The Pew Research Center reports that 95 percent of Americans own a cell phone. These devices—and the fact that Americans are very connected to them—make healthcare patients more accessible than ever. The average adult in the U.S. checks his phone 47 times per day, and millennials have reported checking their phones an average of 86 times per day. Healthcare providers who are committed to connecting with patients and supporting them outside of face-to-face visits can successfully improve patient-provider communications by focusing on efforts that capture the attention of patients on their mobile phones. A perfect example is sending patients text messages.
Here are four reasons why healthcare teams may want to examine their current patient outreach practices and find ways to better utilize text messages to engage patients and support health management.
Patients’ interest in texting with healthcare providers has increased in recent years. A West survey found that healthcare consumers are twice as likely to prefer to receive text messages from their providers today as they were in 2011 (11% vs. 5%). Also, three times as many patients are texting healthcare providers now compared to seven years ago. See what patients and providers are texting about here.
- Rising Comfort with Texting
Texting is part of many patients’ normal daily routine. It’s convenient for patients, and it is a communication form that most Americans are familiar with and comfortable using. In fact, text messaging is the most widely used feature of all basic smartphone apps.
- Changing Preferences Driven by Millennials
Millennials have a particularly strong relationship with texting. Fifteen percent of millennials say texting is their preferred choice for receiving communications from their healthcare team. This patient demographic is growing and, as it expands, providers need to find ways to cater to millennials’ communication preferences. Plus, a 2017 Deloitte mobile consumer study revealed that mobile phone use in older generations (primarily Americans in the 55 and older age group) is beginning to mirror trends set by millennials. Based on that finding, older Americans may follow millennials’ lead and expect more from text communications from their healthcare providers.
- Increasing Demand for Between-Visit Communications
Patients want more between-visit communications from providers. Sixty-nine percent of Americans wish healthcare professionals would communicate with them more often in-between appointments. Healthcare teams can use automated text messages to connect with patients and offer more support without having to invest a lot of time or resources.
There are plenty of untapped opportunities to use texting for communicating a variety of different types of messages. However, despite patients showing a growing interest in communicating with healthcare providers through text messages, most healthcare teams have only dabbled in texting. West asked healthcare providers about their communication practices and use of text messages for patient outreach. While some providers said that they have texted with patients to confirm appointments (32%), reschedule appointments (14%) or cancel appointments (23%), few have used text communications for purposes outside of managing appointment schedules. Clearly, there is so much more that healthcare teams could be doing with text communications to engage patients.
For most patients, a cell phone is never out of sight or out of mind for very long. If you want to better understand how to effectively use text messages to communicate with patients, download Provider-Patient Texting Is Poised for Growth. This resource further explores why texting is so appealing to patients, what opportunities providers have to expand how they use text messages to engage patients, and how healthcare teams can put texting strategies into action.