Encouraging people to avoid the ER when they’re not facing a true emergency has long been a priority for commercial and public payers as well as employer groups. While the high cost associated with these visits is certainly the primary reason for diversion efforts, the benefits of saving the ER for emergencies expand beyond just financial. For consumers, choosing the right care can save a significant amount of time, and building a relationship with a primary care physician instead of running straight to the ER can result in more consistent, informed care.
With all these benefits in mind, it’s no surprise that ER diversion campaigns have been around for years. Most Americans have likely seen direct mail, billboards, or other outreach efforts design to promote less expensive, more convenient options such as urgent care, convenience clinics, and virtual visits. A new approach, text-based messaging, can boost these efforts by getting the message into people’s hands quickly: when the message matters most.
Consider three strategies we’ve seen work for clients:
- Focus on timeliness. Soon after an ER visit is a smart time to educate people on alternatives for non-emergency care. Speak to the pain points people have just experienced with messages such as “Want to avoid long ER wait times in the future?” Then, follow up a week or two later with a reminder message that speaks to a second pain point such as “Wishing you had cheaper option than the ER?” As with all texting campaigns, we recommend using names to personalize messages. If social determinants of health reveal that getting to the doctor is a burden for a particular person, consider emphasizing virtual care.
- Pair texting with other channels. Many payers and hospital systems use outbound calls to check on people after they’ve been in the ER or have inbound nurselines for people to call when they have questions or are experiencing symptoms. Enable these call centers/nurses to provide relevant, timely information as they explain options for non-emergency care by adding texting abilities. Texting out links to maps, wait times, and other information about local convenience clinics, urgent care centers, and virtual care options empowers people with choice – and including information about average costs helps them make a choice that saves money for themselves and the whole system.
- Increase support where it’s needed. For high utilizers of ER care, go beyond information about care alternatives and use texting to link people to resources already available to them such as health coaching and case management. Texting can serve as a convenient way to build relationships with these resources, giving people a quick contact the next time symptoms or questions arise. It also provides another tool to health coaches and case managers enabling them to check in on key stats such as glucose levels, weight, medication adherence, blood pressure, and other key indicators that – when not in a healthy state – can be clear paths to the ER. Our Chronic Condition Manager product, which enables secure outreach to people dealing with health conditions, has driven 5x higher engagement with health coaches vs. other channels.
Ready to take the next step in your ER diversion efforts? Let’s connect and explore how secure (or HIPAA-compliant) text-based messaging could boost your results.
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