Automated Text Messaging for Healthcare

Is Automated Text Messaging Improving Healthcare?

The evidence is in, text messaging is becoming standard practice for many healthcare professionals. Adding text messaging to your arsenal of communication tools can be beneficial to your practice management as well as to your patients. It allows you to offer services that can improve their quality of care and even their quality of life. Not sure that automated text messaging is right for you? Let’s take a look at some research-based examples of how it is being used in healthcare applications.

Texting Medication Reminders

For many healthcare practitioners, ensuring that patients are taking their medication on schedule and according to instructions is a major concern. This is especially true for practices that provide services to seniors and populations who have language challenges.

When patients have serious, chronic conditions that rely on a very specific medication protocol,  the importance of automated text reminders cannot be underestimated. In March 2015, a report was presented at the American Heart Association Epidemiology and Prevention/Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions. The study showed significant improvement in patient behavior.

“At 2 months, 100% of patients had improved medication adherence with the text message reminders…”

A 100% improvement. That’s an impressive statistic. It is interesting to note that in this study the mean age of the participants was 65 years. If you are providing services to seniors then this information should be encouraging and shows that older patients are willing and able to use this technology to help them manage their treatment; and there are substantial advantages when patients are able to self-manage their treatment programs. The best and most obvious benefit of an automated-reminder program for this population is the reduction in negative outcomes. But, there are additional benefits that will likely occur as a result of better medication management. Although these additional benefits were not studied as part of this particular research, it is logical to anticipate that unnecessary trips to the doctor’s office or the emergency room can be reduced by maintaining better medication adherence.

Breast Cancer Screening Reminders

About 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the U.S. in 2015. That alarming number and the consequences it implies can be reduced by regular screening. Sadly, it is often too easy for a woman to forget and postpone this screening. In fact, one of the greatest impediments to having the screening done is women forgetting their appointments. Whether this is intentional or not, a study funded by the Imperial College Healthcare Charity in England found that women who received a reminder text message were 20% more likely to make their appointment than those who did not.

The primary goal of the automated reminder text message was to get more women to their screening appointments. There were, however, additional benefits from these messages. The research found that women who received the reminder text were three times more likely to cancel their appointment. Although a cancelled appointment is not the desired outcome, a cancelled appointment is far superior to a no-show. Reducing no-show rates can save hundreds of thousands of dollars for the medical professionals.

Lead author Robert Kerrison summarized the report like this:

“Our research found that a cheap, simple text-message-reminder could boost the number of women – especially those from deprived areas – attending screening, or cancelling in advance. More trials are needed to confirm this, but texting could save valuable NHS resources.”

Why Does Automated Text Messaging Work?

There are an abundance of  success stories but one question that begs an answer is, why does it work? If we had to sum it up in one word it would be ubiquitous. It is almost impossible to go through a day without interacting via text message. This is  true because the technology is widespread across many demographics.

The ability of text messaging to reach traditionally under-served populations cannot be over emphasized. The report for the HHS concluded that, “The trends toward wide spread ownership of cell phones and widespread text message use across virtually all segments of the U.S. population will continue to support the spread of health text messaging programs. This scan provides encouraging evidence related to the use of health text messaging to improve health promotion, disease prevention, and disease management.”  There is no reason to expect that these trends will change. Of course the tools and technology will evolve but the ability to deliver important messages immediately will undoubtedly improve and expand for the foreseeable future. The good news, then, is that any investment made in automated text messaging technology will have long-term benefits.

What About HIPAA & Privacy?

In general, it is preferable to use a HIPAA-compliant texting service instead of using your own individual cell phone.  Once you start communicating by text message to a patient via your cell phone, you are officially collecting and storing electronic protected health information (ePHI) on a device that is not properly secured. You cannot feasible protect ePHI stored on a portable device that can be easily misplaced, borrowed, or stolen.

As we’ve pointed out in the past, it is important to follow HIPAA and privacy guidelines when implementing any text messaging program. For more information, please refer to the Department of Health and Human Services. To learn more about ReminderCall.com’s secure opt-in portal please see: HIPAA Compliant Appointment Reminders Made Easy. The good news is that as long as you are following all the guidelines articulated in the HIPAA policies, then automated text messaging is likely to provide you and your patients significant benefits.

Can Automated Text Messaging Eliminate the Flu?

Of course we are exaggerating with this heading but wouldn’t it be wonderful if something as simple as text messaging could reduce the number of flu cases each year? One way to do this is to make sure that the littlest patients are immunized. How does text messaging help in this situation? It’s pretty basic, actually. Did you know that children under the age of 9 require two doses of the flu vaccine? A lot of parents are not aware of this, so the second appointment is often missed.

For a Columbia University study parents were sent an automated text message reminder, along with educational information on the reason for the second dose of vaccine. The results? “Almost three-quarters of parents who got the informational texts brought children back for the second dose, compared to 67 percent who got basic text reminders, and 57 percent who got a written reminder.” What is most interesting about this study is the difference between just sending a reminder text vs sending a text that includes a reminder along with information that helped motivate the desired action – bring the child in for the second dose.

Are You Ready?

Are you convinced that automated text messaging is a valuable communication tool for your practice? Great. Are you still unsure? That’s, OK. We have a robust text-messaging system that you will find has all the features you need to support your automated text-messaging needs, including 2-way text messaging. You can learn more about our text messaging solutions on our website or simply call us for more information, (888) 858-6637.

 

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