Podcast #48

How to Alleviate Staffing Shortages by Leveraging Marketing Technology

The healthcare industry continues to face ongoing labor shortages which is resulting in employee burnout, poor operational efficiency, and low capacity limits. In order to mitigate the impact of staffing shortages, it is important to understand how marketing technology can help improve operational efficiencies and prevent turnover.

Episode Highlights:

Lauren Leone

Lauren Leone: “A lot of the big-patient management systems now have two-way texts. Just like we talked about on the front end, there’s technologies to keep your patients engaged through text and emails, things like automatic appointment reminders so that you know if a patient should be coming in every six months.”

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Announcer: Welcome to the Ignite Podcast, the only healthcare marketing podcast that digs into the digital strategies and tactics that help you accelerate growth. Each week, Cardinal’s experts explore innovative ways to build your digital presence and attract more patients. Buckle up for another episode of Ignite.

Alex Membrillo: I’m tired, you are tired, your staff is definitely tired, and the more everybody turns over, the more you got to recruit. Very expensive. Today, we’re going to talk about the things you can do from a marketing perspective to reduce burnout and turnover and make your practice more efficient. We’ve got Lauren Leone, our SVP of Healthcare Marketing, SVP of every damn thing here at Cardinal with us, and she’s going to talk about the different technology and strategies that you can employ to try to reduce burnout.

There’s not a ton marketers can do, but there are little things that are going to buy your admin, your office support, your call center more time and make them more happy, more productive. Lauren, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? What are some of the things that you can do from an automation perspective to help staffing?

Lauren Leone: I would imagine the hardest thing for the front office staff to do is to be checking in and checking out patients, providing a good experience to the patient in the office while also having to answer the phone every time it rings for every new appointment request, reschedule, “Send me my records,” whatever it may be. How can they possibly be present and have to do all of that? I think it also leads to steep no-answer rates, a steep drop-off from lead to new patient appointment bookings.

Usually, the first thing we’re looking at is how can you improve the new patient booking experience? There’s a lot of things that different groups are doing, implementing online scheduling being number one. If you can take out that human interaction, give patients the opportunity to schedule directly online and integrate with the provider’s calendars, then that person at the front office no longer has to take the phone call.

Alex: That last part is the key. That is not just some facade scheduling thing where someone actually has to call back and say, “Oh, Dr. Smith’s really not available.”

Lauren: I’m not talking about appointment requests, “Tell us your preferred time.” I’m talking about integrating with the actual schedules of the providers for new and returning patients to be able to book.

Alex: I’ve got a question for you. On our clients that have calls, email forms, and patient appointment scheduling, what proportion of them do their own scheduling?

Lauren: It varies significantly because in a low acuity simple decision like maybe going to the dentist, it’s going to be really high, but when there is some sort of perceived burden, whether that’s, “Do you take my insurance? Do you specialize in the thing that I’m looking, or does a specific provider have the ability to see me in a reasonable timeframe?” you may be getting more phone calls to just clarify that information.

Alex: Got it.

Lauren: There’s a mix. Having all three so that the patient can decide how they want to get in touch with you is usually a recommendation that we’re making.

Alex: Something cool that I saw to get more patients scheduled the other day, we’re walking through a demo for Line, which is a cool analytics platform, I’m not compensated yet to mention them.

Lauren: This is not a promoted link.

Alex: It was cool. When an email form gets submitted to the practice, it’s a call-tracking call analysis software like CallRail or Call Box two of our other friends. When an email form came in, it would automatically call the call center and have them pinged with the patient right then. It’s pretty cool.

Lauren: There’s some pretty cool technologies out there. If you aren’t able to implement online scheduling yet for whatever reason, integrations, operational impact, there are solutions, a call center being number one. If you can bring in a call center to offset the burden of that front office staff whose job it is only to answer that phone and help the patient navigate through the booking experience, great.

This technology is to improve, what organizations like Line are doing, if I either place a phone call and it didn’t get answered, or I fill out a form request for a callback. Instead of waiting even 30 minutes for the call center to call me back, what Line is doing is within 30 to 60 seconds of that form coming in, they are robo-calling in a reasonable way the patient back. As soon as the patient answers, they’re connecting them with the office. They’re doing that step.

