I took my son over to our pediatrician this morning for a sick call. As we were checking in, I asked about making an appointment for a flu shot and was told, “we have walk in hours with a nurse”. Oh. And I was supposed to find this out….how? “When people call in to ask about a flu shot, we tell them.”
Here’s a wild idea. Why not send a postcard to your patient list? Or collect email addresses (although keeping those current is a challenge). Or an auto-dialer system? Or, as another local pediatric practice does, place an ad in the newspaper advertising a flu shot clinic this Saturday from to .
Mail, phone and email are all tools – the means of transmitting information. The applications – the message you send – is where these tools gain value. I would be cautious about sending out routine messages that do not require an action by the call recipient. While calls to your patients are most likely allowable under the “Do Not Call” rules, the rules were developed as a result of consumer backlash to a problem – another case of let’s do it because we can.
The flu shot example is a good use of these tools. Appointment reminders and reminders for preventive care visits (children
Technological tools such as these have value, as there is anonymity, and the cost to the patient is zero, which increases use. The Department of Defense has produced a screen for military personnel and families, as they are confronting a widespread problem among veterans of the
In the near term, use these tools for communication and messaging, looking at basic reminders for preventive care and patient self-monitoring. Longer term, be looking for tools that will feed you real time data. Reimbursement is, of course, the common challenge, but self-insured groups may be willing to invest in these tools now. My essential advice: be creative. Be proactive. Ask. The business and political community is looking to control healthcare costs and to improve the health of the community, as poor health leads to higher costs, lower productivity and a less attractive business environment.