By Doug Cundiff, MPT, MPH, VP, ReDoc 360 Professional Services
There are several key differentiators between inpatient and outpatient care, but we’ve noticed that the most prominent—and the most troublesome—is how patient relationships form. Inpatient treatment provides days on end for patients to interact with hospital staff and ask critical questions. In comparison, patients receiving outpatient care receive just hours at a time to build therapeutic rapport.
For those at a loss for how to build and maintain strong relationships in a hospital outpatient program, here are four tips.
1. Provide Secure Messaging Options
Inpatient patients have the leisure of pressing a button whenever they need immediate assistance or have a burning question for their doctor. Individuals in hospital outpatient programs aren’t so lucky—which means that outpatient clinics likely receive several phone calls and emails from patients each day. However, the unplanned back-and-forth between patients at home can distract rehab therapists from the patients sitting in their treatment rooms.
Secure messaging options can enable staff to show each patient the attention they deserve. Not only can staff respond to non-urgent questions from patients, but they can also discuss key treatment factors, including prescriptions or upcoming appointments. Net Health’s telehealth service offers a messaging feature that encourages individuals to follow-through with their plan of care (POC) and allows rehab therapists to follow-up when the time is right for them. With secure messaging options, rehab therapists can build on their patient relationships at a pace that fits their schedule.
2. Allow Access to Health Information and Appointments
Trust is the key pillar of a successful hospital outpatient relationship. Patients come to rehab therapy to improve their health, so rehab therapists may want to seek ways to eliminate any barriers that prevent patients from accessing their health information. We have seen that granting outpatients full transparency into their treatment plan by providing 24/7 access to their chart, including discharge instructions, home exercise programs, and applicable educational materials, can help promote engagement. Similarly, patients benefit if they can view all previous and upcoming appointments. Access to these dates can drastically reduce the chance of an accidentally missed appointment.
3. Streamline Current Patient Portal
While relationships with your patients may begin in-person, their overall impression of a clinic can darken when they attempt to engage with rehab therapists online. Considering that hospital outpatient patients are at home far more than they’re with the therapist, making the effort to streamline the current online patient portal can make it easier for patients to participate in their health. An ideal patient portal would integrate secure messaging, access to appointments, and the ability to schedule telehealth or in-person appointments.
An efficient patient portal would also allow for secure, on-demand access to a patient’s therapy health information as well as their treating physician. Not only can this portal reduce the number of phone calls and messages that an outpatient clinic receives, but it can also help forge a stronger relationship between clinics and their clients. A patient portal eliminates any barriers between patients and therapists, allowing everyone involved to focus on the shared goal: wellness.
4. Offer Telehealth and Videoconferencing Services
Now more than ever, patients with health restrictions and travel limitations are seeking alternative avenues to access medical care. Despite safety precautions put in place following reopenings, pandemic concerns have older and immuno-compromised individuals hesitant to visit hospitals. And we’ve heard from clients that there are a number of patients wary of public transportation who are unable to transport themselves to attend outpatient care.
Telehealth and videoconferencing services allow hospital outpatient programs to maintain regular communication with all patients, regardless of any potential roadblocks. Real-time, HIPAA-compliant video services also help limit no-show appointments by offering outpatient clients multiple avenues to reach their rehab therapists. Telehealth provides an alternative method of connecting with service providers, so patients aren’t left feeling neglected or unsure how to proceed between treatment.
Limited access to patients can strain your relationships. Learn how our EHR software solution, Net Health Therapy for Outpatient Clinics, can help you build therapeutic rapport with current and future patients.