“What happened?” asked the person on the left.

The person on the right replied, “I forgot my appointment!”

Whether you’re a consumer or a professional, you’ve likely been on one side or the other of this short conversation. Clearly, the reminder (if one’s being used) didn’t work. That signals a breakdown of marketing that can likely be improved by the Electronic Health Record (EHR).
Marketing

The two most common methods of decreasing the occurrence of this conversation are (1) the telephone reminder and (2) a reminder note strategically mailed to the consumer to arrive a day or two before the appointment. The reminder needs to come close enough to the appointment that the significance doesn’t fade from memory…I read years ago that point is around 72 hours…people forget, even though they’ve been reminded. When this sort of marketing is successful, two things improve: (1) No-Shows are decreased, and (2) if a person needs to cancel or reschedule their appointment, time is available to fill the appointment with a consumer calling in at the last minute for an appointment.

So, these reminders are marketing tools because they show the professional cares enough to reach out to the consumer to assure they get the care they’ve asked for. You may ask how the EHR fits into this equation…I’m sure you have at least an inkling of how this works, and it doesn’t hurt to keep this sort of thing in mind as business processes evolve.

Appointment scheduling in the EHR is a collaborative effort among professionals (or their front desk person) and consumers, and that’s easy with the computer sharing what dates and times are available for the professional. Once an appointment is agreed upon, most EHRs are set up with the capability to both schedule an alert for a telephone call to be made and to print various reports, including a print run for appointment reminder letters to be sent to consumers that day.

If your EHR isn’t doing these things, consider the business angle: For the cost of a recouping a few no-shows, connecting with a professional (like yours truly) to set up this sort of marketing capability has a significant long-term payoff. Efficiencies gained for larger organizations should be significant.

Now, let’s talk about electronic communication between a referrer and referee. Referrals from primary physicians to Mental Health professionals assure the consumer gets integrated care. Integrated care is a buzz-phrase right now, and it makes sense, as we are all connected, body, mind and spirit.

The EHR can have a referrer portal as well as a consumer portal. The referrer portal is important because it helps the referrer track treatment in the external organization. After all, referrals are made with a specific purpose in mind, and if a consumer is being treated for anxiety or depression the referrer will need to know what’s happened since the last time the consumer was seen.

Consumer portals are a really handy method for a consumer to track their medications, appointments, bill, and other interactions with the professional. This is an attractive feature for the consumer and in some cases that can be good marketing (or perhaps some folks will agree that I’m reaching into the ozone with this concept).

These aspects of marketing are important ways the EHR can help the professional and the consumer. They’re not the only options available with this powerful tool. Newsletters can be generated and managed for a professional’s consumer base, reminders and holiday greetings can be managed by the software, and a ton of other possibilities can come into play offering better service to consumers, which equates to good marketing.

A always, more to come…