It’s clear to see that the healthcare sector is under strain. The waiting list for routine treatments in the UK is currently at 7.33 million, whilst those seeking emergency treatment face 12 hour wait times in A&E. Just recently, the NHS spent £1 million per week on private ambulances to meet gaps in demand. As purse strings tighten and demand soars, leaders need new strategies to alleviate the pressures they face. Improved communication with patients in the first instance could provide this much-needed antidote.

In areas such as retail, proactive communication has been front of mind for decades. Regardless of industry or sector, it’s clear to see that proactive communications consistently boost engagement. Healthcare organisations can look to retail to understand the tools and tech available to provide patients with consistent check-ups and personalised service. Keeping the lines of communication open means patient outcomes are improved as individuals are encouraged to consciously engage with their health.

Proactive communications – The link between missed appointments and A&E admissions 

One of the key challenges facing the NHS and the healthcare sector is reducing readmissions. There is a direct correlation between patients keeping appointments and being readmitted. For instance, if a patient goes in for a routine operation like a knee replacement, they get discharged with a series of follow-up appointments to check their progress. However, if they develop any new symptoms like signs of an infection or increased pain, they can be more likely to visit A&E.

Proactive communications can help bridge the gap between routine appointments and the need for urgent care at A&E. Healthcare organisations can reduce avoidable emergency admissions by addressing patients’ health concerns via the communication channel of their choice – before the situation escalates and the patient visits A&E. By integrating data from electronic health records (EHRs) and care systems into communications, healthcare providers can streamline patient comms and triage care more effectively. With regular proactive check-ins based on each patient’s record, healthcare advisors can keep tabs on discharged patients and put their minds at ease, able to move up an appointment or arrange a virtual consultation if any concerns arise.

Learning from retail, where brands contact people who have bought a particular product and then follow up with surveys, warranty information and/or future sales opportunities, healthcare organisations can contact patients who have had a particular procedure or health concern. They can then provide care reminders or additional information available based on their unique care plan. Ultimately, managing discharged patients with proactive aftercare communications can reduce the number of people visiting A&E and dialling 999.

Maintaining consistent dialogue with patients 

Proactive communications go far beyond reducing readmissions – they serve as an effective tool to get people engaged with their healthcare system and reduce pressure on A&E altogether. One of the key challenges is that people can lack interest and incentive, or let health issues progress until they are critical before taking action.

With AI-powered proactive outreach and personalised communications, the NHS can get patients more engaged in their own care. Looking to retail as a shining example of boosting customer engagement, healthcare institutions need to look at how they can personalise their communications and meet patients where they are. It can be as simple as a text checking in on a patient’s mental health and reminding them of an appointment, an automated email reminding someone that their routine flu jab is coming up, or a DM linking to new diet and fitness advice.

Keeping patients informed, scheduling or rescheduling appointments, and managing repeat prescriptions can all become more efficient through the use of proactive communications. AI is vital to keep the communication consistent when healthcare staff are overstretched, delivering proactive communications that help to keep patients out of A&E.

Steering clear of worst-case scenarios 

Proactive communications can help further by potentially reducing emergency scenarios. Often, people call 111 in non-emergency situations, yet almost one in five callers give up before they get through to receive medical advice or treatment. The result – non-emergency enquiries turn into unnecessary A&E visits or ambulance callouts.

Proactive communications can also help healthcare leaders to recognise severe health conditions sooner. Quicker diagnosis means earlier treatment and reduces the pressure on costly emergency resources. Instead, patients can be referred to remote or outpatient settings. When patients call with non-urgent symptoms, AI and IVAs (Intelligent Virtual Assistants) can motivate callers to stay on the line by providing updates on wait time. Patients receive a notification or call-back when they are next in line. This consistent communication motivates patients to engage in conversations about their health. Therefore, routine symptoms are acted upon instead of worsening. People are more understanding and compliant when they are kept informed.

Intelligent Virtual Assistants can streamline triage processes too. When a patient is routed to the right care provider for their situation, doctors and GPs can direct their energy to the most urgent cases. Nurses can then advise on next steps for more routine enquiries as needed. Effective usage of staff creates positive experiences for patients and increases the likelihood of future contact. As a result, more ‘minor’ symptoms are acted upon and not left to worsen.

Moving forward, healthcare leaders can reduce pressure on emergency services by maintaining open lines of communication with service users. Keeping patients in the loop regarding their own care provides consistency after hospital discharge, allows doctors to spot potentially life-threatening conditions before emergencies occur, and increases the safety and satisfaction of service users overall. Retail has clearly highlighted the benefits of proactive communications and provides a good starting point as healthcare leaders look to follow suit.

By Roni Jamesmeyer, Senior Healthcare Manager at Five9

The post TLC, not A&E: Reducing Emergency Situations through Proactive Communications appeared first on .

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