It is often the case that innovations develop during times of adversity. There aren’t many positives to come from the Covid-19 pandemic, but in health care, the headway made in how providers communicate with patients has been quite impressive.
Since the start of the pandemic, the enforcement of safety and social distancing measures meant that many of the usual face-to-face communication channels diminished. The trend away from using phone calls to communicate with patients also accelerated.
Texting or SMS messaging, an already established technology, became somewhat of a saviour. It’s not hard to see why. Patients are already familiar with texting and for providers, it offers a low-cost communication solution.
Text messaging is proving to be a simple and effective tool, not only to relay health information, but also to promote services, improve engagement, and carry out numerous administrative tasks, such as appointment reminders and rescheduling. Texting is revolutionizing the way health care organizations reach and teach audiences.
Incredibly, here are 19 things health care providers are now doing by text!
1. Population Health Management
Population Health Management (PHM) seeks to improve the health outcomes of a predefined group by monitoring individual patients within that group and identifying care gaps. There are various software tools that enable the aggregation of data. Texting individuals (or groups of individuals) who are not progressing as desired can then help to improve patient self-management and remind patients of medication protocols.
2. Chronic care management
There are many aspects of health care that help patients manage chronic disease. An important part of this is motivating patients to persist in necessary interventions and therapies. Health care providers must often prompt and support patients at critical points in their care journey. Research shows that SMS interventions are successful for encouraging patient self-management, patient awareness, and treatment adherence in HIV, COPD, and DM.
3. Targeted population health message campaigns
Targeted and personalized communication has a considerable role to play in improving health behaviours. Getting the right message to the right person at the right time can be incredibly powerful in improving health outcomes. Providers are now capitalizing on this knowledge and engaging more with groups of patients via targeted broadcast text messaging.
4. Disease-based messaging
Health care providers are now delivering text message-based education and support programmes to patients based on disease diagnosis. Through mobile phone text messaging, providers can offer advice, motivation, information and support for specific disease management and healthy behaviour.
5. Recall messaging
Recall messages via automated texts allow providers to conveniently reach out to patients to schedule future appointments, book routine health tests, or schedule a call to discuss test results.
6. Preventative care
Preventive health care promotes health and prevents disease or injuries by addressing factors that lead to the onset of a disease. Text messaging gives providers a convenient and cost-effective way to support desirable health behaviours. Previous studies have shown this method of communicating to be effective – one study found that participants of a ‘stop smoking’ group receiving mobile phone messaging support had a significantly higher likelihood of quitting smoking than those in the control group who didn’t receive the texts.
7. Patient recovery
Keeping in touch with patients during their recovery from illness or surgery is paramount to health outcomes. Providers are now staying in contact and following up with patients via text to make sure that they are recovering as expected. Texts during the recovery journey can be in the form of a check-in, medication instructions, to prompt a follow-up appointment, give test results, answer questions, and ask for feedback.
8. Appointment adherence
Missed appointments have considerable implications – they come with a financial cost, waste valuable time, and ultimately have a negative impact on health outcomes. Missed appointment rates can be reduced by reminding patients about their medical appointments in advance. Multiple studies show that text messages improve appointment adherence.
9. Event marketing
Text messaging creates many possibilities for providers to reach out to patients, including sharing news about upcoming events.
10. Triggering referrals
Referral pathways require consistency and patience. Repetition is essential and the easiest way to do this is via text. Using text messaging, providers can easily remind patients about their referral programme.
11. Increasing patient activation (PAM) scores
Patient activation is widely recognised – it describes the knowledge, skills, and confidence a person has in managing their own health and care. Patients who are highly activated are more likely to understand their own role in the healing journey. Providers are increasingly using text messaging to increase activation, improve a patient’s engagement and help them plan for situations that may throw them off course.
12. Marketing new and existing services
News about new services, changes to existing services, new physicians in the clinic, information about virtual waiting rooms, and much more, can all be easily communicated to patients by text in an instant.
13. Physician review requests
Physician reviews have never been more important, and most health care providers now have a reputation management strategy. Providers are driving positive patient reviews via software platforms that offer an automated review request service.
14. Texting to leverage telehealth
Telehealth surged during the pandemic as providers sought to find ways to deliver health care safely. Prior to the pandemic, people were more reluctant to engage with telehealth, preferring to see their clinician face-to-face. There is now an increased willingness from both patients and providers to engage in health care appointments virtually. Texting is working alongside telehealth as an enticement and support tool.
15. Promoting or arranging rideshare programs
Access to health care is much more difficult among low-income groups and travel costs are just one barrier. Several companies, such as Uber and Lyft, are developing partnerships with health care providers, deploying new ride-calling apps.
16. Patient education
Providers are now able to send automated text messages following appointments, providing the patient with educational material relevant to that appointment. This helps enormously to educate on diagnosis and reinforce treatment instructions. Texts can also be sent to specific patient groups to promote and educate on wellness, for example, targeting diabetic patients with information on diet, carbohydrates and managing blood sugar levels.
17. No-show alerts
No-shows are frustrating, but they are inevitable from time to time. The most common reasons for no-shows are financial hardship, fear, or simply just forgetting. Cultivating a climate of compassion is essential. No-show alerts are an important part of this strategy. Compassion can be shown by text and can prompt a patient to rebook.
18. Appointment scheduling
Texts for appointment scheduling is currently the most common use of texting in health care. Automated appointment reminders can reduce no-shows, and frees up front office staff, saving time, money, and resources.
Texting is convenient for many aspects of the health care journey, and that includes billing. Mobile billing solutions are on the rise.
In the not-too-distant future, patients will be able to handle all aspects of healthcare through mobile solutions from booking appointments, receiving appointment reminders, and getting test results to paying their medical bills!
Moving forward with PatientTrak
The power of text messaging in health care is plain to see and its future is incredibly exciting.
PatientTrak’s HIPAA compliant patient flow and reputation management platform offers HIPAA-compliant text messaging with the appropriate technical safeguards to ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability of ePHI, ensuring your health care organization meets all requirements of the HIPAA Security Rule.
Contact us now to find out more.