We'll cut to the chase: This is the time when the value and effectiveness of text messaging really shines. Throughout the nation, practices and other healthcare organizations that greatly reduced or temporarily ceased operations during this pandemic are beginning to reopen or planning how to do so in the coming weeks. For those practices that leverage text messaging, resuming operations will prove more streamlined, safer and ultimately successful. And in a mobile-led world where patient engagement has become an essential strategy, text messaging is a necessity.
Here are 10 of the ways practices can use texting with patients, staff and vendor partners to their advantage during this transitional period.
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1. Announcing plans to reopen
A great first text to send to all key stakeholders is an announcement from practice leadership that the facility is gearing up to resume operations and more information will be forthcoming, including how safety will be ensured. This mass text will not only help mentally prepare recipients for the time when they will come to the practice for treatment, to work or to provide a service, but it can also serve as welcomed, positive news of the beginning of the return to some semblance of normalcy.
2. Rescheduling canceled appointments
Once a practice determines when it will reopen, this is an apt time to begin sending text messages to those patients who had their appointments cancelled due to stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines. Such text messages would provide instructions for how patients can reschedule their appointments (e.g., phone call, form, portal). It can also include information on new safety measures or a hyperlink to a page on the practice's website that details such measures. More than 97 percent of phones can access text messaging and the mobile internet. Including hyperlinks is a useful way to engage patients by supplementing information in the text. Including the practice's phone number here is also an effective way to further engage with patients and encourage them to reach out with questions.
Leveraging text messaging to communicate about a practice's ability to accommodate patients is a highly efficient and cost-effective means of maximizing revenue and getting a practice back on track financially.
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3. Scheduling new appointments
Following outreach to those patients who had their appointments scheduled, it's time to shift focus to scheduling patients in need of treatment who were identified during the shutdown but could not be scheduled. Practices should use texts to help ensure optimization of available space on the patient schedule, which some practices may expand (e.g., add weekend or evening hours) to accommodate the patient backlog and demand. Text messaging should also be used to drive recall campaigns, such as those for annual physicals and Medicare annual wellness visits.
Consider that not every outbound phone call staff members make is answered, but almost every inbound call to a practice during hours of operation is answered. Texting is a great way to inform patients that they need to call the practice. As noted, the text can put the practice's phone number at their fingertips.
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