Leveraging the power and convenience of text messaging for your practice

Text messaging can make your patients' waiting room experience less laborious.

Over the past two years, integrating new technology into the waiting room experience has empowered patients and providers alike. Primarily by providing patients with tools that conveniently let them play a larger, and more active role in their healthcare management, providers have automated many essential administrative tasks. These include scheduling and changing appointments, filling out patient intake forms, and communicating insurance information which can now be completed outside of the practice waiting room before the patient arrives.

One of these technologies, texting, has been around for quite some time.It’s a tool that was well ensconced in our culture long before the pandemic. Consequently, to many of us, it’s not considered a “new” or novel technology.But using SMTs (Standard Message Texts), or simply texting, to communicate with patients is a still a relatively new phenomenon at care centers.

In a survey, 98% of consumers indicated they would use texts to communicate with their doctors, but at this time only about 19% of consumers report being able to do so because their providers don’t offer the option. Obviously, there’s a huge disruptive opportunity here.

Why should a healthcare organization consider using text communications?

One of the chief advantages of using texts to connect with patients is its consistently high engagement rate. Unlike emails, which can wallow in inboxes or, worse, spam folders, texts get read very quickly and replied to.In fact, 97% of all text messages are engaged with by the recipient within minutes.

What’s the advantage to this for healthcare practices?

Using SMT free’s up the office staff from conducting a lot of time-consuming routine communication follow-up.This includes appointment scheduling, prescription reminders, and patient intake information. There’s no such thing as “phone tag” when you’re communicating via text messages. In addition, text messages provide an easily accessible history through their thread chains, so it’s easy to refer back to what exactly was communicated and how the associated response - something you can’t do if using voicemails.

So why aren’t more practices adopting text messaging to communicate with their patients?

One drawback has been the ability to centralize the process.What mobile device, for instance, would the practice use as its text-messaging “phone”?Who would be responsible for monitoring the incoming messages? Would such communications be compliant with HIPAA regulations? These are all concerns that faced early adopters, which is why texting is still in its nascent phase.

Fortunately, there are several software solutions on the market today that simplify the process of implementing text message communications at your medical practice. Bi-directional texting, for instance, is an integral part of the Yosi Health patient intake platform.It centralizes the SMT communications, so that the administrative team has access to all incoming communications. It easily allows for the information to be disseminated to other features of the solution, such as patient intake forms, billing, and electronic medical record forms.Most importantly, its secure and HIPAA compliant.

The primary gain for the healthcare organization is dramatic workflow efficiency improvements. In the same NCBI survey, 91% of those polled reported that text message communications precluded them from having to make a call to the practice.Don’t be surprised if your support staff are the first to tell you what a time savings that represents!

The primary challenge a practice faces is the task of weening their staff (and their patients) off their habitual use of the traditional methods of communication they have grown accustomed to using over the years. These include calling, sending emails, or checking messages on some other sort of patient portal.The good news is that everyone already knows how to use text messaging on their cell phone. Once your office starts centralizing communications to a text messaging system, patients will take to it and wonder why the option was not offered sooner.

It’s become abundantly clear that the patient journey begins well before they ever set foot in the practice waiting room. The reality is that the journey begins at home. By making the starting point convenient and accessible, practices are well on their way to providing a much greater overall experience.Consider making texting a part of your practice’s commitment to accessibility.

Hari Prasad is CEO of Yosi Health