Why Secure Medical Texting Works Better for Patients

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.

1Norman, Abby. (2020, January 21). 4 Reasons People Don’t Go to the Doctor. Verywell Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/reasons-people-dont-go-to-the-doctor-4779661

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

Support Nurses Ability to Easily Communicate with Providers and Patients

Siloed communication infrastructure adds to nurse’s workload when they desperately need ways to reduce their administrative responsibilities. Empower nurses to communicate with each other, providers, and patients without logging in and out of several solutions to do so.

Reaching Providers and Patients’ Family Members Consumes Time

Nurses are responsible for multiple administrative duties on top of providing an upstanding standard of care for their patients that requires an abundant amount of collaboration and support.

Some nurses spend 33% of their shift interacting with technology and only 16% of their time on direct patient care.

Updating family members, getting a hold of the correct physician in a timely manner, communicating with respiratory, physical therapy, radiology in addition to coordinating with the nursing staff on their unit are just a few of the communications that happen throughout the nurses shift.

The time consumption initiating communications with different departments and providers could be precious time taken away from a patient’s care. A bandage may be left for the next shift to change, medications get administered later than ordered, patients miss a day of physical therapy because the nurse was unable to pull away from other tasks to help PT. Ultimately, the administrative burden nurses are under unfortunately can result in poor patient outcomes.

Tackling Nurse Communication Silos

Text, badge, EMR, email, phone – too much technology reduces efficiencies. When nurses need to login to the EMR for a critical lab result, phone a patient’s family member, use their badge to communicate with other nurses and then text the on-call provider regarding their patient, too much time is spent logging in and out of various solutions. Efficiencies can be gained just from reducing the number of technologies nurses need to use and reference.

The result – both improved nurse satisfaction and improved outcomes for patients. We want to reduce frustrations nurses encounter day to day, and streamline communication for all care team members.

With family members the inefficiencies are similar, find the correct number, call, no answer, leave a voicemail. Or find and call the alternate phone number and speak with a family member who has 20 minutes of questions, while the nurse is on the phone, the physician has returned the page and the nurse missed their call due to the fact that the nurse was on the line with the family member.

Clinical Communication Governance

Leading organizations have clear policies around communication response times, such as a routine message must be responded to in 60 minutes but an urgent message within 30 and STAT within 15. This becomes increasingly difficult without the right, and siloed, communication tools.

Text First Approach

82% of text messages will be read within five minutes of being sent—with an average response time of just 90 seconds.

A text first approach for all clinicians provides a single app to be used for nurse, provider, patient and auxiliary staff to ensure tight coordination of patient care. Look for a solution that also embeds into the EMR to improve clinical workflows. Nurses should be able to see a patient record from their mobile, the communication stream between care team members, critical lab results and any other pertinent details that will keep them abreast of their patient from any location—decoupling them from the nurse station.

Connect with our team to learn more.