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The stakes are undoubtedly high when it comes to effective and efficient healthcare communications. Whether sending appointment reminders or providing access to test results, organizations need to be confident they are reaching their patients and engaging them in the critical decisions regarding their personal health.
In supporting patient health, organizations need a communications system that improves their own health — from communicating services to collecting payments— so they can continue to thrive and address critical needs. Already stretched thin amidst a global pandemic, healthcare entities must also grapple with a persistent and universal challenge: engaging patients and prospects how and when they want to be reached.
That’s never been more difficult. Patients are certainly not immune to the nonstop barrage of unsolicited spam emails and robocalls, leading most people to ignore legitimate correspondence from the healthcare organizations they otherwise trust. So how can this beleaguered health industry break through to the people who need to hear from them most?
Increasingly, the solution is strengthening the email channel with intelligent customer data strategies, and then layering that data on top of existing voice channel tactics for an “intelligent omnichannel” approach. This gives organizations the ability to send email notifications to customers in advance of an impending call, dramatically raising the likelihood of that call being answered. Not only do these tactics dramatically improve patient response and satisfaction rates, they also mitigate compliance risk for the healthcare organizations.
Boosting email intelligence key to improving results
New tools make this much more feasible. Email intelligence solutions help healthcare companies effectively tackle addressability and efficiency issues while reducing associated risks. By incorporating additional signals and awarding “contactability” scores, email intelligence can provide valuable insights on message deliverability and address activity, as well as identity linkages that help ensure that a communication is tailored to the intended recipient. The result is more reliable data for correcting and completing patient email data, ultimately improving the reach and engagement of outbound communications.
The most robust intelligence solutions provide insights on a patient’s or customer’s preferred email address as well as alternative email addresses for those who prove hard to reach. They also flag email addresses to avoid, whether it is a business address prohibited by regulation or a spam trap. By incorporating longevity, activity data, and other measures, these solutions are highly predictive of which emails will be delivered successfully. Ultimately, healthcare enterprises gain greater confidence when operating in a changing, fast-paced environment that is both growing more regulated and leaning more toward omnichannel communication strategies.
Getting emails opened while ensuring compliant connections with patients
Any outbound communication from healthcare companies must maintain awareness of and adherence to regulatory guidelines. These are in place to keep sensitive information protected, and consequently, place limitations on the mode of communication for certain patient notifications. As an example, HIPAA guidelines prohibit patient information from being left on a voicemail associated with a work or a shared home phone line unless the patient provides consent to do so.
Similar limitations are in place for outbound email communications. In addition to healthcare-specific regulations, there are also broader federal regulations that prohibit emailing information to the wrong party. Violating these rules can result in significant consequences for the sender. Even an email to the right person but the wrong email address can create legal liability due to regulations that prohibit certain types of outreach to work addresses.
Costs of an inefficient email channel
To be effective, healthcare professionals need to have a complete picture of patient contact information. That way they can simultaneously improve their chances of contacting their patients while mitigating compliance risk. While most healthcare outreach is prompted by a recent action by a patient where a credible piece of contact information was obtained, it is likely that a complete list of contact information – including alternative email addresses, SMS, and phone numbers – was not captured or updated. That common oversight may leave healthcare businesses with data that is useless at best and risky at worst.
Patients with multiple email addresses associated with their names and accounts put healthcare enterprises in the difficult position of not knowing which email address is linked to the identity. At the same time, most organizations have little insight into an email address’s longevity, recent activity or other pertinent factors that would determine if communications sent to an address on record will reach the intended recipient and be opened and acted upon.
It’s also important to recognize that contact information is in a constant state of change, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The state of the economy suggests that many people are changing jobs, mobile carriers, and addresses as they move away from urban settings or look to alternative cost-saving options. When these life changes lead to new contact details, healthcare organizations are rarely kept in the loop.
This is compounded by today’s business environment. Organizational consolidations and acquisitions can generate duplicate and fractional identifiers, similarities between business address domains can cause confusion, and ongoing consumer privacy concerns make maintaining accurate contact information for patients a constant struggle. Yet every outdated or ineffective email addresses represents a missed revenue opportunity or a potential spam trap that could impact a healthcare organization’s IP reputation. There’s no way to improve the quality of an organization’s patient communications without precise customer contact data.
Healthcare organizations operating without the right email intelligence put their customers at a disadvantage. Patients could miss out on important appointment reminders or test results as well as any vital practice- or industry-level developments, such as opportunities for vaccinations or new health guidance. Additionally, patients could have their sensitive and protected personal information sent to an old, potentially compromised email address that opens the door to fraud or identity theft. With healthcare information valued 20 to 50 times greater than financial information on the black market, it’s no surprise that hackers are exploiting every vulnerability in the email channel.
That’s why both the public and private sector are shifting to smart omnichannel strategies to improve patient and member communication, reduce costs and mitigate compliance risk with constantly changing regulations. Email intelligence is a critical component. When layered atop existing systems and operations, it can enrich a healthcare organization’s patient contact data — corroborating, validating and appending information across records to enable more efficient and effective contact across all communication channels. Reaching patients at the right time and via the right channel will enable healthcare enterprises to move in the right direction when it comes to pursuing better healthcare patient engagement and organizational effectiveness.
Robert McKay, is SVP of Identity Resolution for Neustar, a TransUnion company.