In a recent West survey, healthcare providers rated text messages as the second most effective way to communicate with patients. Live phone calls were the only type of communication ranked ahead of texting. The survey also revealed that 72 percent of healthcare providers are routinely or occasionally using text messages to communicate with patients. This indicates that providers are tuned into patients’ communication preferences and are aware that patients are becoming more accepting of exchanging text messages with their providers. As texting continues to grow in popularity across healthcare, a question to consider is: What are providers and patients texting about, and what should they be texting about?
Currently, many provider-patient text communications are centered on appointments and reminding patients to keep them. Provider survey responses showed that nearly one in three healthcare teams (32%) has texted with patients to confirm appointments, and nearly one in four (23%) has texted about cancelling appointments.
While using text messages to remind patients about appointments or to make scheduling changes is effective, there are other potential uses for text messages—and few are being utilized. For example, just seven percent of healthcare providers have texted a patient to provide follow-up care instructions. But a follow-up text message inviting a patient who has recently been released from the hospital to schedule a follow-up exam with their primary care physician could be extremely valuable, as could a text message that shares post-treatment instructions. These examples show opportunities that providers may be missing to connect with patients through texting—a preferred communication channel—and drive them to take steps to improve their health.
To fully take advantage of texting’s capabilities, healthcare teams should consider how they can expand their use of text messages to do things like:
- Send patients survey check-ins to collect information about their current health and symptoms
- Share tips and encouragement for healthy living and disease management
- Notify patients when payment deadlines are approaching
- Provide information about the availability and cost of preventive services
- Invite patients to complete satisfaction surveys following appointments or other interactions
These examples highlight a few of the ways healthcare teams can employ text messages to improve patient communication and care quality. There is currently a disconnect between what providers and patients are texting about and what they could be texting about, but patients have demonstrated that they are becoming accustomed to receiving text reminders and notifications from their providers, and they are very willing to participate in text exchanges. Now is a good time for healthcare teams to begin pushing for more sophisticated text communications.
For more information about healthcare texting trends, the benefits of provider-patient texting and how to successfully use text messages to communicate with patients, download Provider-Patient Texting Is Poised for Growth.