From electronic health records to bioinformatics, technology is transforming health care at a rapid pace, and many trends promise revolutionary changes for patients and how they interact with the health care system. While some of these innovations may not ultimately catch on, it is absolutely clear that mobile health is not a fad, and it’s the beginning of an unprecedented period of interaction between health care providers and patients. For instance, the global mobile health market, according to a 2015 report from Allied Market Research, will grow at a compounding rate of 33.5 percent between 2015 and 2020.
More than ever, it’s clear that we have entered a time where vital health communication will take place outside of the four walls of a health care facility – and largely through the patient’s mobile device. While apps and wearables are getting most of the attention, there is also a big role for text messaging to play in support of population health, chronic condition management and overall patient compliance. Here are a few more reasons why we believe that mobile messaging – specifically text messaging – is a trend to watch in 2016.
1. Mobile phone ownership is ubiquitous.
It’s no secret that most Americans are deeply connected to their smart phones, but a startling 90+ percent of individuals own mobile phones, and nearly all of those phones have texting ability. Two-thirds of individuals reach for their phones first thing in the morning and right before bed at night, and the vast majority of people in the Millennial age group—the largest cohort in the U.S.—have their phones nearby at all times. 25 percent of Millenials say that they don't remember the last time they did not have their phone close at hand. This means that health care professionals have an enormous opportunity to impact their patients’ lives. For example, a health care provider can send a text message with a link where patients can securely and safely review test results, book appointments, update their health status and view useful articles about exercise, diet and other wisdom to help support their health. More and more people are connected digitally; it's only natural that this will extend to our health care experiences.
2. Texting is the number one mobile phone activity.
Individuals use their phones to read the news, chat on social networks, and shop online, but texting is the number one phone activity. 97 percent of people send at least one text a day, and texting has a higher open and response rate than other digital forms of communication. While emails are only opened about 20 percent of the time, 98 percent of text messages are read, giving health care professionals a much higher probability of communicating key information. Of those text messages, 45 percent or more receive responses, usually within 15 minutes of being sent. Since individuals are used to interacting through text, extending that to health care related interactions is only natural.
3. Text messages significantly increase patient compliance.
When introducing a new habit or pattern, an individual is most successful when they are building on the behaviors that are already in place. For instance, health care professionals have a major opportunity to leverage an individual’s connection to their mobile phone in order to increase patient compliance. Study after study shows that the reinforcement that patients receive from text message reminders from health care providers helps them stay compliant. For instance, in 2009, 70 individuals participated in a study on daily sunscreen usage. Of those, half received two reminders per day to put on sunscreen before going out while half received no message. The group that received the reminders was twice as likely to use sunscreen, significantly cutting their risk for skin cancer and sun-related skin damage.
In another study involving daily medication for type 2 diabetes, participants received messages when they forgot to take their medication. Those receiving reminders were far more likely to take their medication during the ideal, predefined timeframe, which can help keep blood sugar levels more stable and reduce the risk of ongoing damage associated with type 2 diabetes. Patients are usually happy to have access to any technology that makes it easier for them to do the right thing for their health. Mobile health is a natural fit.
4. Texting is growing in the 50 to 64 age bracket.
As patients pass 50, they are heading into the age group where they need to spend more effort to maintain a healthy life. One in five Americans fall into the 50 to 64 demographic, and seventy percent of them will be diagnosed with at least one chronic health issue. Periodic screenings among this age group can catch issues ranging from breast cancer to elevated cholesterol early, making treatment easier and less expensive, reducing the risk of long-term complications. Additionally, lifestyle changes, like drinking less, exercising more, and eating better can accomplish a lot to help patients in this group stay healthier. Luckily, this is a demographic that is getting far easier to reach through text messaging. Texting is growing quickest among the 50 to 64-year-old set, which is exactly the group needed to reach to ensure that they adhere to medication timetables and take preventative steps to prevent chronic problems.
In our highly connected world, individuals have more ways to stay in touch than ever before. Texting has become a sturdy part of our communications landscape. Extending this connectedness to the areas of health and wellness is a natural fit and a great way to forge stronger and longer lasting relationships with your patients while improving their long term health. Certainly, this trend is here to stay.
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.