Ancillary services: How technology can help increase utilization and improve patient access

Promoting ancillary services to patients is a challenge for healthcare organizations. Here are three ways that technology can help. 

Even after receiving efficient and thorough care at their provider’s office, patients frequently require ancillary services to support their treatment, healing and disease management. In many cases, patients assume they’ll need to see an additional provider or go to another care setting to get the rest of the care they need.  

However, many healthcare organizations offer their own in-house ancillary services that help address fragmentation, minimize preventable hospitalizations and improve the patient experience—and serve as an important revenue stream.  

Still, healthcare organizations often face challenges in promoting their services to patients. Read on to learn about those roadblocks and three ways that technology can help. 

What are ancillary services? 

In healthcare, ancillary services encompass a broad range of offerings that support and supplement providers’ skills. These services can be found in hospitals, specialty practices, primary care groups and beyond, and often include private-pay treatment or elective procedures that aren’t covered by insurance. Typically, these services are classified into three categories: 

  • Diagnostic services like radiology, imaging, clinical labs and pulmonary testing 
  • Therapeutic services like mental-health counseling, physical therapy, dialysis, nutritional counseling and cosmetic procedures 
  • Custodial services like hospice, nursing and home healthcare 

Why are ancillary services important? 

Ancillary services are foundational to patient care, enabling providers to deliver personalized treatment at the right time and in the right place. They’re also a valuable source of revenue: For many specialty and primary care practices, ancillary services comprise more than 10% of their total practice revenue. 

Here’s the challenge: Many patients don’t know their providers offer them. Competition is fierce, and if healthcare organizations don’t effectively promote their ancillary services, patients may go elsewhere for care. Coupled with the pandemic-induced drop in ancillary services volume, providers need innovative, reliable ways to boost awareness about their services and improve patients’ access to them. 

The solution? Use technology to educate patients about the services you offer. By informing patients about their care options at the time of service, healthcare organizations can increase utilization of those services and better support their patients in achieving consistent, positive health outcomes. 

Here are three ways technology can help you make patients aware of your practice’s ancillary services. 

1. Target your messaging 

Every patient has different needs. Factors like age, race, income, gender and sexual orientation can all influence the types of services that may benefit a particular patient. For healthcare organizations, that means it’s crucial to connect the right patients with the right services at the right time. 

With targeted digital messaging, practices can automatically notify patients about relevant ancillary services during intake. Patients who have recently undergone surgery, for example, might benefit from receiving a targeted message about post-operative physical therapy. Targeted messaging helps tailor service suggestions to each patient and helps them better understand their ancillary care options. When patients know the scope of relevant available services, they’re more likely to ask their provider about them—and better equipped to play an active role in their healthcare decisions. 

2. Collect measurable insights 

In educating patients about your ancillary services, traditional promotional channels—like print or broadcast media—often fall flat. In addition to their high cost, outdated advertising methods usually provide limited visibility into whether your messages are reaching the right patients. What’s more, practices that don’t promote their ancillary services may run out of new patients to use them within 30 months or less.  

Technology can offer a more cost-effective, targeted—and measurable—alternative. For example, automated outreach campaigns allow providers to announce new services via text message or email, informing clinically relevant patients about their care options before they enter the exam room. When paired with healthcare analytics, practices can analyze the full impact of their patient-outreach efforts and collect actionable results. And, by gauging patients’ interest in ancillary services before their visit, practice staff can easily follow up with those who wish to learn more about them. 

3. Provide sensitive, patient-centered care 

Front-office staff often shoulder the responsibility for educating patients about ancillary services. But stigma often surrounds offerings like mental-health support, cosmetic surgery or hospice care and can create awkward patient-staff interactions. If patients feel uncomfortable or disrespected in discussing such services, their experience is liable to suffer—and they may even go elsewhere for care. 

By digitizing communications about their offerings, healthcare organizations can sensitively and discreetly inform patients about ancillary services that may be relevant to them. Rather than promoting those services with posters and table tents in the waiting room, providers can send patients private, secure messages that let them know about care options that may improve their physical or mental well-being.  

Put simply, digital engagement gives patients more ownership of their care, empowering them to talk with their provider about relevant services at a time and place that works for them. Digital patient engagement also frees front-office staff from time spent on ancillary services education, giving them more time to connect patients with the care they need. 

Spread the word about your healthcare organization’s ancillary services with Phreesia’s patient engagement tools.