Sending automated medical appointment reminders has been shown to decrease appointment “no shows” and has a potential to enhance the patient-provider relationship. However, given the concern about data breaches, automated appointment reminders remain an underutilized feature of patient portals. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, appointment reminders are allowed under the HIPAA privacy rules. Their position on the topic is: “Appointment reminders are considered part of treatment of an individual and, therefore, can be made without authorization” meaning that providers don’t need to worry about breaching HIPAA while sending an appointment reminder.
To ensure that you and your patients are protected, Bridge recommends you do the following when launching an automated medical appointment reminder system:
- Make sure your NPP (Notice of Privacy Practices) is updated and includes information about opting-in for appointment reminders by SMS and/or email.
- The NPP should be explicitly clear and state something similar to “We are going to be sending automated SMS text message/email reminders about your upcoming appointments. If this is a problem for you please notify us.”
- Have patients verify their contact information, including their phone number, regularly.
- Consider an additional opt-in outside of the NPP; many people do not read the NPP and texting appointment data may be unacceptable to some people.
- Give patients the option for a preferred method of contact, or at the least, the ability to opt out of specific outreach methods.
What to Include in (and Exclude from) a HIPAA-Compliant Appointment Reminder
When sending appointment reminders via SMS text messages it is best to avoid being too specific. Keep in mind that practice names can infer types of treatment or conditions. For example, “Oncology Clinic” clearly indicates that the patient has cancer.
Generic reminders include:
- Appointment date and time
- Provider first and last name
- Location of the appointment
By using these tips, you can get the most out of your patient portal and have peace of mind that you are not compromising your patient’s right to privacy or causing any data breaches.
Americans are busier now more than ever, and if healthcare organizations want to keep up, they must adjust their systems to complement the on-the-go lifestyles of their patients. One way practices are staying in step with their patients is by streamlining the process that gets the patients in the door. Many have turned to a patient portal to manage patient appointment requests and send appointment reminders. Below we discuss how employing these two features can confront common appointment challenges and generate more satisfied patients, and, ultimately, more revenue. (more…)
Introducing new technologies to streamline time-consuming processes can help your healthcare organization boost its bottom line by making more efficient use of your employees’ time. These simple recommendations will help you increase productivity, optimize operations and improve patient satisfaction.
1. Implement a patient portal.
Online healthcare portals don’t just provide benefits to physicians participating in Meaningful Use. In fact, practices and hospitals that aren’t enrolled in the EHR Incentive Program can get just as much value out of a patient portal by streamlining some of the most commonly-performed administrative processes.
Implementing a patient portal allows you to:
- Let patients schedule their own appointments online. A portal can show patients available slots based on your practice’s calendar. This allows patients to make appointments without tying up your practice’s phone lines.
- Respond to medication refill requests without picking up the phone. From your healthcare organization’s online portal, you can easily view all refill request submissions and either approve them or notify the patient to schedule an appointment.
- Improve revenue cycle efforts. Many online portals allow patients to view account summaries and pay their bills online. If your portal integrates with your accounting software, payment information will transfer over automatically.
Reducing even a fraction of all incoming calls by pointing patients in the direction of an online portal can significantly increase productivity.
2. Automate the appointment reminder process.
There are two effective options that can help hospitals and practices notify patients of their upcoming appointments. Both are more efficient than assigning an employee to call each patient one by one. You can either set up email reminders or use an automated call system.
Email reminders – and even text message reminders – can ensure that today’s always-connected patients don’t forget about their appointments. After all, missed appointments cost your practice money and can be detrimental to patient health. For patients who prefer not to be contacted electronically, automated phone reminders are the way to go. A pre-recorded message in your own voice can add a personal touch to the reminder, and it doesn’t require staff to spend valuable time on the phone each day.
3. Focus on computerized charge capture.
Accurate charge capture is one of the most important processes for any successful business, yet it is one that many healthcare organizations take for granted. In fact, it is not uncommon for paper charge tickets to be lost or misplaced – and when that happens, that’s money that isn’t coming into the practice. To make sure this doesn’t happen, implement electronic charge capture processes and phase out paper. There are many smartphone apps that allow physicians to easily capture CPT and ICD codes, which can then be transferred to a practice management system.
What other health IT tools has your healthcare organization implemented? Share them with us in the comments.
This article was originally published on the MWE blog.