The is part of a series of lessons in our medical marketing course. For the entire course, please check out our medical marketing lessons.
Our patient contact center does community outreach for our healthcare customers. Basically, this breaks down into a few campaigns – mailing postcards, voicemail drops, sending SMS (to mobiles) and a voice call from agents for the last mile (i.e. patients that just don’t respond).
- Set up the community outreach process workflow
Our customers send us a file with prospect names each month OR we buy prospect / people data from InfoUSA.com for the same. Some of them want our patient contact center team to start dialing those numbers immediately. Meanwhile, some clients prefer to start with sending postcard mailers first. Some customers prefer to start with sending SMS to mobile numbers and call / leave a voicemail to prospects.
Regardless, the workflow is adjusted per customer’s wishes. You can also follow something as below for your own community outreach initiatives.
- Set up the pre-requisites
1. Set aside a team to concentrate on patient engagement.
2. Set up your Amazon Web Services account – it doesn’t take more than 5 mins to do so. This ensures that all SMS, voice numbers that you provision and use during the community outreach stay in your account. You would need this because you might choose to hire an external patient contact center team. If they are no longer engaged with you, the numbers they’ve been using, should remain with you.
3. Getting new phone numbers is dirt cheap with providers like Amazon (around $1 per month). Set aside a separate SMS number for patient outreach. This is done in Amazon Pinpoint. Keep in mind that in the USA, the same Amazon Pinpoint number (long code) can handle SMS and Voicemail drops.
4. Next, set aside a separate voice number for patient outreach cold calls in Amazon Connect Contact Center. Note that if SMS and voice originate from the same number, it might jeopardize both numbers being marked as SPAM by patients unwittingly. It happens – sometimes patients mark numbers as spam unwittingly. Here’s a guide on getting started with Amazon Connect.
5. Then, you set up a cloud based IVR (Amazon Connect Contact Center) for this initiative.
6. You do need a separate patient CRM instance for patient outreach. It gets a little hairy trying to do this with spreadsheets (trust us – we have been there, done that).
7. Make sure you obtain or designate separate EMR login credentials for the outreach team (for creating new appointments)
8. Set up or get a confirmation on the scheduling process (block times for new appointments vs ad hoc appointments) and visit types.
9. Figure out if televisits are acceptable as a way to introduce your practice to the patients. READ MORE : How to deploy a telehealth strategy for your practice)
10. Make sure that you set up escalation point of contact for both parties (outreach team and the scheduling team)
11. Prepare and get sign off on calling scripts and SMS scripts. Make sure that all parties understand the outreach frequency.
13. An outreach frequency could be that you send patients postcard mailers, then the next week you send those patients an SMS, the week after you do voicemail drops for those patients, the week thereafter, you send them an SMS again or call them.
14. Set up weekly calls for progress updates between the stakeholders and the outreach team. There must be a mutual agreement on dispositions of calls because you will be reporting on the daily activities and outcomes.
15. Finalize the handover protocol from the outreach team to the scheduling team (e.g. mark new appointments with Chief Complaint / HPI or just “new appointment” etc).
16. If the outreach team also does appointment reminders, then finalize the cadence of the same (e.g. 7 days before, 2 days before and day of appointment or some other cadence that you all can agree on).
17. If the outreach team also handles no-shows, then finalize the no-show cadence / modalities. Make sure that all parties agree to it.
18. Finalize cancellation cadence / modalities if your outreach team is going to handle cancellations. Keep in mind that these prospects are cancelling before their first visit, so they are treated “almost” like a cold call (not a warm call).
19. Before you get started, find out if your upper management / stakeholders want to enrich prospect data with social data or not. If so, finalize whether social data should be mined and social outreach should be made (e.g Facebook, Twitter etc)
20. Are you going to have your outreach agents also handle incoming website chats? If you are going to do that, then make sure that you set up a protocol to delineate who handles what for existing vs new patients. Among new patients, figure out whether the new patients are from outreach or whether they are just patients that discovered your practice. Make a decision on how you would handle both.
21. Decide on whether you are going to create and send monthly / weekly/ quarterly campaigns based on patient/prospects’ segmented data. See below – an example for a primary care practice.
22. Last but not the least – make sure that you finalize your patient journeys. This means that you need to figure out the journey that your prospects would take, the brand touch points they would face before they become your patients.
- Create a set of patient segmentation led campaigns (examples below)
For a primary care business, you have MULTIPLE reasons to reach out to a prospect / patient. Some of these can be the initial outreach itself and some can be after the prospect has become a patient of your practice.
(CDC) COMPREHENSIVE DIABETES CARE
(CBP) CONTROLLING HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
(COA) CARE FOR OLDER ADULTS
(COL) COLORECTAL CANCER SCREENING
(BCS) BREAST CANCER SCREENING
(CCS) CERVICAL CANCER SCREENING
(CIS) CHILDHOOD IMMUNIZATION STATUS
(IMA) IMMUNIZATIONS FOR ADOLESCENTS
(W15/W34/AWC) WELL-CHILD AND ADOLESCENT WELL-CARE VISITS
(ABA) ADULT BMI ASSESSMENT
- Finalize your workflow (recommendation below)
1. Monthly – Import each month’s file as an audience into Amazon Pinpoint. Read this guide on how to import endpoints into Amazon Pinpoint.
