Article Date: 5/1/2013

Contact Patients �Virtually�
software

Contact Patients “Virtually”

Survey, remind, notify and inform patients (and more) electronically. Here’s how.

KEVIN GEE, O.D., HOUSTON, TEXAS

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Tethered technology has hit epidemic proportions: A total of 26% of American adults own an e-reader, 31% of American adults own a tablet computer, and roughly 45% of American adults have a smartphone, says the Pew Research Center, (www.pewresearch.org). In addition, Americans spend a little more than two-and-a-half hours a day focused on their smartphones and tablets, says Flurry Analytics, a company that tracks how consumers interact with their mobile devices (www.flurry.com).

Given this data, if we want to remain on our patients’ minds for their eye care (which translates to patient loyalty and referrals), we must stay in “virtual touch” with them. Patient communication systems (PCS) enable this. Naysayers believe these systems deliver patient reminders and appointment confirmations alone. This isn’t so. PCS also includes online surveys and more, all of which can help grow your practice. Further, they allow your staff to focus on the non-administrative areas of your practice, such as pre-testing. Finally, patients say they appreciate receiving practice information (e.g. promotions, appointment reminders, etc.) via PCS, as they can examine the information at their convenience rather than receiving an “intrusive” phone call.

Here, I discuss what you should evaluate prior to choosing such a system and how to implement it in your practice.

System evaluation

The three primary features to evaluate in this order:

1. Desired characteristics. Make a wish list of the characteristics you’d like your PCS to have, and conduct research on each vendor (See “PCS Software” below) to determine which one(s) have most or even all these characteristics.

Patient Communication Systems Software

athenaCommunicator: http://landing.athenahealth.com/g/improvecare/athenaCommunicator-5ZT-2145LS.html

Brevium: www.brevium.com

CareCloud: www.carecloud.com

DemandForce: www.demandforce.com

Websystems3: www.websystem3.com

Patient Prompt: www.patientprompt.com

SolutionReach: www.solutionreach.com

Sophrona Solutions: www.sophrona.com

For instance, it was important for me to have a PCS that would automatically notify patients when their glasses and contact lens orders had arrived. This way, my staff wouldn’t have to call patients about their orders. I was able to find a system that contains an “arrived” button, which immediately sends an order notice to patients.

Another must for me: I wanted a system that didn’t have an “opt-in” feature. In other words, I wanted my staff to be able to enroll patients themselves, after asking the patients’ permission, of course, and patients would then have the option to opt out. By removing any work on the patient’s part, I felt I’d have a better chance of using the PCS on all my patients.

2. Operation. Once you’ve found the PCS that has your desired characteristics, assess what the system will cost you, in terms of practice time.

Questions to ask the vendor:

1. Will it communicate seamlessly with my EHR? The majority of these systems already have relationships with the major EHR systems, some with additional features, depending on their association with the particular EHR vendor.

2. How do I set up the system?

3. How much of it requires manual vs. automatic operation?

4. What type of maintenance is required?

3. Pricing. Practice management systems are available with all-inclusive and a la carte pricing structures. Weigh system features against their pricing to decide which one makes the most sense (and cents) for you.

Practice implementation

Now, it’s time to spread the word to patients about the PCS availability.

To accomplish this:

Have your intake forms and front office staff ask for e-mail addresses and mobile numbers. The intake forms and staff should communicate that you utilize this private information “only for practice-related news” and that “it will not be shared with any outside party.”

Have the intake forms and staff inform patients that they do have an opportunity to “unsubscribe” to the practice’s PCS if they desire.

My practice has a PCS acceptance rate of at least 88%.

Take a look

Our reception rooms are likely a testament to the aforementioned Pew Research Center and Flurry Analytics numbers. Take a minute or two to look at your waiting patients. How many are focused on mobile devices vs. reading a magazine, book or simply staring off into space? I think you’ll find this experience illuminating. OM

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Dr. Gee practices privately in Houston, Texas, with an interest in sports vision and cataract care. He is also an assistant clinical professor at the University of Houston College of Optometry and a consultant for SolutionReach, a practice management system, though has no financial interest in the company. E-mail him at kevingee@gmail.com, or send comments to optometricmanagement@gmail.com.



Optometric Management, Volume: 48 , Issue: May 2013, page(s): 56 57 67