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How text messaging in healthcare improves patient outcomes

Even before the pandemic, text messaging platforms were revolutionizing the way medical practices and practitioners engaged with patients and clients. Stemming from the simple appointment reminder text, SMS has helped patients and physicians communicate and engage in new and meaningful ways.

Let’s examine some considerations before we explore the sixways you can effectively use text messaging to improve the healthcare experience.

Things to consider before adding text messaging solutions

1. Offer options

73% of customers globally prefer text messaging to other forms of communication, but catering for all communication preferences is important when it comes to healthcare. Ensure you offer SMS as an option and retain consent before moving ahead.

2. Develop policies

Develop internal and external policies that cover privacy, compliance as well as remit and scope. 

According to the US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA compliance), sensitive patient health information must be protected at all times. If patient health information (PHI) is disclosed or breached by practitioners choosing not to use secure text messaging platforms, the business or clinic can face significant penalties or fines. It’s important that you understand your obligations, and work to meet them. If you would like to learn more about how you can, contact our team of SMS experts.

3. Partner up

If you’re using other communication channels, consider how SMS can improve or strengthen current tactics. For example, if you are sending email (20% open rate) appointment confirmations that are rarely read, consider adding a text message (98% open rate) in parallel or sending a follow up text if a patient does not respond

3. Seek integrations

If you’re already using a healthcare management platform, make sure you seek out integrations that allow you to plug text messaging directly in. This will save you time switching between platforms and provide a whole host of other benefits.

If you’re already using a healthcare management platform such as EPIC, integrate pre-made applications that allow you to plug SMS in natively such as MessageMedia’s EPIC MyChart integration. Not only will this save you time switching between platforms, but there are a host of other benefits tohaving all of your tools plugged into the same hub.

RELATED: Peruse our entire integrations marketplace to see what we have on offer to make your life easier when integrating SMS!

4. Pick your provider

Pick your SMS messaging partner wisely! Ensure they understand and can advise you on compliance. They should also be able to support you with a product and service that will maintain security and privacy. When it comes to patient communications, this is essential!

 

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6 ways you could start using SMS in your practice now

1. Appointment reminders

SMS appointment reminders can reduce no-shows on an average 10-15% (regardless of industry), but when it comes to healthcare professionals or clinics, this can go up to 80%! 

As one of the most common use cases by health care providers, reminders are now expected by most patients before they attend any appointment. In fact, increased over-reliance may mean causing more no-shows if text reminders aren’t used.

Healthcare text reminder
Healthcare text reminder

RELATED: Learn how to optimize your patient appointment reminders with our top 4 tips including timing, frequency and what’s best to ensure you stand out!

2. Emergency updates

During COVID, many healthcare organizations are relying on text messaging to reach patients fast and in real-time. Given constantly changing conditions and the importance of public health announcements, physicians require a solid communications tool that cuts-through and gets read.

SMS has been long used in the emergency services spaces from alerts to potential wildfires to texting the police to having an emergency text service to serve the disabled.

Practices may want to consider having additional emergency communication protocols in place. Have automated text message announcements prepared in case for a wide range of likely cases such as sudden or increased COVID infections.

3. Promoting health awareness and education

Some health providers are using text messaging as a preventive solution. Using text messaging to generate health awareness and creating opportunities to support patients in taking care of their health in the long-term, while also reducing unnecessary patient visits. 

An example SMS you might receive around the importance of cervical cancer screening tests

In one study, SMS supported recall of a prostate intervention educational initiative among African American men, with 65% wanting to receive more information via text. In a Spain-based study, 68% women attended breast screening exams if they were sent a text reminder three days before in parallel to a physical letter. 

SMS is more widely used as a tool for behavior change, especially with stagnant or inert audiences. We’re seeing this already in education where SMS is helping achieve better outcomes for students from poorer social-economic backgrounds and struggling with remote learning.

RELATED: Read about the 4 intriguing ways SMS is helping educators enhance remote learning.

Getting ahead of patients’ needs is a win-win situation for all. Better long-term outcomes notwithstanding, more direct and personalized engagement with your patients will help maintain long-term relationships with a more caring and intimate feel.

4. Keeping patients on track with SMS

Think outside the appointment box! Similar to promoting health awareness, sending patients reminders can help them stay on top of their prescriptions or follow-up check-ins. Patients, as we know, are busy and forgetful. With automated scheduling provided by text platforms, text messaging can become part of a larger end-to-end service experience for your patients – straight from their mobile devices!

Types of SMS healthcare reminders
Proactive reminders & alerts: appointments, e-prescriptions, future bookings

Imagine the convenience of being able to reschedule your appointment, receive your prescriptions (including refills) and get reminders for your next checkup – all within your text inbox!

5. Post or pre-medical SMS check-ins

Going back to improving that end-to-end patient experience, one thing we’re seeing is more service experience businesses take oncheck-ins and follow-ups. Within the healthcare space, check-ins and follow-ups are a little different as they help physicians support clients in their health objectives.

However, these check-ins and follow-ups are often on the onus of the patients themselves.

Check in template
Check in template

With patients who are demoralized, unable or forgetful; having physicians reach out can improve the customer experience tenfold. While this may seem to be adding more work to a doctor’s already busy schedule, automated follow-ups can instead be run and managed by internal staff with issues being raised where serious feedback is given. 

RELATED: To send automated check-ins or to enable 1:1 patient communications, turn on two-way texting! Learn more.

Increasing personalized patient engagement with feedback loops will only benefit your relationships and ensure improved patient care.

6. Internal rostering and scheduling

Estia Healthcare dropped agency rostering fees by 20% thanks to text reminders to fill vacant shifts and remind employees of their upcoming roster. One of the most underutilized and overlooked use cases for messaging in healthcare is communications with your employees.

roster SMS template
Roster SMS template

Internal reminders and prompts can be very useful.

Businesses have used text messaging to notify sales agents when a prospect needs to be followed up or even to remind employees about an internal meeting. In fact, MessageMedia used text messaging to remind employees to update their personal contact information during COVID.

Our staff members are happy to receive texts notifying them of vacant shifts as it gives them an opportunity to earn extra money on top of their normal wage. And we’re happy, because using our own staff means we can ensure continuity of care, which is very important in aged care, and for our residents.

Jeremy Cassidy, Systems Manager, Estia Health Aged Care

For healthcare, internal communications can prove even more important where it is almost essential for rostered medical workers to show up to their shifts where life and death might be on the line. 

 

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Final thoughts and further reading

The ways in which text messaging is used across the healthcare space keeps expanding. While we’ve only covered a few use cases, there are still many more out there that could change the way you help and improve patient outcomes and welfare. Do you know any we haven’t mentioned? Email us and let us know.

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