Although texting started to gain popularity as an everyday communication mode in the early 2000s, healthcare has only recently started to embrace this technology.
Other industries — like banking and hospitality — have integrated text messaging for some time. And people have responded positively to using SMS to interact with their favorite brands. In one study, 88% of respondents said they wanted to receive appointment scheduling texts from businesses, while 77% wanted to use texting for customer service interactions.
That being said, healthcare is different from other industries. There’s more at stake. And building simplified, convenient communication systems between patients and providers requires novel approaches that consider high levels of security, accuracy, and personalization.
With the healthcare landscape getting more and more competitive with disruptive tech juggernauts — like Google and Amazon — entering the scene, developing and implementing an effective text messaging function can make or break your efforts to engage patients, earn their loyalty, and streamline care delivery.
1. Provide care-related information to patients before, after, and between visits
When patients are in a physician’s office or another healthcare setting, they benefit from the resources available, such as advanced diagnostic tools and imaging devices. They also have access to providers — nurses, doctors, and other clinic staff who can help address any questions about patient care.
However, a lot of care happens away from the hospital or clinic visit. Patients need to remember to take medications to stay on schedule. They might encounter symptoms they didn’t expect to experience. And it’s up to them to pick up the phone and often wait on lengthy holds in hopes of reaching a member of their clinical care team.
But some technologies that use SMS still don’t address some of the most stressful aspects of healing at home or in alternative settings. A basic text-based appointment reminder doesn’t perform mental health check-ins with new moms. And a message telling someone to visit a portal link doesn’t answer basic questions about symptoms or provide medication guidance.
The best digital healthcare platforms use text messaging to do more to help support and guide patients throughout their care journeys: between prenatal visits, prior to a surgical appointment, or after a lengthy hospitalization. For instance, one of the most significant opportunities of texting in healthcare is the potential to enhance patient engagement and education. Text messages can be used to send medication reminders, provide follow-up instructions, and help people prepare for upcoming visits, ensuring patients are actively involved in their care management.
Moreover, text-based education materials can be shared with patients, empowering them with important health information relevant to their conditions or care paths. By combining the inherent reach of text messaging with personalized and intelligent automation, patients can receive better care at home without the stress and uncertainty of trying to reach a provider by phone or waiting for a response to a patient portal message. Similarly, providers can rest easy knowing that they have an intelligent platform to help them respond to routine questions or concerns from their patients.
2. Help streamline and simplify complex care delivery
Some care journeys involve a visit or two to the clinic. Others can entail a longer road, requiring routine diagnostics, multiple appointments, and continued monitoring. And those extended patient experiences demand more coordination from everyone involved.
That’s where advanced digital health technologies that use text messaging as a primary communication channel can help. For one, texting can play a crucial role to support remote patient monitoring (RPM), allowing healthcare providers to collect and analyze data outside traditional healthcare settings. Through text-based programs, patients can share contextual information to help their care teams interpret and gain additional insight from the data collected via remote monitoring devices.
In fact, with RPM, we find that intelligent care enablement platforms take things to a new level. They proactively glean relevant patient data and display it in a longitudinal view for care teams that can then easily review data remotely and provide appropriate guidance. In addition, Memora Health can help interpret and synthesize remote monitoring readings for physicians, reminding patients to use a home device and even follow-up with patients with friendly check-ins to assess for any symptoms or other concerns.
Overall, innovative technology that uses text messaging can be tremendously helpful and effective for improving workflows and the patient experience during complex care journeys.
Learn how Penn Medicine leveraged text messaging to help slash diagnostic workups from 90 to 30 days.
3. Expand care access and support health equity
To catch up with increasingly digital-first expectations of care, a lot of providers have been quick to adopt patient-facing portals. These applications securely store medical information, and sometimes feature appointment schedulers and direct communication modules. But do people actually use them?
It’s certainly questionable. Some research has found most people don’t use them. And one principal reason (25%) is lack of internet access. Thus, healthcare organizations that only rely on patient portals to simplify care delivery might unintentionally leave some people out of opportunities to enjoy the benefits of digital health technology. With 42 million people living without broadband, health systems need a better solution for reaching all patients where they are, when they need help.
Text messaging supported by intelligent technology can help providers do just that. SMS text is a staple feature built into just about every mobile phone on the market. Forward-thinking healthtech helps close the digital gap by using AI and natural language processing (NLP) to do the heavy lifting on the backend to provide information to and assist patients — while end users interact with the platform just as they would with a family member or friend.
Avoid only using texting to send links or basic reminders
As health systems integrate text messaging into more and more facets of care delivery, one thing is clear: just sticking to basic appointment reminders or sending portal links isn’t enough. Patients increasingly prefer more interactive communication experiences over static messages.
Why? For one, convenience drives conversion. One study found almost 50% of consumers wish their digital healthcare experiences were smoother and reflected their interactions with technology in other industries. The same survey discovered 28% of patients would leave their provider due to a poor digital health experience.
That means the status quo of only reminding patients about upcoming visits or forwarding people to password-protected portals that require broadband isn’t satisfying the evolving expectations of the communities health systems serve. It means the time is now to advance your text-based technology beyond the basics.
In today's fast-paced digital age, communication plays a vital role in all aspects of life. And patients increasingly want their healthcare providers to match their expectations of communication. Using an intelligent care enablement platform to reach people through SMS text, organizations can better support the health of their communities, expand access, and streamline complex care operations.