Mammoth Hospital implements Unified Consumer Communications to help keep locals and visitors engaged in their healthcare year-round.
“UCC has made it easy to reach out to patients during winter storms. I estimate it takes less than a minute to contact everyone on our schedule.”
Located in California’s Eastern Sierra Mountain range, Mammoth Lakes offers picturesque views and year-round adventure for outdoor enthusiasts—drawing an average of 2.8 million visitors annually. To meet the health needs of residents and visitors, Mammoth Hospital and its 12 outpatient clinics have provided personalized, accessible treatment for over 40 years. But providing healthcare in an alpine community can come with challenges.
"In the winter, we can experience extreme weather, such as heavy snowfall and avalanche risks. This can cause road closures, internet outages, and downed power or phone lines," says Connor Polcyn, family medicine and behavioral health clinic manager at Mammoth Hospital. “And in our tourist destination of a town, busy weekends frequently result in overwhelmed cell phone infrastructure, making texting the only reliable way to communicate."
To help keep residents and visitors engaged in their healthcare during times of inclement weather and throughout the year, Mammoth Hospital implemented Oracle Health’s Unified Consumer Communications (UCC). UCC enables providers to converse with patients in near real-time through the individual’s preferred channel—text, voice, or email.
"UCC has provided a user-friendly solution to automate appointment reminders, and I believe it has had very minimal—if any—down time. Messaging patients through text is flexible but standardized. For automated texts, we use smart phrases to plug in information unique to the patient—name, clinic location, provider, and appointment type," says Polcyn. “This provides a personalized experience to our patients, making them more likely to read and respond to the automated messages.”
UCC functionality also integrates with Mammoth Hospital's scheduling system. When an appointment is booked or yet to be confirmed, the patient receives a series of text reminders and confirmation requests, bridging common communication gaps. Since implementation, 93.24% of appointments in the Mammoth Hospital Family Medicine Clinic have had automated contact,1 demonstrating that patients have opted to receive appointment reminders and interact with the system. As a result of so many patients engaging with the system, no-show appointments for Mammoth Hospital also decreased by 35%.2
Severe weather can also pose risks to patient safety. Timely communication can help care teams contact patients proactively, and in mass. In turn, staff can more easily anticipate schedule changes and adjust staffing accordingly. All of which provides for a smoother patient experience and safer environment for patients and staff.
“We send broadcast messages to all scheduled patients asking them to cancel early if they think they won’t make it to their appointment. This allows us to consolidate schedules and better anticipate volumes for the day,” says Koenig.
Additionally, implementing UCC helped care teams spend less time on the phone trying to contact a patient to discuss results, field healthcare questions, and process prescription refill requests. For the Family Medicine Clinic at Mammoth Hospital, incoming calls decreased by 13.48%3 and outgoing calls decreased by 28.40%.4
"I believe UCC has helped us to significantly decrease telephone tag between our care team and patients. Before, if our nursing staff called a patient and couldn’t reach them, they would leave a generic voicemail. And if the nurse wasn’t available when the patient called back, then the cycle would repeat itself. Now, nursing staff send a simple text like, 'Is now a good time to call?’ or 'Your medication is refilled and should be ready to pick up soon.’ It really helps us coordinate and facilitate a more fluid phone call, and in many cases, allows us to avoid calling all together,” says Polcyn.
Since the implementation, staff have manually sent 12,053 outgoing text messages to patients using the two-way texting functionality of UCC.
Also, the number of incoming messages from patients reached 16,695,6 further demonstrating that patients are using the system to reliably communicate with their care team.
“I think it's more convenient for patients because they don't have to take a private phone call while sitting in the office. And instead of waiting on hold and explaining their story to two or three different layers of staff, patients can check their text message and respond back—even when our office is closed—and the message can be sorted and passed to the right member of the care team,” says Zachary Brown, outpatient medicine clinics director.
Aside from saving time for care teams and patients, getting messages to the right staff member helps deliver equitable care for patients facing language barriers.
“In our community, we also have a large Spanish-speaking population. In the past when Spanish speaking patients would call, our staff would have to ask them to hold for an interpreter,” says Polcyn. “Now, when patients send a text in Spanish, a Spanish-speaking staff member can interact with them from the start."
1Comparing 8,682 appointments with at least one automated message to the 9,311 total appointments (from August 1, 2022, through January 31, 2023). Data was not available prior to go-live in August 2022.
2Comparing the average no-show rate baseline of 9.48% (from May 2020 through July 2022) to the average no-show rate of 6.08% after implementation (August 2022 through December 2022).
3Comparing the baseline of 10869 accepted calls in Q4 (October 2021 through December 2021) before implementation to 9403 accepted calls in Q4 after implementation (October 2022 through December 2022). The Q4 time frame was selected since call volume during this time is the most consistent.
4Comparing the baseline of 4098 outgoing calls in Q4 (October 2021 through December 2021) before implementation to 2934 outgoing calls in Q4 after implementation (October 2022 through December 2022). The Q4 time frame was selected since call volume during this time is the most consistent.
5From August 1, 2022, to January 31, 2023. Number represents outbound texts to patients. Texting was not available prior to August 1, 2022.
6From August 1, 2022, to January 31, 2023. Number represents inbound texts from patients and includes patients responding to automated messages to confirm or cancel their appointment, as well as to opt out of receiving automated messages. Texting was not available prior to August 1, 2022.