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Kaiser Permanente cuts patient communication costs with SMS

Mobile services poised to have significant impact

Mobile solutions for healthcare

Kaiser Permanente, the nation’s largest nonprofit healthcare provider, is using mobile as a means of cutting costs on its communication infrastructure.

Kaiser needed to find a solution that would cut patient communication costs and at the same time have the potential for a national rollout and have a considerably short development and implementation time.  The company turned to mobileStorm.

“The strategy was simple: prove SMS can reduce missed appointments,” said Jared Reitzin, CEO of mobileStorm, Los Angeles. “At $150 a pop, missed appointments cost organizations like Kaiser millions of dollars per year.”

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Kaiser Permanente is the nation's largest HMO.

SMS to the rescue
MobileStorm’s mobile marketing platform tackled cost containment through a pilot program that showed patient reminders are most impactful and SMS could make a difference for Kaiser.

Research showed that the highest receptivity to SMS traffic among Kaiser’s patient demographic would be in the 13-44 age range.

The Kaiser team agreed to engage in the pilot with mobileStorm for patient appointment and outreach campaigns.

The goal of the pilot was to:
• Deliver efficient and cost effective paperless reminders to subscribed customer base
• Continually allow for customers to opt-out or into the appointment reminder database
• Allow for contact numbers to be screened through carrier queries to distinguish (e.g.) between “work” and “mobile” phone numbers
• Build on Kaiser’s existing reputation for dedicated and efficient patient care

To hit these goals, mobileStorm designed and developed an end user SMS platform for Kaiser. It let Kaiser create and manage general appointment reminders, specific treatment reminders and notifications of completed lab results.

For brand integrity, mobileStorm set up a vanity short code (KAISER) to interact with patients.

MobileStorm integrated with Kaiser’s system called AARS, or the Automated Appointment Reminder System.

Automated SMS messages are sent to patients a day before their appointment

Taking 87,950 mobile phone numbers from Kaiser’s patient database, mobileStorm launched a carrier query - number verification - outreach.

Many phone numbers either were not mobile phone numbers or were invalid altogether. Of those, mobileStorm sent 32,864 appointment reminders.

Kaiser pushed patient information daily to the mobileStorm system. The mobileStorm platform categorized patients into targets depending on their appointment times and automatically scheduled messages to go out at a Kaiser-designated time.

Program in ruddy health
By the end of the pilot, Kaiser only lost 1.8 percent of its user group, which opted out, or asked not to receive future text reminders.

The program showed an improvement of 0.73 percent fewer no-shows for appointments or 1,837 fewer no-shows.

The outreach program had a success rate of 95.65 percent. In addition, Kaiser was able to contain communication infrastructure costs.

The one-month pilot proved that by using SMS appointment reminders Kaiser was able to save $150 per appointment - their no-show cost - which equated to a total cost savings of over $275,000 at just a single clinic.

The outcome of the pilot was so significant that Kaiser’s chief information officer green-lighted a larger roll-out, which mobileStorm has been working on for three months and just launched two weeks ago.

“Since everyone now has a cell phone and 95 percent of those phones have SMS capabilities, this relatively new channel can put a dent on missed appointments,” Mr. Reitzin said.

“America is behind when it comes to using SMS so I wouldn’t say what we are doing is unique,” he said. “However, we applaud Kaiser for getting behind this channel of communication and becoming one of the industry's early adopters.”

Giselle Tsirulnik is deputy managing editor on Mobile Marketer and Mobile Commerce Daily. Reach her at giselle@mobilemarketer.com.

 
Related content: Messaging, Kaiser Permanente, mobileStorm, Jared Reitzin, mobile marketing, mobile

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