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Why Texting is a Growing Trend in Healthcare

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April 4, 2022

Since COVID-19 hit, healthcare practices around the country began to appreciate the role of text messaging, especially to pass and receive messages promptly. 

Now that the effects of COVID are gradually easing off, the healthcare industry is still fast adopting secure texting between provider and patient. Today, more and more healthcare providers communicate with their patients on their phones.

Some Valuable Text Messaging Statistics

SMS Comparison USA share the following SMS statistics to emphasize its importance and how it can be beneficial in healthcare:

  • 98% of the US adult population own a mobile device. 
  • 98% of all text message recipients open them. 
  • 90% of consumers prefer texting to direct phone calls.
  • 95% of text messages are read and responded to within 3 minutes of receipt. 

Seeing that a vast majority of the American population are active texters, it is safe to conclude that your current and prospective patient might fall under such a category. 

In addition, studies have shown that automated reminders delivered via texts and email can reduce patient no-show rates to five percent or less and increase patient confirmation by over 150%. 

This is hardly surprising as other studies have shown that patients expect the same level of customer service that they receive from other businesses they engage with from their healthcare providers

Benefits of Texting in The Healthcare Industry Today 

Beyond the established statistics, SMS texting has several service delivery and operational benefits in your healthcare practice communications. Here are some of them;

Enhanced Patient Experience 

When you adopt what works for your patients, it makes things easier by removing stress, eliminating confusion, and sending a message that you care about them. Communication over channels your patients prefer makes interaction more accessible on both ends. 

Direct Engagement 

When you communicate with your patient via real-time texting, it feels like the communication was in person. While you might argue a phone call gives a better real-time experience, consider that sending a text-only takes four seconds on average versus phone calls taking two minutes.

Engaging your patient via real-time texting help build patient engagement and interaction with their providers and gives them a sense of involvement in their healthcare 

Texting Makes Care Service Easier 

Manually interacting with patients over the phone takes time and energy. Patients in the office could benefit from that time better spent caring for them.

While real-time texting can be a great experience/tool for patient engagement, texting can also be asynchronous. This means that the two parties involved in a conversation do not have to be present simultaneously. You can send a text at any time and receive a response. 

Similarly, it is easier for your patient to text in a question and get on with their day awaiting your reply than keeping them on hold if they try calling at inconvenient times. Because of the texting alternative, you can easily have free time to attend to patients who prefer phone calls. 

Everyone gets attended to promptly, no one is left behind, and you sporadically increase patient engagement and satisfaction. 

Lower Risk of Lost Documentation 

In an EHR, text messages can be easily saved on the patient's electronic health record to be referred to in future visits since they're digital.

Texting In Healthcare can Help Patients Improve Outcomes 

Most patients need to be educated and re-educate on their health condition and treatment plans. As shown by a health literacy assessment of the US Department of Education, 88 percent of patients indicate they need extra aid in understanding their ailment and treatment. 

True that you practice proper communication during your appointment with patients to enable them to understand what you are communicating. However, not all questions will occur to patients at the meeting. 

It might take some moments of pondering to discover a question they ought to have asked during their visit. Texting comes in handy during this situation because patients will hardly be interested in visiting a hospital to ask a single question. 

When your patients can get answers to your inquiries on-demand, you improve their health outcomes and optimize their care experience. 

How to Keep Your Patient Texts HIPAA Compliant 

As we have considered the enormous benefits texting offers to the healthcare industry, there is still some HIPAA violation risk inherent in texting. Text messaging leaves a digital record of messages sent, unlike voice calls. 

Also, it is possible to send a text containing sensitive medical information to the wrong number. Such poor texting practices can often lead to HIPAA violations attracting severe fines and sanctions. Here are some simple ways to prevent such occurrences. 

Obtain and Document Your Patient's Consent 

Give your patients a choice to opt-in or out of various methods of communication. Also, make sure your Notice document is up-to-date and covers texting. 

Ensure that your patient's preferences are visible in your patient engagement system. Doing so will help you interact with each patient according to their preference. Asides from enhancing the patient relationship, the documentation will also hold as protection in the event of a HIPAA audit. 

Keep Your Contact Information Updated

Texting protected health information (PHI) to the wrong number can violate the HIPAA Rule. You can avoid this mistake by regularly asking your patient to verify their contact information. 

Only Text Relevant Information 

The safest way to achieve HIPAA compliance in text messaging is to limit the PHI you use in your messaging as much as possible. Since HIPAA rules are all about safeguarding PHI, you will easily avoid sanctions when you use as little PHI as possible in your text communications. 

Most times, all you need to do is send the date and time of the appointment with an invitation from the patient to text back any information or inquiry they might have about the visit.

If answering their questions requires PHI, you can verify that they are comfortable getting their answer in text form. 

Texting in Healthcare Best Practices 

Don't Mix Marketing and Healthcare Information

Let the purpose of every message be clear and concise. Do not build a reputation of mixing important health information with marketing information.

Give your patient the ability to opt in and out of marketing updates. Don't add solicitations even if you send a reminder message to your patient about an appointment. 

The most straightforward reason to avoid mixing medical and marketing messages is how people delete marketing messages. They often delete essential news and updates, assuming it was just an ad. 

Avoid Sending Unsettling Text 

Never send scary texts to your patients; ensure that your communication Is factual and objective. Sending threatening messages to induce them to keep an appointment can be an insensitive approach and not a good communication practice in healthcare. 

The Bottom Line

Texting is a growing trend in healthcare for a variety of reasons. Its immediacy, convenience, and affordability make it a preferred mode of communication for patients, providers, and health systems alike. 

While there are some concerns about the security and privacy of text messages, you can mitigate these concerns with effective policies and procedures. 

Texting is here to stay, so healthcare organizations should consider incorporating it into their communication strategies.

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