Empower Mobile Technology to Help You Do More with Less
Health care providers operate in a challenging environment. They are consistently challenged to do more in the context of an environment that is suffering from declining reimbursements and in the midst of shifting from volume to value. This is particularly true when it comes to engaging patients. There are more reasons than ever to proactively engage with patients - from reducing readmissions to managing chronic conditions to coordinating across the continuum of care and beyond. There is significant value to the patient and the provider when these activities are done well – the right population, at the right time, with the right message.
While the opportunity is clear, finding an approach that is both cost efficient and effective is a big challenge. Hiring more people to make phone calls, for example, is expensive and is not always embraced by the patient. Patient portals are another alternative and one that many providers have invested heavily in. Unfortunately, patient utilization has been anemic. Finally, mobile health (mHealth) apps are getting a lot of attention in the context of patient engagement. Widespread adoption of these apps, however, has also been a big challenge.
One alternative that readily meets the standards of being cost efficient and effective is text messaging. The statistics are clear - the vast majority of adults own cell phones and texting is the number one cell phone activity. Anymore, most people seem to prefer their communication in bite sized chunks and in a way that provides them with the minimum information needed and a path to addressing questions or concerns on their schedule. There have been dozens and dozens of studies that support the efficacy of this channel for reaching large - and often hard to reach - populations and changing behaviors. While care needs to be taken with any text messaging program (to ensure HIPAA and TCPA compliance), there is much that can be accomplished to the benefit of both patients and providers.
Some often overlooked advantages of text messaging include:
Automatically Send a Series of Messages Over Time
The ability to create a series of messages that can be used before and after a procedure means a provider can set a series of alerts tailored to the exact needs of their patients. A series is particularly helpful after a surgical procedure, with daily prompts about follow-up care and exercises and during a specific stage, like the first year of a newborn’s life. The US Department of Health and Human Services has already adopted a texting model designed to support new parents and alert them to the need for well-baby care and vaccines, citing the ease of text messaging and the high number of participants who use mobile phones as primary means of communication.
Reaching patients can be a challenge. Oftentimes it takes several phone calls and voicemails to make a connection. Sending a text message where the call-to-action is focused on having the patient call you at their convenience is a simple and effective way to create inbound phone calls. Including contact information directly in the text message makes it that much easier for the patient to reach you. This approach allows staff to spend less time trying to connect with hard to reach patients and more time on higher value activities.
Two-Way Communication Channel
Texting is a two-way communication channel – not only can you send a message, but you can also ask for a response. Consider the example where you ask for the patient to confirm that they scheduled a required follow-up appointment, took prescribed medication or if they have any questions regarding their care plan. The answer to any of these questions can drive an automated follow-up message or an alert to the provider prompting them to take a next step with the patient. This can be a quick and easy way to touch base with your patients and determine if a more in-depth interaction is required.
Create an “On-Ramp” To a Broader Mobile Experience
By embedding links in the text message, you can automatically direct the patient to a place where they can find additional information or more deeply interact with your organization. These links can direct the patient to your portal, to a specific location on your website, or to a custom web application - the possibilities are endless. Layering links into the text messages exponentially increases the power of this channel.
Harnessing the power of text messaging to reach patients not only boosts compliance and improves outcomes but also enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of a health care provider’s operation. Text messaging should become a strategic communication channel that is woven into the fabric of all patient communication and engagement initiatives.
Thinking about Mobile?
Text Messaging: Designing a Program That Really Works
If you are reading this, you already know that the benefits of this communication channel are numerous and include boosting effectiveness and efficiency, improving outcomes and enhancing the patient experience. Realizing these benefits, however, is predicated on a well thought-out, end-to-end messaging initiative.