Texting and mobile communication aren’t new to the healthcare industry. In fact, as many as 96% of healthcare practices are actively investing in technologies to allow secure communication between care teams, patients, and families. But so much of that turns into a logistical hurdle for patients or leaves the potential for HIPAA issues. How can your healthcare practice effectively use texting as a convenient communication channel?
Why are healthcare providers texting?
Part of this is self-explanatory at this point. Still, it bears repeating: texting is by far the preferred communication method for your patients. 98% of texts get opened, so you can be sure that your patients will receive your text, where with other methods like email or snail mail, there’s a high chance things can get missed.
The most significant and most immediate thing that texting can help with is missed appointments. Missed appointments and no-shows make up a roughly $150 billion loss for the industry each year; even reducing your missed appointments by 5% can significantly impact how your office is run. This is the use case for most healthcare practices that text currently—getting a confirmation from the patient the day before and a reminder the day of the appointment can make a big difference in how many patients show up on time.
There’s another use, though, for using SMS in healthcare, and that’s as a marketing channel. Whether you need more online reviews, more education opportunities, or more ways to acquire new patients, texting offers a convenient and easy way to communicate with your patients.
Marketing strategies for patient communication
Email vs. SMS text messages
As stated above, text messaging shines because of its outstanding open rates and click-through rates. And it really shines compared to email. When you consider that marketing emails average around 15-20% with a microscopic CTR, texting looks absolutely stellar.
Why is that? It’s not that email is terrible—email marketing is a pretty important part of an overall marketing strategy. But part of the reason email marketing doesn’t perform quite as well is that email is just so swamped with other marketing messages. If your patients wake up in the morning to a couple dozen emails from stores, businesses, and healthcare organizations, yours might end up right in the trash along with the rest of them. It takes a lot more effort to make an email shine.
The other reason is that email is pretty impersonal and just slightly formal enough not to be super convenient. It takes just a bit more effort to check and read an email than a text message. (Some of that may just be perception, but the results support that perception.)
And besides that, when you send a marketing email to your list, that’s pretty much the end of the conversation. You send it, you measure the clicks, you make your reports, and you repeat. With texting, there’s an actual opportunity to receive a reply. You can still gather valuable insights, but you can also get responses and turn a campaign into a conversation.
Have encrypted conversations that protect PHI.
With SMS marketing messages in healthcare, you have challenges that don’t exist in other industries because the healthcare industry is more heavily regulated to safeguard patients’ protected health information. So whenever you’re venturing into waters that may expose any of that information, it’s good to have a secure messaging channel for more specific healthcare needs.
Personalize and track text and email marketing.
One big advantage of text over email is the ability to have more personalized and succinct interactions. Email is better for long-form educational content, but text is perfect for short reminders with room to link to blog posts or other information.
Email and text can also work in tandem to create effective marketing campaigns. With the right platform, you can track and analyze your SMS marketing messages and campaigns just as easily as you do email to see open rates, click-through rates, and more, then apply those learnings to future campaigns. You should quickly see that text has a huge leg up on email in almost every category, allowing you to prioritize and allocate resources accordingly.
Benefits of text messages for healthcare providers
Earn more patient reviews and feedback.
Text is perfect for patient feedback. With a quick text, you can send a review invite to a patient that links directly to your Google listing (or Facebook profile or other sites), so you can have an accurate and healthy online presence.
It’s also great for quick surveys that may never get opened if sent in an email or an envelope. “On a scale from 0-10, how was your visit to our practice today?” You’ll have NPS data that can help you improve your patient experience in seconds because the barrier to respond has been dramatically reduced. That means you’ll get a more realistic spread of responses compared to the more polarized responses that come from people who go out of their way to reach out.
Increase payments and collections.
One of the most compelling use cases for text is the ability to collect payments. One of the biggest obstacles to effective communication is the bureaucracy around it. When you want to get paid, traditionally, you print a statement or a bill, put it in an envelope, pay postage, and then wait—for weeks, months, or years even without a response. Email makes it a little easier by connecting patients to an online payment portal. With a text-to-pay option like Podium Payments, you can get paid so much faster just because you’ve removed those barriers.
Podium Payments works because it doesn’t connect your patients to a portal where they have to log in, enter their patient ID and specific code for each claim or date of service. They get a link with an invoice with all the relevant data, and all they have to do is pay—securely, with the method of their choice. Keeping patients in mind in this way means less lost revenue to missed payments and collection agencies.
Schedule and keep more appointments.
As discussed above, this is a massive opportunity for any healthcare practice. By using text as a reminder for your patients, you’ll save money, save time, and keep your office running smoothly. You’ll also be serving your patients better, too, because no patient wants to miss an appointment simply because they forgot.
Acquire more patients with SMS chat.
SMS is the perfect channel for addressing concerns and answering prospective patients’ questions when looking for a healthcare provider. “Do you accept my insurance?” “Are you accepting new patients?” “Do you have any specialists on staff?” Offering an SMS chat option like Webchat on your website can make it easier for patients to choose your practice. It also makes your practice more accessible, so patients who are hard-of-hearing or may have difficulty getting on a phone call can have an easier way to communicate.
Improve workflows with custom app integrations
Your healthcare SMS platform should have the ability to play nice with your other software. From patient scheduling to secure messaging to accounting to prescription reminders, Podium integrates with dozens of software solutions, so everything works well together.
SMS marketing healthcare success stories
Healthcare professionals around the country are seeing success by implementing text into their marketing messages and patient communications strategy. “What I realized was that when you don’t ask for reviews, you probably aren’t going to get them. And when you do get them, they’re from disgruntled patients. We’ve been really pleased with the results and how quickly Podium has helped us improve our online reputation,” said Sandra Jones, Director of Marketing at Granger Medical Clinic.
After implementing Podium, Granger Medical saw an explosion of new reviews. Their average star rating increased by almost 1.5 stars—just by making it easier for their customers to provide feedback.
Frequently asked questions about text messaging for healthcare providers
Is patient communication via text messaging HIPAA compliant?
As with any unsecured messaging channel, you shouldn’t discuss protected health information over text. However, many healthcare professionals will link to a secure messaging center (that is HIPAA compliant) for more sensitive health discussions.
What text messaging solution should my practice or hospital system use?
Make sure your text messaging software works well with the software you already use and one that solves the issues you face daily. Check out Podium’s approach to messaging in healthcare and try it out today.
Don’t miss out on the opportunities available through text messages. It’s a seemingly minor step that can lead to huge benefits for your office and your patients.