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How hospitals are using interactive voice response systems for automated patient messaging

Kathleen Gaffney| Healthcare Strategist| Dimension Data Healthcare

Kathleen Gaffney| Healthcare Strategist| Dimension Data Healthcare

Wouldn’t you like to improve provider-patient communication, customer loyalty, and retention by delivering personalized information to patients in a manner customized to their needs?  What about reducing operating expenses and increase profits?

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is a communication system that allows data to be provided or collected over the phone via voice recognition or keypad response. IVR systems can increase the utilization of resources and efficiency for the hospital as many procedures can be automated using this software.  This means staff can refocus on more clinical or revenue generating tasks.

In a prior blog, “Interactive Voice Response in Healthcare,” I discussed inbound patient calls to a self-service voice portal. This blog focuses on leveraging IVR functionality for automating outbound messaging to patients and their care providers. For outbound calls, the IVR enables voice and text messages to be sent to patients’ phones. The key to this functionality is that the IVR is integrated with a variety of hospital systems including EMR, Lab, Accounts Payable, Scheduling, Customer Management, and Hospital Management systems. Here are a few examples of how hospitals are using their IVR system for automated patient messaging:

  • Billing and Collections– Hospitals send outbound IVR and text payment reminders including the ability for customers to interact with the system to make a payment.
  • Patient Notifications– Hospitals privately deliver time-sensitive information such as pre-op instructions, post-op reminders, notification of overdue test or lab work and medication reminders via IVR phone calls and interactive SMS.
  • Appointment Reminders– IVR sends messages reminding patients of an upcoming appointment. These messages can be interactive, allowing patients to respond and reschedule appointments if necessary.  Automated messaging reduces no-shows, which increases revenue and productivity.
  • Automated Healthy Promotion Messages– Information on diabetes, smoking cessation, flu shots, parenting and newborn care, immunizations, back to school tips, healthy nutrition and habits for reducing the risk of chronic diseases and other customized health Information are sent to patients.
  • Push Test Results to Physicians and Providers–Test reports are made available to consulting physicians by an outbound call as soon as the test is complete. It can lead to faster decision making by the physician. From an organization’s perspective, automated test result lines reduces unnecessary phone calls and telephone tag regarding the results of lab tests.
  • Patient Satisfaction Survey– Patient satisfaction is a key determinant of quality of care and an important component of pay-for-performance metrics. Under the CMS Hospital Inpatient Value-Based Purchasing (HIVBP) program, Medicare reimbursements are linked to patient satisfaction and surveys completed by patients. An automated call is sent to a patient 24 to 48 post-discharge to assess satisfaction. Outbound calls can screen for patients who wish to speak with a live agent.
  • Marketing Programs– Hospitals do outbound calls and conduct polls and surveys, gather feedback from previous patients, communicate about upcoming events and philanthropy campaigns.  Hospitals are leveraging contact center and IVR solutions to support customer relationship management, retain customers and improve customer loyalty.