Why Text Messaging is a Better Option for Patient Communication than Mobile Apps

Population Health,Patient Compliance,Text Messaging,Patient Journey

Technology has revolutionized patient-to-provider communication in the U.S. From texting to video chat, providers can exchange pertinent information using a variety of different mobile tools and mediums.

However, providers looking for a cost-effective but efficient communication method should opt for text-based platforms over mobile apps. While mobile apps are popular, they’re more expensive and are experiencing low rates of adoption, and they’re less effective for healthcare providers than tried-and-true texting options. Here are a few reasons why texting is the right communication tool for healthcare providers.


Mobile Apps Are Expensive

Mobile apps are extremely expensive to produce and maintain, and adoption rates are extremely low. It’s estimated that app production—beginning with the initial design phase and ending with testing and implementation—can run anywhere from $25,000 to well over $1 million. And once an app is officially designed, it needs to go through a battery of tests to make sure individuals using a range of devices—e.g. iPhones and Androids—can all use the app properly. Then the app’s producer needs to factor in maintenance costs as well. Once an app is officially launched, it doesn’t function as a self-contained unit. It requires constant updates and patches to ensure that it runs smoothly, and the producer also needs to market the app effectively to make sure that users are even aware of its existence. 

Setting up back-end servers to protect app data is also a costly venture as well. The goal of patient-to-provider communication is to create a tool that not only allows for easy and rapid communication, but it should also be simple to implement, and it needs to save costs for the parent healthcare organization, freeing up resources that can be better used for other efforts, such as patient educational strategies.

But when it comes to mobile apps, “People focus the time they spend on apps on the most important ones, hence about 80% of people use up to 3 apps most frequently.” It’s extremely difficult to convince individuals to download an application and use an app outside of their favorite three, and for patients that access services across different healthcare providers, they need to access different apps, which means different user names and passwords, multiple apps to monitor, and time spent learning the app. This is definitely not patient centric, and with the high cost of building an app, it’s clearly not the most cost-effective and efficient way to communicate with patients. In short, providers need a communication method that’s reliable, easy to build, and won’t break the bank.


Americans Enjoy Texting

Seventy-three percent of American adults send and receive texts on a regular basis. In fact, 31 percent of American adults prefer to be contacted via text over traditional phone calls, and 55 percent of those who sent 50 messages or more a day also prefer texting over voice calls. Young adult cell phone owners—aged 18 to 24—exchange roughly 110 texts each day, and of the 1.2 million individuals whom we interact with at CareWire, more than 30 percent are over 65 years of age. Text messaging crosses all age demographics. So, with all that in mind, healthcare providers should choose to tap into texting because it’s a communication resource that’s already well established and ubiquitous. With texting, a healthcare provider sends a message or data straight to a person’s phone—a user doesn’t need to have internet access or log into an application to read the information. As long as the patient has cell service, they can obtain the text nearly anywhere on the planet. And unlike applications—most of which are generally closed services—providers can send web links via text that can send patients to a HIPAA compliant environment where protected health information can be exchanged securely and safely. Also, it’s easy for patients to peruse information that might be related to a third but trusted party, like the CDC. (However, a provider can still communicate with a patient, even if they don’t have the ability to connect to the mobile web.)


Texting is Easy and Immediate

Texting is, of course, extremely easy to do. There is little to no learning curve. In fact, many individuals feel that using a mobile phone can represent freedom and ease-of-use. So, encouraging American patients of all ages to exchange texts with their providers isn’t a stretch. Additionally, 90 percent of Americans own a mobile phone, but only two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone; what this means is that nearly everyone in the nation can communicate by text, but not everyone can use or access a mobile app on their phones. It’s also extremely effective. For instance, SMS has an open rate of 98 percent, and 90 percent of messages are read within 3 minutes, according to Adobe’s Digital Marketing Blog, and responded to within 15 minutes.

 Lastly, in order to use an app, a patient has to download it first, learn how to use it, and also ensure that the app receives regular backup and updates. But with texting, there’s nothing to learn—from preadolescents to the elderly, everyone texts, making it an extremely straightforward means of communication.


Texting is the Way to Go

mHealth technology can allow patients to exchange information—ranging from medical data to appointment reminders—with their healthcare providers with minimal effort. However, providers don’t need to invest in expensive apps in order to explore potential mHealth opportunities; all they need to do is to tap into existing texting platforms. With texting, a provider can communicate safely and efficiently with patients in no time. There isn’t a learning curve, and providers can quickly and cost effectively get a texting platform up and running. When it comes patient communication, there is only one option that providers should trust—texting.

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