Secure Text Messaging for Physicians and Medical Practices
When your staff books an appointment with patients over the phone, there’s no guarantee they will come. Patients may miss or skip medical appointments for a variety of reasons: fear, overlapping commitments, lack of resources, or even just forgetfulness. That’s why it’s crucial to tap into habits patients already use for their personal and professional lives, such as calendar invites and text reminders.1
We’re all patients, and we rely on our phones—a lot. So why not engage patients on their own devices? It’s a solid bet that text messaging will continue to be the number one form of communication cross-generationally among the general public.
“91.9% of patients agreed that text updates helped them avoid calling the office.”2
Patients Check Text Messages More Than Email
Text messaging is one of the fastest and most successful ways to engage with patients. In fact, text messages have a 98% open rate and are typically read within the first few minutes of delivery. By comparison, email open rates only average between 12-25%.3
Do you know how many times Americans check their phones? 160 times a day.4 That’s more than enough to deliver a critical message to a patient or care team member.
Mobile phone usage transcends economic barriers. If a patient doesn’t have access to transportation, a reminder text message could allow them time to get assistance from a rideshare program. One medical provider sent three text reminders to inform patients of the Lyft vehicle picking them up, along with three more follow-up texts after the visit to ensure they arrived home safely. From this effort, patient show rates improved from 54% to 68%.5
These strategies reduce emergency department visits, especially if the clinic partners with social support services or similar rideshare programs. In addition, sending appointment reminders to patients with chronic conditions via text can help them stay on top of their needs and improve their road to recovery.
Texting may offer an efficient, inexpensive way to give a voice to people who aren’t often heard and whose needs aren’t always met.6
Two Reasons Patients Prefer Secure Healthcare Messages
HIPAA rules state that the law “does not prohibit the use of text messaging in healthcare. It is perfectly acceptable for doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to communicate with each other—and even patients—via text message.”7 While this is true, certain protections and safeguards still need to be in place to maintain secure PHI, and the data must be encrypted. Using a secure text message system will reduce the friction of communication barriers for both healthcare providers and their patients.
#1 – Secure Text Reminders Keep Patients Engaged
Patients are busy. They may be at work, with family, or lack methods in which to reach the medical office. When they are able to call and check on their appointment, medical staff may not be available to take the message. Sending a text message appointment reminder with a HIPAA-compliant system may decrease those communication errors and missed calls. Another way to alleviate this tension is to set up one-way message reminders regarding patient prescriptions and appointments.
Learn how one medical practice used this method to reduce patient no-shows.
#2 – Forgot Your Portal Login? A Secure Medical Text Might Solve the Problem
Fewer than 25% of patients activate an account for their provider’s patient portal.8 Maybe a lot happened during an appointment, and the physician typed a mountain of notes in the portal. The details and care instructions were clearly defined and detailed. But does the patient know this? Not if they never access the portal.
Using text to support post-appointment instructions such as specialist referrals, medication adherence, or exercises can be a great way to increase patient engagement. Patients could use the secure link to inquire about their treatment, and the provider can respond with clarifying questions and care guidance. A secure, two-way system enables providers to text patients without receiving a flood of calls on their personal device. This mitigates patient call volume, especially on holiday weekends and more typical Saturdays and Sundays.
Rather than getting bogged down with interactions that leave patients with more questions than answers and doctors with directives that go unfollowed, connected care technology promotes a more interactive relationship around treatment.9
Why Text Messaging is the Future of Patient Engagement
#1 – It Keeps Clinical Communication Efficient
Instead of stockpiling 30+ voicemails until the office opens, why not route those calls to the appropriate care team member as needed? Using voice-to-text (V2T) technology can reduce medical transcription errors and confirm an accurate message gets delivered and received by the current on-call provider. A patient call experience could look like this:
Physician Messaging System: “Dr. Driver is on call this afternoon. Please call them at 999-999-9999.”
Patient: “Hi Doc, is it okay if I take another aspirin after 2 o’clock today? I need to know as I’m still experiencing a lot of pain.”
Using the V2T technology to send the information, Dr. Driver could get the simple alert and decide to respond with a secure message. Combined with masking their personal number, they could send a HIPAA-secure link to initiate a virtual appointment if necessary.
#2 – It Improves Care Delivery Outcomes and Provides Valuable Feedback
Need a feedback loop to understand why patients skipped their last few appointments? What about measuring patient satisfaction scores? Send out your next patient satisfaction survey through a secure medical text.
Patients are more likely to leave an honest review about your medical practice if you follow up after the appointment. Armed with patient feedback, medical practice managers and hospital leaders can pinpoint areas of inefficiency and allocate resources to improve patient outcomes.
Texting is here to stay, and you can utilize it to reduce costs, save time, and better engage patients.
Is it time to rethink your patient communication strategies?
See this research guide on supporting value-based care initiatives for patients through secure text. Better communication = better outcomes.
2Campbell, K., Blackburn, B. Erickson, J., Pelt, C., Anderson, L., Peters, C., Gililland, J. (2021). Evaluating the Utility of Using Text Messages to Communicate With Patients During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 5(6).
3What Are the Average Click and Read Rates for Email Campaigns? Campaign Monitor. https://www.campaignmonitor.com/resources/knowledge-base/what-are-the-average-click-and-read-rates-for-email-campaigns/
4Dobrilova, T. (2021, December 7). 35+ Must-Know SMS Marketing Statistics in 2021. TechJury. https://techjury.net/blog/sms-marketing-statistics/#gref
5Chaiyachati, K., Hubbard, R., Yeager, A., Mugo, B., Shea, J., Rosin, R., Grande, D. (2018, June). Rideshare-Based Medical Transportation for Medicaid Patients and Primary Care Show Rates: A Difference-in-Difference Analysis of a Pilot Program. J GEN INTERN MED 33(6), 863–868. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-018-4306-0
6Chang, T. Text messaging connects people to healthier habits, researchers to urban subjects. University of Michigan Health: Michigan Medicine. https://www.uofmhealth.org/text-messaging-connects-people-healthier-habits-researchers-urban-subjects
7HIPAA Journal. Text Messaging in Healthcare. https://www.hipaajournal.com/text-messaging-in-healthcare/
8Campbell, et al.
9Kennedy, R. (2021 November 12). 5 Ways Tech and Care Delivery Models Get Payers Closer to the Quadruple Aim. Managed Healthcare Executive. https://www.managedhealthcareexecutive.com/view/5-ways-tech-and-care-delivery-models-get-payers-closer-to-the-quadruple-aim