What you need to know about text messaging for doctors and healthcare providers

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Image credit: istockphoto.com/portfolio/MJ_Prototype

Using text messaging to communicate with patients is a great way to boost their engagement and loyalty. This is how to get your practice into the text messaging game. It’s becoming more common for people to decline phone calls, according to the Pew Research Center. As a result, many businesses are seeking to keep in touch with their clients. In the business world, text messaging has reemerged for the first time in a long time.

If you’re in healthcare, texting is a competitive advantage. This new tool has made it easier than ever for patients to communicate with your practice. 63 percent of respondents stated that they would move to a company that offered text messaging as a method of communication if they were offered. You can’t just send a text to your friends and family and expect to use text messaging in healthcare. Several best practices must be followed in order to keep your office running efficiently and your patients happy.

Best practices for texting patients

The first step is to become familiar with the rules.

In the event that you utilize text messaging to communicate with your patients, they may be subject to various rules. Before sending a message to a patient, be sure you have their consent. It is considered that the patient has agreed to receive texts from you to answer questions or remind them of appointments if you obtain their phone number through appointment scheduling or intake forms.

There is no limit on how long a patient chooses to receive text messages from their doctor. Replying to a message with the word “unsubscribe” will remove a patient from the list.

Because text messages are not encrypted, PHI should not be sent by text message. Because of the dangers of communicating PHI over an unencrypted communication channel, HIPAA-compliant text messaging is only possible if your patients have approved to receive such texts.

In order to utilize text messaging to promote new products or services, you’ll need to receive written permission from the company you’re working for first.

Significant fines may be imposed for a violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Consult legal counsel if you have any questions about these new suggestions.

You need to decide on a text messaging system.

Choosing the wrong platform to send text messages to consumers can be a hassle for both patients and staff members. Select a HIPAA-compliant instrument in order to prevent violating patient privacy. Select a text message management system that makes it easy to keep track of all of your text messages. As a result, employees can better assist patients and the risk of message loss is reduced.

It’s a good idea to look for text messaging solutions that can provide patients with updated features like the ability to text you directly from your website or a phone call. As a result, you’ll have a better chance of securing more appointments for both current and potential patients.

Plan your practice in the third step.

Text messaging has a plethora of applications, so it’s critical to lay out a strategy for how your practice intends to make use of it. Selective use of programs will help you avoid sending your patients an excessive number of communications.

One of the most prevalent uses of this technology is to remind patients of upcoming appointments and send them automated reminders. Begin by establishing your team’s confidence and workflows before you worry about the volume of messages. Your imagination can run wild at this point.

Permission from patients is required.

Aside from legal responsibilities, it’s always a good idea to check with your patients first to see if texting them is okay in their opinion. Unsolicited texting may be seen as a violation of privacy by some, therefore it’s preferable to ask permission before sending a message. Tell patients how you want to use text messaging, and make sure to emphasize the positive aspects for them (i.e., saving time, eliminating phone tags, and delivering helpful reminders).

Create a system for dealing with incoming communications.

Analyze the many different types of messages you may receive, such as requests for appointments, inquiries about your provider, or issues with your bills. In order to ensure that all communications are handled by a designated individual and a point person, establish a strategy for managing the office inbox.

Expectations of when patients can expect a response are just as important. You should develop response goals in your practice and then convey them to your patients as part of your first reaction to their issues. You should expect a response to your appointment request within the next working day, for example. If response times start to climb, keep an eye on your progress and work to make it better.

Have a game plan.

Consider the most typical queries and messages you expect to get before launching your text messaging campaign. Then, come up with a list of responses that you may use whenever you get a new text message. As long as you customize each reply, it will feel less like an automated response and more like an actual conversation. As you become familiar with your new work environment and develop your procedures, you should be prepared to do so. Change isn’t always easy, but it might be worth it in the long run, as with any new technology.

Final Note

Text messaging is convenient for patients and can increase the number of appointments at a practice. Effective use of text messaging by medical offices can help them satisfy the demands of their patients for accessibility and convenience, while also increasing patient loyalty and helping the practice expand. Two-thirds of patients prefer text messaging for appointment reminders, and five-tenths of patients want a text message reminding them to book their next appointment.

Using encrypted text messaging to stay in touch with patients is a great way to increase appointment volume and keep patients happy.

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