Healthcare workers are busy. If your staff feels like they spend most of the day answering the phone, rescheduling appointments, tracking down a nurse or doctor for a patient question, or leaving voicemail after voicemail, it may be time to find a new way to communicate with patients. In recent years, text messaging has taken off in the healthcare world, with doctor’s offices and hospitals sending reminders and follow up messages to patients.
Best Practices for Healthcare SMS Messages
If you want to incorporate SMS into your healthcare facility, there are a few best practices to consider as you begin to set up your policies and procedures.
Keep it secure. Use a reputable messaging platform that complies with HIPAA regulations for sending protected health information. Make sure patients opt in to receive SMS communication, and include a way to unsubscribe at the end of each message.
Keep it short. Keep your messages to a single text of just 160 characters (including those unsubscribe instructions). Make sure the information is relevant to each patient (so segment your text lists, if possible, when sending wellness tips and information). Avoid overwhelming your patients with too many texts, so don’t send too many in a short period of time (unless you are in a two way conversation).
Benefits of Texting in Healthcare
There are benefits for both the patient and the medical provider when you add texting services to your patient outreach program. Investing in SMS software is a true win-win. With more communication and quality information from your team, your patient wins. From saving time to increasing revenue, your office wins. Here are just a few of the benefits you might find with SMS for healthcare.
Patient Reminders Minimize No Shows: With a daily no show rate as high as 15 percent, money is lost at medical offices each day. But when a patient has been reminded via text, they can cancel or reschedule ahead of time so you won’t have that no show. Automated text reminders will get more of your patients through the door for critical care follow ups so their outcome improves and you can provide a higher level of care with regular visits.
Communication Between Appointments Improves Healthcare: If patients can text their questions in and you can send out reminder texts for blood work or screenings, the level of care you provide will improve. Your staff can follow-up with a patient who was sent home with discharge instructions or someone on a new medication. If there are questions or issues, you know about it sooner. This increased can increase patient satisfaction and compliance with their treatment plan.
Increase Office Efficiency: Increasing the efficiency of your office will help your staff spend more time on important tasks and less time putting in overtime to do the things they could’ve been doing while manually calling patients with an upcoming appointment. You can automate reminders, and help to improve the efficiency of responses to incoming texts by assigning them to the correct person instead of putting patients on to locate a certain doctor or nurse.
What to Send Via Text to Patients
Automated Appointment Reminders: One of the most common uses of SMS in healthcare is to send patients an automated appointment reminder. You can have a preselected message automatically sent to patients one week or a few days ahead of their appointment time. You can even include the office phone number or a link to reschedule (or cancel) the appointment if needed. This helps to reduce no shows and saves office staff hours of leaving voicemails for patients with upcoming appointments.
Preventative Health Notifications: Aside from an appointment reminder, you can have notifications sent to patients when they are due for blood work, a follow up appointment, or other medical test. These notifications can make it easy for patients to remember to get the important preventative tests and appointments done, so that you can improve their health together.
Share Wellness Tips: Your office can share tips or information to improve the overall wellness of your patients. SMS can be a great way to share short tips on healthy living, proper hydration, simple ways to get more exercise, and new recipes they can try. If your office sends an email newsletter, SMS can be an additional touchpoint to your patients with wellness tips.
Personalize Care Instructions: After an appointment or procedure, patients are usually provided with instructions for follow up care, post discharge instructions, medication management, or other things. They may not remember all of that information, and even if you gave them documents with it, they may never review it. But with SMS, you can send a quick message checking in. You can ask how they are feeling after a procedure, remind them about their next appointment, or check in on medication effects and side effects.
What HIPAA Means for Patient Communication
In the healthcare industry, there are certain laws and regulations in the United States that will impact how you can communicate with your patients. Other similar laws are in place in other countries, all designed to protect the patient’s privacy. In the U.S., the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) ensures that patients’ personal information is secure, guiding how it is stored and shared. This law provides rules for healthcare providers and partners to follow to keep protected health information (PHI) safe. To stay in compliance, healthcare organizations must know how and when to disclose PHI, how to protect PHI, and patient rights to access their own information and data.
Start Using SMS Messages with your Patients
To increase your office’s efficiency and the care your patients receive, texts can add an additional level of care with appointment reminders, quick check-ins with staff, and tips from your team. TxtSquad can help healthcare providers communicate with patients in a more secure way. Book a demo or start a free trial to learn how you can communicate with your patients via text.