How much do your patients remember when they leave your facility? Do they take medication as prescribed, show up for follow-up visits and follow through with therapy and other aftercare requirements? Failure to comply with these crucial components of care has a huge impact on patient outcomes. Yet, patients tend to immediately forget 40-80% of information their care providers present to them. According to a study in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, more than half of the patients "immediately" forgot verbal directions once they left the doctor’s office, and half of the information they remembered was incorrect. Hospital patients don’t fare much better, with retention rates at the same level and a whole lot more follow-up care information to retain.
The emotional state of the person receiving this information is another, often overlooked, dynamic. In circumstances where a family member is responsible for the patient’s care after an outpatient procedure or a challenging hospital stay, for example, that family member is likely distracted by concern for their loved one – especially if the patient is showing any signs of discomfort. Facing a stack of paperwork and instructions in this moment can simply be overwhelming for the caregiver.
What can you do to improve retention rates – and therefore improve patient compliance and outcomes? The way you deliver the information matters and plays a big role in just how much your patient retains.
How to Improve Patient Retention
Facilities and doctor’s offices have traditionally relied on paper to help with patient retention. While this concept works in theory, giving a patient a stack of papers alone may just add to the confusion, particularly if the discharge documents are long or extend over multiple pages.
As a conclusion to the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine study, supplementing the mass amount of paper with more user friendly and high tech prompts may be one key to improving patient retention. By providing patients with an easily viewed, easily paused video that featured detailed directions, doctors at New York's Lenox Hill Hospital were able to improve post-visit retention and compliance. Extending this concept to not only include communicating immediate care instructions in a format that is easy to understand but also a series of alerts and prompts throughout the recovery process has the potential to improve compliance and outcomes even further.
Text and Mobile Messaging Solutions
One approach to reliably delivering these prompts and alerts is integrating an automated delivery system like text messaging into the discharge process. Given the need to protect sensitive information, the text messages can include embedded links that, after the appropriate authentication, securely delivers patient and procedure specific alerts and gathers patient reported health status (e.g., pain levels). This approach uses a simple, immediate and widely available communication channel to make a real difference in patient treatment plan compliance. It is next to impossible to contact all of your patients by phone to simply see how they are recovering or to double check that they are performing the correct follow-up care procedures. Even if you are able to contact everyone by phone, the problem of information retention remains. A text message is instantly accessible and allows your patients to simply scroll back through their messages to be reminded of the steps they should be taking or who to call if they have questions.
The information overload at the point of departure is unavoidable; every patient who visits your facility will likely leave with a stack of papers, and most will be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information. Delivering a thoughtful, targeted set of prompts that support post-treatment care and the many follow up details that patients and their caregivers need to keep track of can improve retention leading to reduced readmissions and improved outcomes.
Text Messaging: Designing a Program That Really Works
If you are reading this, you already know that the benefits of this communication channel are numerous and include boosting effectiveness and efficiency, improving outcomes and enhancing the patient experience. Realizing these benefits, however, is predicated on a well thought-out, end-to-end messaging initiative.