What you really want to have happen is before the user even closes out their session and their browser and clicks the X on your website is they’re already receiving that phone call because if you let even 5, 10, 30 minutes go by, especially for busy parents, working parents, they’re out of sight, out of mind. It may be another two months before they think about booking that dental appointment for their kid again.

Alex: It’s wild. I was talking to a client last night and we’ve driven a lot of leads, but the phone’s not getting picked up. We’re listening to the calls and the calls are dropping, the people are dropping because it gets past the automated intro intake thing and nobody’s picking up the phone, and I was so beside myself.

This topic’s really relevant because we’ve got to get more time to the call centers, to the office admin, to whoever’s picking up the phone so that they can get to every intake call that’s coming. What else comes to mind? Any kind of technology?

Lauren: Once you’ve acquired the patient there, we all know there’s paperwork that has to be filled out, there’s insurance verifications, there’s new patient intake forms. Doing all of that digitally ahead of the appointment can really improve- even little things, improve the perceived experience of the patient so they don’t feel like, “Oh, I got to the office, I waited 20 minutes. I had to fill out a bunch of paperwork manually or on a tablet,” and just felt like they were waiting forever to see the provider show up 20 minutes beforehand, things that just are friction points in the patient experience.

Use digital channels. This isn’t even a digital marketing tactic. This is literally just, build out your new patient forms either through your website in a HIPAA-compliant manner or integrate with your patient management system that may have the forms available. You can embed them, you can send links out to them. Use the digital version of that onboarding paperwork so that you don’t have to burden the patient with doing it when they arrive at the office.

Alex: You could use a Salesforce thing and then build an automation, new lead comes in, start sending, I don’t know. Live chat, messaging, any of that kind of stuff, have you seen in health provider groups?

Lauren: Live chat, there’s a lot of really cool things with live chat. Now, if you’re willing to take the time on the front end to build out, through a bot, some of the basic questions like I come to the chat and you could literally click a button for “I’m a new patient,” “I’m a returning patient.” If I clicked on “new,” do you want to book an appointment today? Do you want to verify your insurance?

You hit a certain point in the user experience with the bot where they then need to connect you with someone, “Would you like me to connect you with a call center now to speak with a live representative? Would you like me to send you our new patient intake paperwork?” whatever it may be to just improve that experience. A lot of times it doesn’t always have to be a human manning a chat system.

Alex: You’re fine with the AI robot to do [crosstalk]

Lauren: To a degree. They’re going to get that patient through a couple basic questions. If I’m a returning patient, am I looking to book my next appointment, am I looking to be put in touch with the billing department? All of this still reduces that person at the front desk who would have to answer the phone and say, “Let me connect you with the billing department.” They can focus on the patient standing in front of them in the office.

Alex: I like it. That’s cool. Take some work on the front end. Do you ever recommend having a live person on live chat?

Lauren: Yes. If you have the time to do it. What a lot of groups are doing now is a call center also manages the live chat. It’s the same user experience whether I’m talking or typing. What’s really cool, and Line is one of the groups that are doing it and there’s a lot of others, is two-way texts. I personally love texting to book my appointments. How convenient. I can just either send in my request or text my office and say, “I’m looking to book an appointment. What’s your availability next week?” They can text you back and say, “How about Tuesday at 9:30? Dr. So-and-So is available.” Just super convenient for the world we live in and how busy we all are.

Alex: Since no one’s picking up the damn phone, maybe that’s easier. [laughs]

Lauren: It’s the happy marriage between call center– As a user, maybe I don’t want to pick up the phone, but you don’t quite have online scheduling integrated yet. What can I do to interact with you where I don’t have to pick up the phone but I can still get it done virtually?

Alex: Lots of fun stuff you can do post-care, post-visit. Lots of automation systems are out there and a lot of groups are not using this stuff. They’re manually still calling and saying, “Time for your next appointment.” What are some other ways? What are some way more efficient, forward-thinking ways we can get that stuff done.

Lauren: A lot of the big-patient management systems now have two-way texts. Just like we talked about on the front end, there’s technologies to keep your patients engaged through text and emails, things like automatic appointment reminders so that you know if a patient should be coming in every six months. Make sure that they’re getting that text message to either book or remind them that they’ve already booked.

