Software Solutions/EHR

Choosing & Optimizing Patient Engagement Software

By Chad Fleming, OD

March 26, 2020

Patient engagement software, which allows you to keep in touch with patients and remind them of appointments, can be beneficial for both patients and practice. Here is what I have learned about this technology and how I optimize it in my practice.

What Is Patient Engagement Software?
Patient engagement software is technology used to facilitate communication between a practice and its patients. Examples of what this technology can do include sending patients reminders of upcoming appointments, messages prompting patient reviews and use of voice over internet protocol (VoIP) and text messaging to respond to and reach patients. This technology allows you to meet the patient where they are, where and when it is most convenient for them. The technology helps you build relationships with patients and communicate with them in such a way that they love doing business with you.

Weeding Through the Options
There are several EHR-specific patient relationship software systems to choose from.

The most popular ones in the optometric space are 4PatientCare, Weave, Solutionreach and Demandforce. Less well known, but technologically impressive, is Plano, practice management software with functionality ranging from charting to artificial intelligence-powered billing and patient communication.

We currently use Weave as our primary patient engagement software and Solutionreach to manage online scheduling.

What Patient Engagement Software Does

                                     Secure Messaging
                                     Patient Scheduling
                                     Appointment Reminders
                                     Patient registration
                                     Patient education
                                     Bill Payment

It is wise to talk to all software companies whose products you use to verify that their servers are HIPAA-compliant. Verifying HIPAA compliance is important because software is usually housed on the software company’s server, which your practice accesses online through the cloud. All the software companies we work with have verified the HIPAA-compliance of their systems, including signing business agreements with us guaranteeing the protection of our practice data.

Choosing & Optimizing the One That’s Right for Your Practice
We have migrated most of our patient engagement to Weave due to its forward-thinking advancements in technology. The primary advantage of Weave is its VoIP, which replaced our phones over a year ago. The ability to monitor missed calls, monitor who’s taking the calls within our office, and tracking the volume of calls, has allowed us to better manage patient communications.

The online scheduling technology we use from Solutionreach has enabled our patients to make appointments online. When they schedule online, as we’ve been encouraging our patients to do, the patient does the work filling out the information and getting all the digital data into place. That information then automatically gets uploaded into our practice management system.  We don’t have to use staff to input patient information, as many people give us all of the information we need themselves when they make an appointment.

How Much Is It Going to Cost?
Cost varies depending on the EHR software that you have and whether you go with an all-in-one package like Plano offers. The major players offer packages at $300-$500. If you choose a company that is all-in-one, like Plano, you get the charting system at no cost and then each additional feature is a $99 add-on.

Benefits of Automated Recall
I have been practicing long enough that we used to have staff call and remind patients of their appointments and send postcards in the mail.

With text messaging via our patient engagement software, we can engage a patient throughout the day and we can engage more patients at one time. The workflow efficiency has been profitable in that we can use staff for selling products and not spending time engaging with, and trying to reach, patients by phone.

Patient engagement software also pays for itself because it enhances the patient experience, creating a more efficient, smoother-flowing time in the office.

Maintaining the Software Long-Term
Once the software is turned on and functioning as you determine, you only need to monitor that the software is continuing to sync and send out messages appropriately. One person in an optometric office can oversee all the automated notifications that are occurring.

What’s amazing is that AI is starting to take the place of overseeing what managers have done. For instance, Plano uses AI to do most of the work of computer monitoring and feedback of software performance.

 

Chad Fleming, OD, FAAO, is a partner with Wichita Optometry, P. A. in Wichita, Kan. To contact: chad@optometryceo.com

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