Engagement on the patient's terms: Using technology to improve patient satisfaction and ROI

Today, patients want more control over their care than ever before and many prefer digital communication channels like SMS text messages over email, phone or web-based patient portal messages.

Many hospitals and health systems have been slow to apply technology to patient engagement, but new solutions exist that are easy to implement and easy to use for both patients and healthcare staff. Becker's Hospital Review recently spoke with two experts from Intrado about the potential to transform patient engagement through self-scheduling of appointments:

  • Vik Krishnan, General Manager, Intrado Digital Workflows
  • Kamal Anand, Senior Vice President of Growth, Intrado Healthcare

Consumer and healthcare industry trends are driving the need for new approaches to patient engagement 

A recent study by KLAS found that nearly 7 out of 10 patients want the ability to self-schedule appointments online, yet only 37 percent can currently do so. "There is a strong preference on the patient side for communicating asynchronously with healthcare providers using channels they are comfortable with, like texting," Mr. Krishnan said. "They want powerful self-service features like appointment scheduling and rescheduling that don't require them to pick up the phone."

At the same time, health sector pressures are driving organizations to automate patient engagement. Interacting with patients by phone is a significant operational burden for staff members. Self-scheduling appointments can mitigate employee burnout and drive higher visit volumes which translate into higher revenue. 

To automate patient interactions, contextual, interactive and adaptive technologies are essential

"When a health system reaches out to a patient in an automated way, there needs to be context about the situation," Mr. Anand said. "That context may affect the messaging and the nature of the interaction. For example, if I'm scheduled for a colonoscopy, my healthcare provider needs to prepare me for the appointment. We helped one customer solve for revenue loss due to patients not being prepared for their colonoscopies and procedures being cancelled at the time of the appointment. This lack of preparation resulted in losses of $1.5 million in the previous year."

Patient engagement technologies also need to be interactive. One-way notifications aren't enough. "People want to interact with the system and take the next step using a closed-loop workflow," Mr. Anand said. 

Finally, technologies must be adaptive, learning over time how particular consumers react to different communications. For example, some people respond better to SMS messages, while others are more responsive to emails or phone calls. Based on this information, patient engagement systems can adapt. 

Most health systems are in the early stages of the patient engagement journey

"When we talk about the evolution of what's possible and where organizations are today with automated patient engagement, I think about four stages," Mr. Krishnan said. 

  • Stage A is one-way notifications that usually center around appointment reminders.
    "Technologically, we are far past that in terms of capabilities," Mr. Krishnan said. "Yet, too many healthcare providers are still operating at Stage A." 
  • Stage B involves two-way messaging with automation and closed-loop workflows.
    Patients can engage in a dialogue using SMS texting or an interactive voice response (IVR) system and they can take actions like self-scheduling appointments. There is also automation for things like pre-procedure processes and notifications. 
  • Stage C is conversational chatbots.
    "We are seeing some Stage C capabilities in the industry," Mr. Krishnan said. "I define these as conversational chatbots. They focus on inbound communications and the digital front door." 
  • Stage D is a comprehensive, interoperable digital experience.
    "The future is Stage D, which is more ambitious," Mr. Krishnan said. "It's a true end-to-end, interoperable digital experience with integration across multiple systems and providers, and a continuous journey for the patient." 

Based on Intrado's experience, one of the real opportunities for hospitals and health systems is to move from Stage A to Stage B. "Organizations can take advantage of automation, two-way SMS and IVR technologies, as well as closed-loop workflows," Mr. Krishnan said. "If providers partner with the right vendor, they can capture significant ROI in months. It doesn't have to be a daunting journey." 

Mr. Anand agreed. "Many healthcare professionals, especially in operations, don't appreciate the ROI that can be achieved," he said. "If an organization reaches out to patients to close care gaps, each appointment could be worth $150, while the SMS outreach costs only a few cents. Even if only a small percentage of patients respond, the ROI is very significant."

Through automation, healthcare organizations can engage patients proactively and at scale

Many health systems are discovering how to leverage technology to engage patients at scale without burdening staff. This gives employees additional time to focus on harder-to-reach patients and patient care. 

"AdvantageCare Physicians in New York City, for example, uses SMS for appointment rescheduling," Mr. Anand said. "Patients text when they need to reschedule appointments. They are presented with options and can text back to confirm their selection. There's no staff involvement. Operational efficiency improves and the patient experience is much better."

Another Intrado customer contacted patients electronically to schedule COVID-19 vaccinations. Patients booked their own appointments without staff intervention. The response rate was high, even among older generations, and the no-show rate was less than 1 percent because patients were involved in the process.


Today's hospitals and health systems face staffing pressure, revenue pressure and pressure to ensure that patients aren't ignoring important preventive care. In this environment, patient engagement technology can deliver significant value. 

"Automated patient engagement is a hot topic for most C-level executives," Mr. Anand said. "They want to improve the patient experience, while increasing revenues and the bottom line by increasing visit volumes. Both the technologies and the need exist, and we can bring those together. I think the time is opportune to take action."

Learn more about Intrado here!

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