Text Messaging: An Effective Engagement Tool

Mobile,Patient Satisfaction,ACO,mhealth,Patient Compliance,Text Messaging

Provider-to-Patient Texting Can Directly Benefit All Accountable Care Organizations

While still evolving, Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) - networks of health care providers and hospitals that have a coordinated financial and medical responsibility to their patients - are emerging as important players in the quest for managing and improving healthcare in the United States. Across the country, the number of commercial and public ACOs is growing. As reported by Kaiser Health News, “An estimated 23.5 million Americans are now being served by an ACO.” In order for an ACO to meet its goals, it is critical that they play an active role in managing the health of their members. This ranges from providing those members that have chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension with the resources they need to manage their conditions to ensuring those that are healthy maintain their health through timely preventive screenings to reinforcing healthy lifestyle choices across their membership.

Understandably, the initial focus of ACO leadership has been securing the data and analytics required to understand and stratify their membership. A key next step in the evolution of ACOs is implementing strategies for engaging their membership.

Key characteristics of an effective engagement strategy include:

  • Scaleability in anticipation of continued growth

  • Sensitivity to the needs of a diverse population

  • Support for personalization and, the ability to provide persistent, ongoing interactions

One (often overlooked) technology that supports these characteristics in a cost effective way is text messaging. The simplicity, immediacy and ubiquity of this channel makes it a logical choice for interacting with and engaging ACO members. Think of text messaging as the “app” that most every individual has on the mobile device and understands how to use. Study after study has shown text messaging’s effectiveness in the health care context - regardless of socioeconomic status and age.

By weaving text messaging into the fabric of an engagement strategy, the ACO can ensure that each member is given a consistent message to meet his or her needs. This consistency is especially helpful when it comes to member compliance. For instance, a member who is suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes, or congestive heart failure can receive text messages at appropriate times to see how they are feeling, obtain key health measurements (e.g.,blood glucose levels), or remind them to take their medication. Taking this a step further, if any of the reported information is outside of pre-defined limits, an alert can automatically be sent to a health coach within the ACO to drive member follow up. This type of consistent communication can be extremely effective when it comes to following through on specific plans of care.

Keeping members healthy is an important goal of any ACO. Early detection generally leads to better outcomes. In one study, 18.4 percent of those who received a notification reminding them that they were eligible for a screening test responded and made an appointment. Sending periodic reminders about healthily lifestyle habits such as eating right and regular exercise keeps these topics “top of mind” and leads to positive behavior change.

Text messaging has an important role to play to support an ACO’s communication and engagement goals. It can support communication ranging from member onboarding, education about available services, periodic reminders, chronic condition management, wellness tips and beyond. To learn more about how to incorporate HIPAA compliant and secure text messaging into your member engagement strategy, please contact us to schedule a no obligation consultation.