Several of our business customers are healthcare organizations such as wellness clinics, appointment scheduling apps, and EMR software companies. They all have to work with protected health information. At this point, it's clear that sending HIPAA-compliant notifications to patients is one of the primary uses of SMS in healthcare, but let's talk about a few other ways that healthcare organizations are using our HIPAA-compliant texting platform as part of their services.

Text messaging in healthcare: Key to better patient-provider communication

Text messages have shifted from being a niche concept in healthcare to being so important now that many providers have incorporated health SMS updates as a regular part of their patient communications. This became even more important with both patients and healthcare workers having to stay at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Text messages are powerful because the patient can view the data quickly and with minimal effort. The majority of text communications have shown a high open rate. Patients' response rates to text reminders have, in fact, been found to be higher than other channels. It makes SMS one of, if not the most ideal, channel for patient text messaging for various purposes. In healthcare, SMS has the potential to offer everything that patients need, from appointment confirmations to text-based schedules.

Secure texting in healthcare

As much as a healthcare business may want to exploit clients' preferences for text messages, it must do so with careful skepticism. In a healthcare setting, there are a few important questions before sending a patient SMS messages of any kind. The points listed below regarding the use of SMS for healthcare are easy to implement and understand.

HIPAA-compliant text messaging

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) declares patient data as highly sensitive information that needs to be kept private and protected and defines the national standards to do so.

Health providers sending patients reminders by text must follow HIPAA rules regarding text messaging so they can adhere to the national standards of electronic healthcare. Prescription reminders may be sent through text to certain patients so they can each get their prescription refill on time and avoid missing their medication dose. Most patients prefer receiving care info via text message rather than going through medical portals.

Texting in healthcare has the added benefit of allowing communication between all members of a healthcare team. Healthcare professionals can always be in contact with each other and provide health information from any location – even in the absence of internet access – as long as the texts do not disclose any protected patient information and end up breaching HIPAA regulations.

Regular text messages mean less time spent on staff meetups and more time spent on treating patients. Also, some time can be saved by reducing personal contact, which would also cut costs for healthcare providers and other healthcare professionals, as well as enable them to attend to more patients.

Patient care and healthcare outcomes are top priorities for physicians, and text messaging platform technology continues to improve the patient experience. Deploying something as simple as an SMS API for healthcare messaging has a relatively significant impact on patient satisfaction. So, here are a few more ways secure text messaging helps in the healthcare sector.

1. Call-to-action

Building upon those appointment reminders, let's talk about making your patients take the required action based on your medical texting efforts. For this, you need to incorporate some sort of CTA in your message.

If you're adding an appointment reminder, for instance, you can ask the patient to 'Reply with 1 to confirm or 2 to reschedule. If they choose to rebook, you can respond with a shortened link that takes them to a shared calendar for rescheduling.

The clinic will save precious time, the patient won't need to make a phone call, and the clinic will recover the revenue with an immediately rescheduled appointment. These timely text messages are best sent beforehand as they reduce client no-shows and drive future appointments. They will also allow other patients to book appointments in the slots that become available.

2. Notifying staff

You don't have to stop at the patients. Clinic and hospital staff carry mobile devices as well. You can also manage internal healthcare communication and activity with instant SMS notifications. So think about leveraging medical text messaging for doctors, nurses, or other staff members too.

For added speed of delivery and immediate pager-style attention-grabbing, you can use flash SMS. This is a type of SMS messaging where texts appear on the screen and stay till the recipient dismisses them; they are not stored on the recipient's device storage unless they allow it.

Here are some ideas for sending out different types of SMS for health workers.

  • Administrative announcements

  • Meeting reminders

  • Emergency alerts

  • Maintenance schedules

  • Scheduled cleaning activities

  • Shift reminders or changes

  • Even team member birthdays can all be covered via quick SMS messages.

3. Patient care

Appointment reminders aren't the only notifications patients appreciate. How about test dates and results? Patients feeling overwhelmed might miss their important tests, especially if there are several of them lined up over a period of time. 

A reminder can help ensure patient diagnosis and treatment stay on track. A prompt text message can also inform the patient as soon as their test results are available in case the results are needed for urgent care. For bonus points, you can add a shortened link that leads them to comprehensive results in the patient portal.

Recurrent reminders for prescription refills and regular appointments can be triggered automatically. Even a medication reminder text message can prove to be incredibly helpful. These can be useful for the doctors as well, for notifying them of regular check-ups, giving an overview of the patient's health before an appointment, etc.

Telehealth texting can also be a convenient channel for addressing any urgent queries patients might have for their doctors. Long wait times on phone calls or waiting for days for an appointment aren't always feasible, so a patient might even prefer texting a doctor instead.

4. News and alerts

Keep patients informed through responsible and timely healthcare texting. Maybe there's an outbreak in the community that people should know about ASAP. Or you want to send health tips and news to a patient's cell phone with a call-to-action to schedule an appointment to learn more.

If the clinic has some new services or new physicians that patients should know about, these can be advertised through SMS, too. These can include physical therapy, emotional support animals (ESAs) and service dogs, dietary counseling, HIPAA compliance, etc. 

Healthcare marketing can also be implemented to text patients promotional content, such as discounts on yearly wellness checkups or package deals for parents and their newborns. Make sure not to sound overly enthusiastic with SMS marketing, though; it can come across as insensitive and thoughtless in the healthcare context.

Payment reminders are another useful application of healthcare text messaging. Texting patients is helpful in reminding them to make timely payments for the services provided to them without sounding rude or unreasonable.

5. Healthcare software needs to include texting

While our HIPAA-compliant messaging API, for example, is simple to deploy, not every clinic has an IT department with developers and staff; however, most people have access to mobile devices. This is where healthcare software companies fill the void. EMR software companies or appointment scheduling software companies often give their clients patient text messaging options for better communication, and rightly so.

Not only is it a win for healthcare providers and their patients, but a medical patient messaging system also becomes part of the revenue model for the healthcare software company. Just as with any CRM, healthcare management software can provide two-way or bulk SMS messaging as part of the package. This is best for clinics and hospitals providing a valuable patient service for a reasonable price.

6. Feedback collection

Sharing a feedback survey via text is quick and easy for the healthcare facilities as well as their patients. Many health services hand out elaborate paper-based questionnaires after each patient visit. Others send long surveys via email or even call the patient for feedback, the latter of which can feel quite intrusive to some. People tend to prefer texting and respond better to it than other channels for this purpose. Thus, collecting feedback via text messaging in healthcare can improve patient engagement.

Bonus: Consider omnichannel messaging

Last but not least, omnichannel messaging takes things further with more interactive calls-to-action, as well as richer, more contextual communication. Leveraging more messaging channels, including SMS, in healthcare gives patients choices in the way they communicate with their healthcare providers. And that's powerful, as it helps with the preventative approach to healthcare, boosts the patient experience, and enables better provision of both physical and mental health services.