Preventive infant care is critical, given that well-child visits from birth through the age 3 play an instrumental role in identifying potential health issues. Yet making, attending and scheduling the requisite 15 visits in those first early years can pose a challenge for parents.
Park Nicollet Clinics, part of the HealthPartners healthcare system in Bloomington, Minnesota, is trying to limit that challenge using mobile technology. The team has turned to texting to remind parents to schedule visits and the results, so far, have been successful, with a 71 percent conversion rate--547 parents scheduled visits following reminders sent to 772 individuals, overall.
FierceMobileHealthcare reached out to Ali Salita, a project manager for clinical health support at Park Nicollet for further insight.
FierceMobileHealthcare: What was the motivating factor in going with the text approach rather than email or phone calls?
Ali Salita: We had tried other approaches with some success, and we still use those methods. The trend we are seeing in communicating with patients is moving toward a preferred method of communication. Most people have a cellphone and find it much more convenient to use that and text versus taking action from a letter or a phone call.
Texting also has added efficiencies. The link to the number to call to schedule is right in the text, so the parent does not need to go looking for a number. Texts can be stored, whereas letters typically get thrown away or buried in a pile of other letters. From a clinic perspective, texting also saves on resources. The more automated the outreach, the less time clinic staff is using to outreach to patients, and the more timely the outreach.
FMH: With the text approach, are parents able to text back to set up the appointment and are there reminders/follow-ups past the initial text message for a well visit?
Salita: They cannot text back to schedule, but there is a link for them to call. We currently do not have the capability to schedule via text message. We are looking at creating additional text reminders for those that do not act on the first texting reminder “re-reminder.” Work has not started on this yet.
FMH: What other mobile tools does Park Nicollet use to improve consumer care and experiences?
Salita: We are working on automated reminders for appointments that are already scheduled. This was rolled out parallel to our pilot. The appointment reminders go out approximately two days before the scheduled appointment, reminding patients of the date and time. The reminder message can also be customized with pre-appointment information on things like coming in early to fill out forms.
FMH: Have there been any challenges or hurdles--possibly on the opt-in aspect of having patient parents open to receiving texts?
Salita: We wanted a process that was like other forms of consent. We did not want to complicate things for the frontline staff. Enrollment at the sites has not seen any negative impact. It is very easy to dis-enroll from the program if parents do not like the format, all they need to do is click a dis-enroll option within the text and they are removed from the program. This has not happened very often. Parents can opt-in to the texting program at both acute and well child clinic appointments.
FMH: Do you see a potential future use for the text platform--follow up messages on needed tests, etc.?
Salita: Yes. We have already started to use this same technology for hospital discharge follow-ups, in place of a phone call. And, we are considering using this to outreach to our patients with chronic conditions that are coming due or overdue for services.
Editor's Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.