High-volume hospitals often encounter problems in booking and managing patient appointments. Take North Florida Women’s Care in Tallahassee, for example. With a growing list of patients and approximately 50,000 encounters a year, the practice struggled with keeping up with appointment management and responding to patients in a timely manner i.e., usually patients had to wait 20 minutes or more when calling.The deployment of a patient engagement system about a year ago helped change things for the better. The patient engagement tech means the practice is now able to use text messaging to simplify scheduling, cancellations and rescheduling. “Our old system had some nice features to it, but when an appointment was cancelled by the patient, we had to manually start making call-downs to find a replacement,” said Bill Hambsh, CEO and practising administrator of North Florida Women’s Care. As the mobile text messaging technology is integrated with the practice’s electronic health record, cancellations now automatically are detected on the clinic’s calendar and proactively filled with the next patient on the waitlist. Moreover, hospital administrators can send reminders one week in advance of an appointment, then two days prior, and finally two hours before patients’ scheduled visits.”Patients prefer communicating with us via text message and now they can easily cancel or reschedule an appointment by simply responding to one of these texts,” Hambsh said. “Ninety percent of our patient population is under 65 years of age, so being able to reach them on their phones is huge.”In addition, physicians now use texting to guide patients with clinical information and ensure a better visit. For example, the clinic now can prepare patients for different procedures, such as an ultrasound, by tapping into the appointment categorisation in the EHR and automatically generate a reminder message in advance of the visit.

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