Disclaimer: This blog article was written by an AdvancedMD partner. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of AdvancedMD.
When it comes to communicating, people today are texting—that includes patients communicating with their medical providers. One recent survey cited by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) showed up to a 90% engagement rate when providers use text to message patients. The survey also found 98.2% of patients liked text messages from providers and 95.5% feel more connected to their care team when they receive texts.
By providing an effective means of communicating, texting in healthcare can help your practice save time and money while making your patients, providers, and staff happy. Though there are potential concerns with texting patients, SMS messaging offers several benefits that make this form of communication a valuable one for any medical practice.
How Can Texting Help Your Practice?
A recent Forbes article notes that SMS texting has an open rate of 98% compared to just under 20% for email. These findings clearly show how powerful texting can be in driving patient engagement. It makes sense. With texts, patients are more likely to receive messages sooner than other forms of communication. They can open and also respond immediately without having to log into a website or call your office.
Impact Your Key Metrics with Texting
Text communications drive revenue by optimizing your practice’s scheduling process. People today not only expect but often rely on mobile-first communications, like appointment reminders, so they don’t forget. When sending appointment reminders via text, you will see more patients showing up for their appointments.
For patients who need to cancel, they can easily click the cancellation link via text, allowing your practice to adjust the schedule and fill the appointment slot quickly. Likewise, being able to communicate openings to patients who are waiting to get in sooner is easier via text. You can include links in the text messages so that patients can instantly confirm from any device.
Reduce Costs & Improve Efficiency
Texting can be more efficient than having your medical staff make outgoing calls to confirm appointments. Rather than the multiple attempts it might take to reach patients, you can quickly send or even automate texts. Automation is reliable and lets you deliver information to patients quickly. This means your team can devote more time to clinical care instead of performing manual outreach, which in turn improves productivity and staff satisfaction.
Easily Share Timely Information
Mass SMS messages can help you get urgent communications out more efficiently to your patient base. In the event of a power outage, bad weather, or another natural disaster, it can be necessary to send information or closure details to scheduled patients as quickly as possible. Texting makes the communication process simpler and far less time-consuming than calling each patient. It’s just one more way of extending your staff’s reach without requiring additional effort.
Enhance Communication After & Between Appointments
Good communication is key to keeping patients current in their care plans. Texting can help streamline the conversation between you and the patient, saving time and money while also creating a better standard of care.
By sending information and reminders about preventive screening and checkups, follow-up care, and vaccines, patient outcomes are more likely to be positive. Being able to check in on patients after they’re discharged from a procedure also allows you to see how recovery is progressing. Plus, patients often appreciate and value the personalization of one-to-one communications outside of appointment times.
Are There Risks with Texting for Medical Practices?
While texting is generally HIPAA-compliant, it’s not without risks and must be managed properly. This is why companies like Relatient offer a secure messaging channel to mimic the experience of SMS communication while encrypting data and protecting patient health information (PHI). In addition, understanding and implementing patient texting best practices will help minimize your risks.
Texting & HIPAA: Keeping Things Compliant
As mentioned, both practices and patients can benefit from SMS messaging, but proper procedures and protocols are necessary to ensure patient data is protected. Unfortunately, most texting on phones is not encrypted. Unencrypted texts can be used as long as personal information is left out. For any ePHI or other confidential medical information, you’ll want to ensure you use a closed, encrypted texting system to keep things HIPAA-compliant.
The details on HIPAA compliance are fairly straightforward:
- Do not transmit ePHI unless you use a closed-system texting platform.
- Establish access controls so unauthorized users cannot gain access to, alter, or destroy communications.
- Ensure information is encrypted at all times (both in transit and when stored).
- Keep an audit trail for all text communications.
- Do not include diagnosis, treatment plans, or any other identifiable patient information in appointment reminders sent via SMS.
Texting & TCPA: Best Practices
Texting is governed by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), as with all communication via mobile devices. It’s helpful to ensure your practice is in compliance with these guidelines to avoid penalties down the road.
Make Opting Out Easy
While medical messages can be sent without consent, it’s a best practice to enable your patients to opt out. This indicates they want to receive your messages and ensures you are not violating any TCPA guidelines. Not giving patients the opportunity to opt out of communications can also produce a negative patient experience. The opting out option can simply be an unsubscribe link at the end of each message or allowing them to reply with “STOP” to be taken off text communications.
It’s also important to recognize that patients have different communication preferences. Allowing patients to select their preferred method helps keep them happy on the receiving end.
Don’t Combine Marketing & Medical Information
Healthcare texting involves managing both consent and content details. To maintain trust, patient satisfaction, and compliance, it’s important to avoid including marketing messages in your scheduling texts. Even if your patients have opted in to all message types, you should keep marketing messages separate from actual workflow communications.
Statistics show that most people would rather receive texts than phone calls today. They also show that texts are more likely to receive engagement compared to phone calls and voicemails. Texting offers medical practices a simple and efficient means of conveying important information, updates, and notices. When you text patients about their appointments, you can ensure compliance while using automation to boost revenues.
Overall, sending texts is an easier, quicker, and cheaper way to communicate with your patients.
Some best practices to remember with texting include:
- Keep personal information out of unencrypted messages.
- Send medical-related and marketing messages separately.
- Include an easy unsubscribe option in every text message.
- Maintain security with encrypted messages on a closed system.
- Use access controls to prohibit unauthorized individuals from getting patient personal info.
- Keep an audit trail.
How Relatient Strengthens Messaging
Relatient empowers your medical practice to streamline patient communication and improve patient satisfaction. Relatient can be integrated into your PM and EHR, so getting started is easy, ultimately boosting operational efficiencies and staff satisfaction.
To find out if Relatient is right for you and your practice, please visit the Relatient Marketplace listing.