Patient scheduling and re-engagement options as patients return to hospitals and clinics amid COVID-19

Like many businesses, healthcare providers are hoping to return to some sense of normalcy as the U.S. continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Doctor appointments and procedures declined sharply after the virus gained a stronghold in the U.S. For example, Axios reported that cardiology and spine surgery operations declined 35% and 45%, respectively, during the same time period from 2019 and 2020. The NEJM also reported a 48% decline for heart attack admissions at Kaiser Permanente’s Northern California hospitals during the COVID-19 period.

As states and localities reopen in a phased manner, patients will begin to return to hospitals and clinics for regular operations, including check-ups, elective surgeries, and routine care screenings. Healthcare providers must ensure their facilities are safe in order to welcome back their patients. They also need to be able to manage and deploy resources correctly for any increase in admissions.

Social distancing was encouraged so as not to overwhelm hospitals and care delivery professionals. Now, hospitals and clinics are at risk again for being overwhelmed if too many patients seek procedures at the same time. Putting a proper patient scheduling strategy in place can help relieve the pressure an organization might face.

As providers begin to schedule appointments for patients, there will be many questions to answer. Has a rescheduling outreach strategy been thought out? Who is proactively communicating with patients to confirm they feel comfortable with being in a hospital? Is there enough personal protective equipment to service both patients and staff?

Providing a consistent message

During this time of re-engaging with patients, there are a few key messages that healthcare providers need to be proactive in communicating to their patients. The first is “We care about you.” Many patients feel that their caregivers do not really know because they are simply “a patient.” Re-engaging with your patients is an ideal time to reinforce that you care.

The second message is, “It is safe to come back to our facilities, and here is what we have done to safeguard against COVID-19 threats.” Many patients are afraid to go into public places so while reaching out to patients to come back into your facility, reassure them that the caregiver has done everything needed to make it a safe place.

The third communication item that needs to be covered with patients is to understand any changes in their health. If a patient has had a significant change in condition such as a recent fall, that event may now qualify their nonessential surgery to now be essential. Additionally, the caregiver also needs to know if any of their personal or insurance coverage has changed since the last time they were engaged.

In addition to reassuring patients, as hospitals and health systems define their patient re-engagement strategies, there are many tools to consider that will help prevent overwhelming the staff.

Self-scheduling

Consumerism is setting a new level of expectations for the patient experience. People are used to online scheduling tools, from OpenTable for restaurant reservations to Redfin for real estate. Patients want that same convenience and flexibility when scheduling a doctor’s appointment or surgery consultation. They want to make an appointment on the day and time that fits their schedule.

Hospitals, on the other hand, want to prevent over- or double-booking appointments. By tracking self-scheduled appointments and their appointment inventory, hospitals can also ensure social distancing by making sure not too many patients are on the premises at one time.

Chatbots

A large section of the economy shut down due to COVID-19, but during this time people were and are still getting sick. As patients seek to schedule appointments, they could use some help verifying they are doing so with the right department or specialty.

Simple and automated engagement options such as chatbots on a hospital or health system’s website can help triage potential patients. Combined with the power of self-scheduling, the patient can safely make an appointment with the right department.

Proactive segmentation

If a hospital or health system is collecting data on patients, they could be leveraging the supplemental information across their reports to segment and re-engage patients.

For example, hospitals and clinics can proactively engage patients based on their risk level. If a patient is a member of a lower risk population for COVID-19, a provider can reach out to schedule or reschedule appointments. If a patient is over 65 years old and has comorbid conditions, a hospital might instead reach out to suggest patience and social distancing for non-life-threatening conditions.

Proactively scheduling and communicating safety precautions not only helps manage a waiting room, but it also builds trust with patients.

Reminder systems/proactive cancellation substitutions

As the pandemic rages on, last-minute cancellations are more likely than ever before. When patients miss appointments, providers lose revenue, especially if another patient can’t be found to fill that appointment.

Automated reminders like text messages can remind patients to confirm or cancel their appointments in a timely fashion. If a patient needs to cancel, patients on a waiting list can be contacted to take that appointment slot.

Telehealth

Not every patient needs an in-office visit. Many appointments can be conducted via telehealth to provide that first touchpoint of care.

