The growth of text messaging (SMS) has matured over the last several years, and the potential for businesses across all industries to incorporate texting into business operations and customer communication is vast. Companies in the restaurant delivery, banking, transportation, and ride-sharing industries have been successful in using SMS as a communication channel because it provides their employees and customers with an efficient, private and convenient way to interact.
Text messaging has also emerged as a popular and effective way for many organizations to improve customer experience. According to a national survey, alongside email and phone calls, SMS ranks in the top three communication methods consumers prefer when interacting with businesses. In fact, over half of survey respondents indicated they would view a business more positively if it offered SMS capabilities.
The healthcare industry in particular is outpacing others in its use of SMS. Physician's offices are leveraging texting as a strategic tool to improve the patient experience and their own internal processes. Common use cases for SMS include notifications around appointment reminders, prescription refills and test results, as well as managing wait times.
Independent and hospital-owned practices that employ SMS for the processes listed above, can realize a number of benefits pertaining to internal and external procedures. The following are three examples of how healthcare providers are using SMS as a communication channel to their benefit:
Optimized appointment schedules. The ability to manage appointment schedules by sending reminders, cancellations, and reschedule-requests via text is not only convenient for patients, it also has direct implications on the physician office's bottom line.
For example, if the office has a waitlist and the ability to text patients when there is an appointment opening - especially a last minute opening - they are able to fill the appointment slot and utilize the staff present where there would have been a no-show appointment (a major expense costing the U.S. healthcare system more than $150 billion each year).
Being able to mitigate no-shows via text alerts is a definitive way to optimize the appointment schedule and minimize operational costs such as overstaffing, improper booking of machinery/lab equipment, etc. A more organized schedule with accurate wait times results in a more relaxed environment and happier patients.
Increased flexibility for customers. SMS also gives patients the freedom to communicate with their healthcare providers in a way that is intuitive and easy for them. By giving patients the choice of how to interact with their healthcare providers, SMS has the potential to enhance the patient-provider relationship and strengthen patient loyalty, increasing the likelihood that the patient will reach out for preventative care, as well as ongoing treatment for chronic issues. In addition, offering the flexibility to communicate via text reduces much of the hassle associated with listening to voicemails or making phone calls about test results at an inconvenient time or place.
Improved treatment and patient care. Physicians' offices have also begun to use SMS in innovative ways such as reminding patients to take their medication, checking insulin levels, and sending motivational text messages that encourage positive behaviors (i.e. eating healthy and increasing activity) and reduce negative behaviors (i.e. smoking). These alerts demonstrate a level of care and involvement from the healthcare provider, while also improving the patients' health and quality of treatment.
In fact, a recent study from the American Heart Association hypothesized that using automated mobile health notifications with tracking and texting components may increase physical activity. The results showed that patients who received these motivational and informative text messages walked an additional 2,500 steps each day, compared to individuals who did not receive the messages. This strategy, although not yet widespread, has great potential to become a common and successful practice among healthcare providers due to the huge popularity of wearable activity trackers on the market today.
Together, these strategies have the potential to make a significant difference in enhancing the patient experience with a provider, as well as their engagement with a treatment plan. Healthcare providers looking to incorporate SMS as a communication channel not only have the potential to further benefit a patient's well-being, but also establish themselves as a trusted partner with a deep level of emotional investment in their patients long-term health plan.
David Rich is Vice President of Product at Flowroute and responsible for the company’s overall product strategy, market validation, and voice of the customer. He brings deep experience in the software, speech and telephony industries. Prior to Flowroute, he was the General Manager of Knurld, a public API voice biometrics service, and CEO of LumenVox, a leading speech automation solutions company.