openness with your office’s records, they’re able to be an active partner in their own health and wellness. A patient portal also enables them to easily fill out necessary forms, schedule and reschedule appointments, and otherwise interact with your office in a way that doesn’t require a lot of time from your staff.
- Email capabilities. Unless you need to get in touch with a patient right away, email is a great way to make contact at a time that is most convenient for them. In fact, one study found that one in four patients wished their doctors would communicate via email. The only form of communication that ranked higher was an actual phone call.
- Text message. EZ Texting’s 2019 Report reveals that one-half of consumers check their cell phones at least five times every hour. That makes this form of communication one that fits into their everyday life. Additionally, more than two-thirds (69%) prefer to stay in touch with businesses by text.
The primary message with all of these options is to stay in touch with patients in a way that they prefer. An EHR system and EHR data make this possible, no matter how big your patient list.
When to communicate
Just as it is important to know how to communicate, it’s equally as imperative to know when to communicate. What times can have the most impact?
When patients are new — Have you ever done business with a new company, only to have them contact you shortly thereafter and let you know that they’re there if you have any questions or concerns? When you do this as a health care provider, it tells new patients that you’re available to them. It says that you care about their health and want them to keep in touch, increasing the odds that they will contact you if they feel the need.
When patients are no longer active — Though it might seem like reaching out to inactive patients would be a waste of time, the opposite is true. It reaffirms that you’re there for them whenever they’re ready, making them feel more comfortable to return. Even if they don’t come back to you right away, keeping yourself in the forefront of their mind increases the likelihood that they’ll reach out if they develop an issue down the road.
When you have a new service — Contacting patients when you offer a new service can help get the word out. It’s also a great way to share the value behind that service and benefits it can provide. In your communication, talk about who the service might be good for or what conditions it can relieve or treat. Encourage patients to share this information with others who could potentially benefit, increasing your referral base.
When there is a change in service — If you are making any changes to your current services, you’ll want to let your patients know. This prevents a situation in which they contact your office for something you no longer do, leaving them frustrated and confused because the change was not communicated to them. This includes any modifications in hours, policies, and procedures. The more notice you can give via mass email or text, the less time your staff will have to explain these changes to each individual patient.
When there is a local community-wide (or larger) health issue — A few months ago, the need for communication due to a large-scale health concern seemed like something you’d see in a sci-fi movie. Yet, COVID-19 proves that being able to communicate about this type of issue is a must, which you can utilizing your EHR data. Giving your patients information they need can help them better manage their health in times such as this. Even if it is as simple as providing links to reputable online resources so they know where to get the best information.
Also inform them as to any updates that impact their ability to treat with your office. For example, with COVID-19, patients may be unclear as to whether you are open during the home isolation period. Let them know that the Department of Homeland Security has declared chiropractic an essential service, providing a link to the memo that confirms it. Not only does this reinforce that you’re there for them, but it also reaffirms that chiropractic is an essential part of their health care plan.