Communication has always been an integral part of the human existence. In ancient China, towers were set up on the Great Wall at regular intervals. When danger was spotted on the horizon, soldiers could send messages by lighting a torch on their tower. The next soldier would then light his tower and so on until they reached the city. Using the torches, they were able to transmit a message 300 miles away in a few hours instead of a few weeks. This ability to quickly communicate across distances saved an entire empire on multiple occasions.
Within this rudimentary form of long distance communication lay the seeds of modern day's most popular long-distance communication method: Texting.
The Incredible Influence of Texting
Humans have gone through many iterations of long distance communication…letters, telegraph, telephone, radio, and computer, but perhaps none has had quite the impact of texting. Multiple researchers across the country have studied texting, and each has found it to have a tremendous impact:
•According to a 2015 Pew Research study, texting is the most popular feature of smartphone users.
•Experian Marketing Services studied texting and found that Americans send 8.5 billion texts each day — around 33 texts per person each day.
•And Forbes reported that 90 percent of text messages are read within three minutes of being received.
In fact, texting has had such a strong influence on society that an entirely new language has developed around it. Acronyms including BRB (be right back), IDK (I don't know), BTW (by the way), IMHO (in my honest opinion), and LOL (laugh out loud). Talk about a societal shift.
The Power of Texting for Medical Practices
Just as leveraging the power of smoke signals was essential for the survival of the Chinese, leveraging the power of text messaging is becoming increasingly essential for the survival of modern medical practices. Texting is much more than just a way to connect with friends and family —it is one of the easiest and most effective ways to connect with patients. According to the 2017 Patient-Provider Relationship Study, the majority of medical practice patients —78 percent — say that they want text messages. Unfortunately, only 28 percent of medical practices actually text. In this retail-oriented healthcare era, little things like texting can be the difference between finding and keeping a patient or losing out to your competition.
Texting is Easier than Ever
Once upon a time, the average medical practice was forced to spend hours on the phone each day with patients. No longer. Text messages are quick, and they are effective. Practices can send text messages for appointment reminders, missed appointments or rescheduling, recalls, birthday messages, patient feedback, and more.
If your practice is ready to start using texting, there are some key features to look for in a patient texting solution.
1. Look for the ability to text-enable your landline so you can keep your phone number and brand.
2. Opt for a texting platform that allows both the practice and the patient to initiate texts and conduct real-time conversations.
3. Choose a solution that will show the patient's name on incoming text messages.
4. Pick a system that allows you to see the message history and flag or prioritize messages.
5. Ask about tools to support HIPAA compliance.
Ideally, choose a system that is part of a larger platform for enhancing patient communication and engagement so you can provide patients with communication options, including text. Once implemented, you will quickly find that texting offers time savings and convenience for both your staff and patients.
Jim Higgins is the chief executive officer of Solutionreach, which he also founded. Higgins launched the company in 2000 to help support practices with the common, yet costly problem of patient no-shows. Follow him on Twitter @higgs77.