What Healthcare Organizations Can Learn from Messaging Apps - from Texting to WhatsApp to Instagram

Population Health,Mobile

In the last few years, customer preference in communication has changed from emails and phone calls to messaging apps - from text messaging (the app that comes installed on virtually every cell phone) to standalone apps (WhatsApp) or those integrated into social media (SnapChat, Instagram). This is especially true among millennials, who are more connected to the digital world than any previous generation.

Health care organizations have a lot to learn from this trend including:

1. Rich content is preferred by users:

Today's culture has an increasing preference for visual content that helps to either answer a question or explain a process. One of the most common traits of messaging programs is that they're more than text, and in many cases, adding rich mobile web content like pictures, videos, and look-ups can quickly make provider to patient communication interactive and effective. Health care organizations can use this to help people understand their health condition, prep for a surgical procedure, or keep track of on-going treatment plans.

2. Immediacy and analytics make a powerful combination:

Only a relatively small percentage of patients ever fill out forms to provide feedback on their experience, but surveys sent through messaging apps, in contrast, often receive higher and faster (sometimes even immediate) response rates. That alone would make them valuable for any health care organization, but there's another detail to consider – analytics. Surveys through a messaging app allow you to quickly and easily slice and dice the data to detect systemic trends that support process improvement initiatives. When you can get answers to your questions in a fraction of the time it would take to mail surveys or conduct phone calls and subsequently tally responses, you can start acting on your data right away.

3. Personalized content always matters:

Nobody enjoys feeling treated like they're just a cog in a machine. That's why users of messaging services tend to prefer communicating with the people on their lists, not just passively being fed a constant stream of new content. Much like the way emails with the user's name in the subject line are more likely to be opened, personalized content is more likely to get a response from the patient. For many companies, this isn't as difficult as it sounds — software can include, for example, the patient's first name and the date of the visit, and that alone is often enough to make content feel tailored especially for them.

The health care industry has always struggled with communication, but as new ways of interacting continue to be developed (and become mainstream), providers have the opportunity to step forward and connect with their patients more effectively than ever before.