Even though patients are extremely concerned about catching the flu, not all patients who call necessarily have the flu. Here some steps that a healthcare practice can implement to communicate with their patients effectively, deal with the flood of patient calls and speed up patients in the waiting rooms as well. I realize that for many practices some of these steps might a little too late to implement for the current flu season, however they are well worth the investment for making your practice more efficient, productive and profitable in the long run.
- Send an email to your patients informing them about the current flu situation and direct them to your website for more information.
- Post answers to the most frequently asked questions/concerns regarding flu on your practice website that patients can look up before they call the practice. This should include answers to common causes of flu, how it is spread, precautions that patients can take, symptoms of flu, how to deal with it etc. The goal of this is to provide as much information as you can to cut down on the number of phone calls that your staff has to answer.
- Use your website to provide up-to-date information about the availability of flu shots at your practice and flu clinics that you may be running.
- Pediatric practices can also have a standard “excused from school note” template in electronic form that can be securely emailed to the parents/school nurse to inform them of the child’s absence.
- Use of electronic tablets can make the patient check-in process easier. Wireless tablets connected to EMR’s not only capture patient information, but also check insurance eligibility and collect accurate copay before the doctor sees the patient. This streamlines the workflow and speeds up the whole process.
- Use patient portals to communicate securely with patients. Patients can ask questions and request prescription refills online, freeing valuable staff time playing phone tag with patients.
- Have an online appointment calendar to allow patients to check provider availability.
I know some of your patients may not have access to internet( though this percentage is decreasing by day due to the rapid growth of smart phone usage), but having the ability to communicate with patients via email or texting will help convey relevant information regarding the flu to those with access to the internet. The goal of each of these steps is to free up healthcare provider as well as the supporting staff’s time from doing repetitive work and help them focus on treating the patients. The leveraging technology can help practices effectively deal with this flu emergency as well as make your practice more productive and profitable.