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Hybrid Patient Care Delivery: Reducing Gaps in Care Post COVID-19

Monday, July 20, 2020   (0 Comments)
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Written By: Michele Perry, CEO, Relatient


COVID-19 has turned healthcare upside down—it’s turned everything upside down. But in the midst of the chaos and the process of putting it all back together again, healthcare providers rose to the occasion with quick responses, new workflows, and communication to keep their patients updated and informed along the way. Still, many patients avoided trips to their providers amid fears of exposure to COVID-19, uncertainty about how to access care, and shutdowns across several US states. Now, medical providers are working hard to bridge the resulting gaps in care so their patients aren’t at risk for complications and adverse outcomes.


Hybrid care delivery is helping medical providers ramp back up quickly and get their patients seen and treated using a combination of in-office and Telehealth visits. With the flexibility to meet a wide variety of patient needs and preference, hybrid care delivery means patients who aren’t yet comfortable visiting a clinic in person or who grew to prefer Telehealth can still access the care they need while patients who need an in-person exam or procedure can access care as well. But with hybrid care comes the challenge of identifying workflows that can accommodate both appointment types. Medical practices, FQHC’s, and community health clinics are leveraging patient engagement strategies, some new and others they already had in place but are now leveraging differently, to support hybrid care for the long-term.


3 Keys to a Successful Hybrid Patient Care Delivery Model


1. A Virtual Waiting Room

Whether it’s a patient checking in for an appointment in the clinic or a patient waiting for the telehealth visit to begin, the days of kiosks, clipboards, pens, papers, and data entry are long gone. Not only are healthcare providers aware of infection risks, patients are aware of them too and they’re looking to their medical providers to help keep them safe. A virtual waiting room for in-office visits, sometimes referred to as curbside check-in, allows patients to check-in from their vehicles and remain in the parking lot until an exam room is available, helping patients avoid high-touch areas in the waiting room and reducing their exposure to other patients.


A virtual waiting room also gives telehealth patients the ability to check-in for their appointments so providers know their patients are primed and ready to go when they finish up with the patient before them. It keeps the process streamlined, intuitive, and drives higher patient satisfaction. Medical offices are using technology like 2-way patient messaging or digital patient registration to power these virtual waiting rooms, streamline intake, and eliminate data entry.


2. Close-Proximity Appointment Reminders

You’re likely already using appointment reminders, they’ve been pivotal in reducing patient no-shows, especially in FQHC’s and community health clinics, for years. It’s common practice to use a “same day” reminder to give patients one last heads up about their appointments but many Telehealth appointments are made the same day and yet are easy to forget. A close proximity reminder, sent anywhere from an hour to 15 minutes prior to the patient appointment, can be key to keeping appointments top of mind for patients of both in-office and Telehealth appointments. Proximity text appointment reminders also serve as a prime opportunity to provide patients directions for how to check into a virtual waiting room when they arrive for an appointment, whether it be in the parking lot or on their mobile device.


3. Bulk Messaging to Keep Patients Informed

It’s still likely that some patients are avoiding medical care because they aren’t sure it’s safe or they don’t know if Telehealth is still an option now that practices across the nation have opened back up. The good news is that most patient engagement vendors include some kind of bulk messaging in their base bundle or appointment reminders service. This tool is one of the best ways to quickly notify your patients that they have options when they need medical care. Usually this kind of messaging can be sent via text or email, oftentimes both. Some vendors even offer voice as well, creating a comprehensive strategy that accounts for all your patients’ communication preferences. Let your patients know that they have options, how to access them, and what types of care are available via in-office and Telehealth so they don’t fall further behind in their care or risk a more complicated medical situation due to avoiding care.



Hybrid Care Doesn’t Have to be Complicated


Hybrid patient care isn’t just key to getting your patient volume back up to pre-pandemic levels, it’s a long-term strategy for retaining your patients, drawing new patients to your practice, and retaining the flexibility to adapt to future disruptions, whatever they may be. Start with simple solutions that you can implement quickly and that can deliver quick-wins and build out a long-term, scalable strategy from there. If you haven’t started already, the best way to begin is to reach out to your patient engagement vendor and ask them how they can partner with you in standing up a virtual waiting room, adding close-proximity reminders to your current setup, and utilizing bulk messaging to get the word out.




Michele Perry, CEO of Relatient, is a healthcare technology veteran having spent her career helping healthcare organizations meet patient needs with innovative, intuitive technology. Passionate about making patient outreach easy for providers, their staff, and the patients they serve, Relatient offers primary care and specialty medical groups, FQHC's, community health clinics, hospitals, and health systems the patient engagement platform KLAS named 2020 Category Leader in Patient Outreach. Dedicated to patient-centered solutions, Relatient engaged patients with more than 132 million messages in 2019 on behalf of U.S. medical practices and health systems. Relatient’s platform integrates with over 85 practice management systems and electronic health databases to drive operational efficiency, appointments and reviews, reduce no-shows, speed patient payments, and improve patient satisfaction, all while supporting health and care quality initiatives. For more information, visit http://www.relatient.net.






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