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Postcards From Your Doctor?
It’s a different topic than you might expect. Postcards are the “old fashioned” form of communication. They take time, effort to generate from your system or pick up at the kiosk, then you have to fill in the content, address them and of course add postage. So what’s the deal with postcards?
Well, in the last year I received no less than 10 postcards, reminding me of the services that were needed. They include everything from reminders about up-to-date immunizations, to health screenings and follow-ups after an injury. It seems that my Dr. it’s really on top. They care deeply about the health of their patients and are using their information system well, to ensure that the care needed for their patients does not slip.
Now, I know I’m not the only one getting these from this doctor either. All his patients receive postcards, with the same kind of reminders. The last time I was in their office, I asked their office manager, and she said they run the cards every week and mail them out on Monday, so they don’t get lost in the big batches of weekend mail and coupons. “We have a high compliance rate,” he said. “It also keeps the doctor’s schedule very full, so much so that we were able to hire another provider to handle the overflow.”
What I found unique about their postcard is that they also include on the card a picture of their patient, AND the patient’s name and date of birth. I asked him about HIPAA and his response was, “It’s not really an issue with our specialty.” Oh to be so lucky I thought. “Was it hard to get down to the routine where these became an automatic part of your process?” I asked “Not really. We decided to implement this functionality shortly after we went live. We felt it served a good purpose for both patients and the clinic, so it was a no-brainer.”
As I sat back in the waiting room, I looked around at all the patients. Some were fussier and louder than others; some you could tell didn’t feel right. There were a couple of them sitting on their bailor’s lap, some just sitting, or even lying on the ground. One was constantly scratching his neck, stomach and ears.
Finally it was my turn to go back. I, being the guarantor, did most of the communication, talking about the leg injury, and the doctor listened carefully, marked a few things in her computerized medical record, and then examined the leg area. “Yeah, looks like she licked him so hard it broke his skin.” I was stunned. This is the second time this has happened. “So use the collar, spray Bactine and let it heal, just like last time?” I said “That’s right. Bichons are an allergy-prone dog, and when they get irritated, they’ll go to the bone if you let them, trying to stop the itching.”
You read that right, dog. My Dr. (DVM) entered everything into his “EMR”. The bill was waiting for me on the way out, the receptionist told me they would call in a week to check on the progress and to call if things got worse.
Now the reason I wrote this is simple. In the 30+ years that I have been a patient of my family doctor, I have yet to receive a postcard, email, letter or phone call reminding me of the next health maintenance for me. -0-. The few times I get lab results it’s 50/50 if I get a call back in 2-3 days with the results, I usually have to call the office to check because they haven’t had a chance to call me yet. My doctor has been in EMR for 4 years. Part of a moderately large health system implementation. They can produce emails, they can produce postcards, letters and reminders, but they, like many offices, are “too busy” to incorporate it into their routine. I get appointment reminders, but that’s to preserve income. Let your systems generate income.
The year ends here, very soon. Now is the best time to start planning where your office will be next year. If you’re just launching an EMR, be sure to include practical goals that have real patient value attached to them. If you’re an EMR veteran, look at areas of opportunity for improvement and put a solid plan in place to take you to the next level. Too often, I see a “just get by” mentality, which creates more workarounds, frustrations, and inefficiencies than necessary.
I know you can’t send postcards with pictures and personal information of your patients, but I also know that every year gives us a chance to look back, look forward, and make changes to make the next year better than the last. Take a long lunch with your staff this month. Find out where they see opportunities for improvement. Ask your patients how you can serve them better. If you are a HealthCo customer, you can ask us, if not, ask your provider for ideas.
Finally, as you can see, the dog is recovering. I could keep that necklace all year round so we don’t have to visit Dr. anymore.
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