Your front office staff doesn’t have to call them and verify or intake the call where they’re saying, “Ah, I forgot I had this appointment. I need to cancel it.” Just a little bit of burden and friction reduction there. How about post-care information and education? “Here’s some information on the procedure that you had today. Here’s some information on care afterwards. Here’s some information on what to expect in terms of your next three visits.” If it’s physical therapy or whatever it may be that is needed afterwards, all of that can be delivered digitally and automatically. The big one, I think too, in the post-care space that really aids us on the front end is review solicitation. Sending the message text is the quickest and best way to do it. Five minutes after my visit, I’m walking out to my car, I’ve got the text, it was automated after my appointment was marked as completed in the patient management system and it says, “You saw Dr. So-and-So today. How was your experience? Please, leave us a review on Google.”

Alex: You can incorporate all of that. I like the post-care education. It’s wonderful to educate them on how to prevent that injury from happening again and prevent readmission. That’s cool, but yields a ton of referrals. You’re getting into the inbox and reminding them of your practice. Every single week you should be sending them a blog or a video, to provider review, [unintelligible 00:10:50] something should be going into their inbox, so they remember to tell their friends when they tear their ACL or need a dentist.

Lauren: Yes. That’s where CRM and nurture meets patient management and appointment reminders. That would be something like building out a program, a newsletter to talk about practice updates, to talk about new facilities, new providers, new technologies coming in, changes in insurance, “We now accept Cigna. Everyone who maybe couldn’t come see us before because they weren’t in the network, now we are.” There’s a lot you could be doing on the nurture side with patients to remind them that you’re still there.

Alex: You need a content machine. Agencies can do a good bit of, “Well, you’re smaller, that’s fine.” Have them create blog articles and some, whatever, updates about insurance providers that have come into the practice, awards they won. That’s fine. We can do it for a while. Eventually, you need your own content machine in-house and you need to email it out. We need to get a little more advanced in healthcare marketing.

We’re so afraid of automation and HIPAA and all this stuff. While you can do within the world of Salesforce, HIPAA certified, you can do journey builder and educate your patients. It’s just a referral system basically. I want to see more groups doing more after-care.

Lauren: I get asked, “Can you, on the front end in digital marketing through advertising, help me with my patient retention?” and my answer is always, “No. If you are not actively doing email, why would I spend money to serve an impression to a matched device ID when you’re not even doing email? You have their email and all you have to do is send them the email to their inbox.” Only if and when those programs are really strong are we then looking at our clients and saying, “Yes, now we can layer on maybe a digital retention program.”

Alex: Part of me thinks the provider groups that are going to do the best over the next 10 years are going to see themselves as libraries, education machines, media companies, for their patients. Who educates the best is going to be the most successful provider group. If you care about patients and education and preventing the next injury, I think you’re going to do great. You have to build a media machine in-house. I think that’s going to be a way around it.

Lauren: If you recall two webinars ago, we interviewed Ashly Joys from Behavioral Innovations, and her entire ethos in their digital marketing strategy was around building content because ABA is a complex decision. It’s you’re making a decision for the next 10, 12 years of your child’s life on how, when, and where you’re going to receive care. That education piece is what really helped that organization grow. If you want to check out someone doing it well, there’s an example.

Alex: Mid to high acuity, high consideration provider service lines, they’ve got to do a ton of education. It could be three months before you decide on an ABA provider for your kids. Same thing for cardio-oncology. Man, I wish more provider groups will get on it and stop focusing just on the acquisition through search and SEO. I love it, that’s what we do, but it sure makes it easier when they already know about you and then they look at three results in search and they say, “Oh man, they’ve been educating me for a long time. I want to go with them.”

Okay. I hope you guys enjoyed today’s episode all about efficiencies driven through marketing that are going to help reduce burnout, help reduce turnover, make your practice more efficient, and increase bottom lines. Thank you, Lauren, for joining us. Y’all make sure you review, subscribe, and tell your friends unless you didn’t like it. In which case, keep it to yourself. Talk to you next week.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to this episode of Ignite. Interested in keeping up with the latest trends in healthcare marketing? Subscribe to our podcast and leave a rating and review. For more healthcare marketing tips, visit our blog at cardinaldigitalmarketing.com.

[00:14:45] [END OF AUDIO]

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