Over 27 million underserved patients visit Federally Qualified Health Centers across the country every year now, representing 8% of the total U.S. population. These patients are disproportionately impacted by chronic diseases and include many hard-to-reach patient groups, such as homeless populations, who are particularly challenging to care for.
Saban Community Clinic, a Los Angeles-based FQHC, is particularly experienced with caring for transient patients and has recently implemented a successful patient engagement strategy leveraging text messaging to effectively communicate with this population.
As studies have shown, including our own research, text messaging is a medium for communication that has the highest response rates among underserved patients. It can be especially effective in reminding these patients about appointments, filling gaps in care, and providing health education. Here are four lessons from Saban’s patient engagement strategy to apply to your own.
Because Saban Community Clinic had a limited number of staff members to communicate with patients through their call center and during in-person visits, they focused their efforts in using text messaging to drive operational efficiency and improve outcomes. They asked themselves the following questions:
With these questions in mind, Saban decided to help their call center staff maximize their time and efficiently connect with patients through using text messagings for appointment confirmations while using phone calls to help with other initiatives. Ana Vazquez Alvarado, EHR Integration Manager at Saban, shared one area of impact on no-show reduction:
“We noticed our amount of call center staff didn't change, but their work shifted [from using CareMessage]. Instead of taking so many calls about cancelling appointments, we started taking more calls about appointments needing to be made.”
Sending patients appointment reminders via text message allowed Saban to open up more appointments to patients who were waiting to be seen. They were able to receive confirmations and cancellations from patients, updated in their EMR real-time, decrease their cycle time in clinic as well as save the front desk time to check in patients and keeping providers on schedule.
Serving underserved populations, particularly low-income and homeless individuals, presents a unique set of challenges to health centers across the United States.
At CareMessage, we’ve found that while sending text messages to underserved patients is the best medium for communication, the content within those messages is crucial to improve response rates and health outcomes. Here are a few tactics Saban Community Clinic used to connect with their hard-to-reach patient population:
By leveraging CareMessage’s message library, Saban can send texts at a 5th grade reading level, in culturally relevant English or Spanish based on patient preferences in the EMR, and allow for data collection on appointments, flu shots, and other metrics of care. Saban is sending out appointment reminders everyday, while also creating patient groups to send outreach messages to for preventive care such as flu shots and screenings.
Saban’s learning from prioritizing their patient engagement strategy started with asking the question: do we have the right technology in place to engage with all of our patients at scale? They shared a few learnings about how to implement a new patient engagement technology in any health center:
Eager to continue driving even stronger patient engagement, Saban shared a few ideas on how they plan to expand their strategy further:
To learn more about how to implement a patient engagement strategy, use the below form to connect with the CareMessage team.
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