Rural Hospital Reduces No-Shows with a Boost in Patient Engagement

American Hospital Association
Apr 30, 2024
Article Background

National Library of Medicine research has shown that critical access hospitals (CAHs) lag behind non-CAHs for advanced use of electronic health records (EHRs), specifically in the use of patient engagement features.

Sparta Community Hospital, in a rural Illinois town about 50 miles southeast of St. Louis, is bucking this trend. It is using proactive, patient-facing communication technology that integrates with its EHR system data to reach patients in a more user-friendly way to reduce its no-show rates.

The hospital’s average no-show rate was nearly 15%, about 25% higher than the average in the field. The organization implemented a one-way messaging platform (Patient Connect from TruBridge) that combines the EHR with the communication system to deliver relevant medical reminders and information directly to patients.

Automated appointment reminders and messages streamline appointments by gathering pertinent health, insurance, identification and, eventually, payment information ahead of time through integration with the EHR. The platform also serves linguistically diverse patients by providing language services, such as translation, before appointments to ease the process of filling out documents.

The automated messages provide an opportunity to reschedule with a few keystrokes rather than requiring patients to pick up the phone, an experience barrier that was suspected to contribute to no-shows.

Since implementation, the hospital has reduced no-show rates from 15% to 9%, the hospital reports. In addition, it has seen a 50% reduction in the burden on clinical staff since launching the platform.

Without the need to make appointment-reminder phone calls, and collect insurance and health information at the start of an appointment, administrators are free to do more pressing, high-value tasks such as processing insurance claims or improving the experience of care in the physical facility.

The hospital plans to use the platform in its mobile clinics that drive to underserved areas where populations lack access to care. The platform also will be expanded to collect co-pays prior to appointments — an important consideration because the mobile clinics do not accept cash payments.

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