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Healthcare Communication: Simple is Always Better

mhealth,Text Messaging,secure text messaging,digital health

Hospitals and healthcare organizations have developed into real digital powerhouses.

Providers store healthcare consumer data online via health information technology, patients access their records and provide feedback through online portals, and telemedicine technology enables doctors to provide care to patients on the other side of the planet. The industry is now working on implementing broader interconnectivity—sometimes referred to as interoperability—with the goal of ensuring all available digital tools and services within the healthcare ecosystem are connected to one another, making the process of overall communication and medical data exchange more seamless and access to data easier.

It’s important to remember, however, when it comes to providing education and instructions to patients or requesting health status updates, simple is often best.

Effective healthcare communication does not have to be overly technical or complicated. In fact, to guarantee that all healthcare consumers—ranging from the elderly to those with lower health literacy and all points in between—understand their treatment plans and adhere to instructions, simple is an imperative. So what qualifies as simple? A few notable characteristics of simple communication include being concise, timely, relevant, and accessible to the vast majority of consumers with little or no learning curve. One communication tool that fits the bill is text messaging. Here are a few reasons why text messaging is the best and simplest option for healthcare providers.

Text Messaging: The "Last Mile" of Communication

As we noted previously, healthcare providers now rely on a broad range of digital tools to support day-to-day operations. For example, roughly seven out of 10 hospitals in the U.S. currently allow healthcare consumers to download, view, and share their health information digitally, and 90 percent of hospitals in the U.S. have some form of certified electronic health records (EHR) technology. We believe that the adoption rate of new digital technologies will only accelerate with each passing year.

While underlying technologies will continue to evolve and improve, it’s critical for providers to keep the patient at the center when determining the best way to harness these improvements—especially when it comes to communication. Enter texting.

More than three-quarters of Americans text regularly, and it’s a communication tool that Americans of all ages rely on heavily. Healthcare digital tools will come and go but the fundamental need to communicate, educate, alert, and gather feedback from patients will not. Texting, a capability that is widely used and understood (and, arguably, is becoming the de facto consumer mobile communication standard) is ideally suited to be the go-to channel for healthcare-related communication.

Simple Design

When it comes to communication, simplicity and consistency are key. Many digital health tools, such as patient portals and mobile apps, are still evolving, which means that the user experience is ever-changing. Given that every patient interaction is critical, there is something to be said for proven tools that feature simple, easy to use interfaces, like texting. For example, though there are digital apps that are designed to help people with diabetes track their glucose levels, fitness routines, and diets, many elderly diabetics tend to shy away from using these apps. Why? As one study highlighted, many of these apps feature hard-to-read text and complicated interfaces, making it tough for elderly healthcare consumers to use.

Texting is a tool that's easy for anyone—no matter the demographic—to use regularly. So, even as the digital healthcare landscape changes, communication between providers and their patients can continue to improve reliably.

Cost

Finally, texting is a cost-effective solution. While it can sometimes cost tens of thousands—or even hundreds of thousands—of dollars to develop an app or digital platform, deploying a texting solution is extremely affordable. Nearly any device can send and receive texts, ranging from smartphones and tablets to basic cellphones. Specialized platforms are available that support configuration and ongoing management of these text programs. When comparing the reach, effectiveness, and cost of texting with other alternatives, such as mobile applications, patient portals, or adding staff, texting is a clear winner.

Given the need to improve quality and reduce costs, it’s not surprising that healthcare leaders are focused on new and innovative programs to improve communication. Texting has a definite role to play. Healthcare communication should always be simple and readily available to the vast majority of patients. Texting is far and away the most straightforward and cost-effective communication resource available to healthcare consumers and providers alike.

Easy Steps Towards Better Provider-to-Patient Communication.

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