If a patient needs to be seen in person, the case can be forwarded to the appropriate department for a physical visit.

Self-scheduling, chatbots, segmentation, text reminders, and telehealth are just a few of the tools available to prepare healthcare providers for the incoming wave of patient visits in a way that promotes healthy behaviors while not overwhelming staff.

Learn more about the tools PowerObjects offers to fuel patient re-engagement strategies.

Together We Persevere – Responding to COVID-19

In times of crisis, we at PowerObjects band together for our customers – whether it’s designing a better work-from-home configuration, opening up critical lines of communication for urgent news, or implementing the latest technology to battle the COVID-19 pandemic right on the healthcare frontlines, we are here for you.

Remote Working and Uncertain Times

Across industries like Life and Health Sciences, Financial Services, Manufacturing, Utilities, and Local & Regional Government, our goal is to keep our customers up and running throughout the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.

We’ve built a Crisis Communications Power Apps solution based on the Microsoft template to help your organization share information and collaborate with team members during this time of crisis. There are two applications within the solution that allow admin rights and end user rights to communicate timely and relevant messages to employees, host and share knowledge base articles, and link into any RSS feeds you select. To help with the current situation, the app itself – as well as initial setup and ongoing support – are free of charge.

There are several ways PowerObjects can customize and extend the app’s functionality to meet your organization’s unique needs. For example, we can add customer service capabilities as well as other notifications specific to your business. Learn more here and let us know if you wish to build this app out more for your unique requirements.

App for Planned Easing from the Lockdown

Once local governments and commercial organizations begin to ease COVID-19 restrictions, you want to provide your staff with clear visibility into your operating capability as you re-open your doors. This Power Apps solution helps streamline that transition to reinstating a more normal way of doing business.

Covid 19 Lockdown Easing Application

Preconfigured Automations for Remote and In-field Service

Remote capabilities and insight for your staff and field employees are of utmost importance during this time. With a simple SLA management, pre-configured case management process, optimized chatbot experience, and remote assist capabilities, your customer service teams will streamline operations and increase their collective bandwidth.

Microsoft Health Bot

If you are a healthcare organization, you need to know about the Microsoft Healthcare Bot – the latest Bot technology developed by Microsoft that is HIPAA compliant and can be quickly implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Within the Health Bot framework, Microsoft created COVID-19 Response Templates based on real-time data from the CDC, covering areas that improve case deflection and help you better serve your patients, virtually.

Patients can engage in a chat-like manner with the Bot to learn more about COVID-19 and go through a CDC-approved symptom self-checker. This results in reduced call volumes and increased speed and accuracy of COVID data to patients. We can quickly work with a client to stand up this Health Bot experience using the COVID-19 template or a customized version.

COVID-19 FAQs is a preapproved list of 175 questions from the CDC and can also index other FAQ databases. The QnA Maker functionality is a great example of Cognitive services leveraging Artificial Intelligence.

Check out the bot yourself! And as always, let us know how we can help you implement the Bot at your organization.

Emergency Response Power App

During this pandemic, Microsoft released this Power Apps solution that provides a set of capabilities for healthcare organizations to collect data for situational awareness of available beds and supplies, COVID-19 patients, staffing, and pending discharges. Providers are using this Power Apps template to track and gain visibility of critical but scarce resources like available beds, ventilators, and masks. We can quickly work with our clients to stand up this Emergency Response Power Apps solution and fine tune it for your specific needs – just let us know when you’re ready to implement.

Critical Item Replenishment App

Distribution has become a global issue during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Critical Item Replenishment App ensures your network of locations across the globe maintains real-time insight into inventory and can update needs centrally and quickly. The App is built on CDS, has a streamlined user interface, and takes just days to set up with a business intelligence layer included.

Critical Items Application

We’re Here to Help

With any of these solutions, the team at PowerObjects is here to help make them fit your exact business needs now and throughout this unpredictable time. PowerObjects brings you the most advanced technologies that can be quickly implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to stay committed to driving success for your end-to-end journey with our four pillars of service, support, education, and add-ons.

Above all else, PowerObjects hopes for your continued good health. Please stay safe and know that together we will overcome this – and we will come out the other side stronger and more resilient.