2. Once you have imported endpoints / audiences into Amazon Pinpoint, segment them based on whatever your campaign criteria are. See here for help on creating segments.
3. Run the Amazon Pinpoint PhoneNumberValidate feature to figure out which numbers are mobile vs non-mobile. For the mobile numbers, you are going to send SMS. For the non-mobile numbers, you are going to drop a voicemail.
4. Daily (or any regular schedule / cadence you decide upon), send outreach SMS to mobile numbers received. Since you are using Amazon Pinpoint, this also allows for A/B testing of messaging to various segments.
5. Daily (or any regular schedule / cadence you decide upon), send outreach voicemail drops to non-mobile numbers received. Since you are using Amazon Pinpoint, this also allows for A/B testing of messaging to various segments. Here’s some help on how to send voice messages to prospects.
6. Daily (or any regular schedule / cadence you decide upon), make outreach calls to landline numbers received (allows for A/B testing of messaging). These calls need to be made from Amazon Connect.
7. On a regular basis, update your community outreach tracker / CRM. Read below on how to use a community outreach tracker/CRM using Amazon HoneyCode. Here’s a guide on how to get started with Amazon Honeycode
8. For patients that pick up the call, we recommend that you ensure capturing the patient’s mobile number. This allows you to have another contact point with the patient in addition to being able to contact the patient throughout the day (vs being stuck with a home phone number).
- If patient agrees to an appointment
a. Create the patient in the EMR
b. Make an appointment
c. Dispose the call and update patient status based on agreement, in the community outreach tracker.
d. Send appt confirmation SMS immediately (same SMS as where the outreach went from)
e. Send SMS appointment reminders based on agreed upon cadence
f. Call patients for appointment reminders based on agreement
g. Call no show and cancelled patients based on agreement
h. Send SEEN patients review requests based on agreed upon messaging
i. Respond to patient reviews based on agreed upon messaging
- For patients that did not agree to an appointment
a. Send practice info immediately via SMS
b. Dispose call and set up reminder to follow up next month
- For patients that did not pick up the call but have voicemail set up
a. Leave VM with agreed upon messaging, asking for a callback at your phone number.
b. Dispose the call as agreed upon in the community tracker CRM and set up a reminder to follow up next month with next month’s messaging
- For patients that did not pick up the call and do NOT have voicemail set up
Dispose the call and set up reminder to follow up at agreed upon cadence
- Callbacks and inbound calls
Arguably, there will be callbacks and inbound calls (maybe even from postcard mailers sent out to prospective patients).
a. For each incoming call, dispose the call appropriately so it can be reported on
b. For each inbound call, if the patient wants an appointment, create the patient in the EMR, then create the appointment based on your agreement.
- Rinse, repeat, report
a. Daily – repeat outreach from last month’s reminders, dispose according to agreement (modalities and frequency)
b. Weekly – consolidate and send week’s efforts, inputs from lessons learnt to your stakeholders 🙂
Sample scripts for voicemail drops and SMS scripts – new patient activation
The following are just samples only.. PLUS, these are for plain-jane new patient activation campaigns only. Each campaign’s messaging will be co-created by your client and your staff. This is for suggestive / illustrative purposes only.
Voicemail drop sample scripts
“Hi <patient first name>, I am calling on behalf of Dr <PCP last name> from <practice name>. Your insurance company <payer name> would like you to get your annual exam done with Dr <PCP last name> at your earliest convenience. Please call us back at <the phone number you purchased> or text us at <the SMS number you purchased>. Thank you and have a great day!”
“Hi <patient first name>, I am calling from <practice name>. Your insurance company <payer name> would like you to get your annual exam scheduled with us at your earliest convenience. Please call us back at <you purchased> or text us at <the SMS number you purchased>. Thank you and have a great day!”
“Hi <patient first name>, I am calling on behalf of Dr <PCP last name>. Your insurance company <payer name> would like you to schedule your annual exam with Dr <PCP last name> at your earliest convenience. Please call us back at <the phone number you purchased> or text us at <the SMS number you purchased>. Thank you and have a great day!”
SMS sample scripts
“Hi <patient first name>, This is John from <practice name>. Your insurance company <payer name> would like you to schedule your annual exam with Dr <PCP last name> at your earliest convenience. Please call us back at <the phone number you purchased> or text us back here. Thank you and have a great day!”
“Hi <patient first name>, This is John from Dr <PCP last name>. Your insurance company <payer name> would like you to schedule your annual exam with Dr <PCP last name> at your earliest convenience. Please call us back at <the phone number you purchased> or text us back. Thank you and have a great day!”
Choose a simple community CRM over spreadsheets
In the past, we used to run our campaigns using spreadsheets / google sheets, but that got hairy pretty fast. Learn from our mistakes – use a no-frills, plain-jane simple community outreach CRM to run these campaigns. We have found our productivity to jump leaps and bounds since we started using a simple CRM that’s basically a glorified spreadsheet.. Just infinitely better!
You need a barebones community outreach CRM to reach out to patients that are “prospects” for your hospital/health system.
Most healthcare marketers are used to working with spreadsheets. That’s OK to do but the problem is that spreadsheets are cumbersome to manage, people overwrite data all the time and there’s no history associated with it (not easily anyway).
Spreadsheets don’t help us with checking for duplicates either. Our advice is to use a simple community outreach CRM to organize your marketing efforts.