Over the last few months, I’ve been sharing information about what healthcare providers should consider when choosing a communications partner to provide patient outreach. Recently, I addressed outreach modalities and discussed the pros and cons of the various communication modalities. This month I wanted to discuss the purpose of patient outreach, which is often viewed purely as a method by which patients can obtain their equipment, and resupply revenues can be gained. At CareTouch, we are focused on these two objectives, but there is a third objective that is without a doubt, even more important. I am biased. My amazing wife Karin is a clinical nurse manager, and has engrained in me throughout my work at CareTouch that it is unacceptable to be in communication with a patient and not ask how they are doing with their therapy. Your resupply program is your on-going communication link to your patients. Adding a couple of therapy questions to your resupply program can:
- Give you a way to remain on top of the health of your patient population
- Provide early warning signs of a potentially larger problem for a specific patient
- Allows you to better manage your entire population
How a Therapy-Focused Resupply Program Helps You Better Manage Patients
A therapy-focused resupply program allows you to filter through your patient population and identify the patients that need personal follow-up. For example, if you have 1500 patients on a CPAP resupply program, it is likely that 5% of them are having minor issues with their therapy. In this case 75 patients are having some sort of issue. Without an outreach program, it can be difficult and expensive to identify the patients that need intervention. With a therapy-rich outreach program, these 75 patients are easily identifiable. The types of questions to ask are common and rather simple. A few sample therapy questions to ask include:
- What is your overall satisfaction with your therapy?
- Is your therapy controlling your symptoms?
- Do you need to talk with a healthcare provider?
- Are your symptoms the same, better or worse?
- Do you need to schedule an appointment?
Asking just 2 or 3 of these questions will allow you to better understand the patient’s situation, and take appropriate follow-up action. In addition, looking at these answers from a population perspective will provide unique insights into your business. Comparing the results from one location to another, for example, can be incredibly insightful.
How Not Having a Therapy-Focused Program Diminishes Financial Returns
Not having a patient outreach program, or having one designed for pure resupply is short term and will provide a diminishing financial return over time. One example of this is through your referral sources, i.e. physicians, who care significantly about outcomes. If your patients are going back to their physicians with complications, worsening symptoms, or complaints about lack of follow-up, it is likely that they will begin to refer patients elsewhere – that is, your competitors. Losing a referral source can have a significant financial impact on your business.
A resupply program that includes therapy focus can solve minor patient concerns prior to them becoming larger issues, enabling you to identify patients that need a follow-up physician visit. Referring these patients back to their physician due to warning signs that were discovered through therapy-focused outreach permanently alters the relationship between you and your referral source because you become a real bidirectional partner with them.
The takeaway is simple. Outreach is important on many levels, and can benefit the patient and your business in measurable ways when done right. By developing a therapy-focused outreach program, the end result is win-win-win: for the patients, their physicians, and your business.
Matthew Dolph is CEO of CareTouch Communications, Inc. and brings 20 years of management experience to the company’s operations. He has helped design, implement and manage numerous patient communication solutions for CareTouch customers and business partners. He coaches multiple competitive soccer teams and lives in Colorado with his wife and four children.