It's National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, so we wanted to bring attention to one of the most effective ways gastroenterology centers and practices are achieving improvements to their screening programs: HIPAA-compliant text messaging. We work with such organizations to help them leverage the power of texting to enhance patient engagement in ways that drive up screening volume and patient compliance.
With about 30% of U.S. adults aged 50 to 75 years behind on their colorectal cancer screening, and 2021's revised guidelines expanding the recommended age for colorectal cancer screening to include 45-50, there is a tremendous opportunity to grow the number of people undergoing colorectal cancer screenings. As we know, early detection through prevention and screening dramatically reduces fatalities from colorectal cancer. Conversational, two-way text messaging has proven itself to be a powerful tool to support these efforts.
Benefits of Increased Use of GI ASC Text Messaging
Here are 10 of the reasons why GI ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) are increasingly relying upon texting.
1. Text messaging is widely embraced
People are already opting in to receive text messages from a wide range of businesses, including airlines, credit card companies, banks, service providers like auto repair shops and hair salons, and many others. By adding texting, GI centers and practices are using a channel already adopted and embraced by a healthy majority of their patients, including many older patients.
2. Used by targeted patients
Nearly all American adults have mobile phones and use text messaging in their daily lives, which includes patients who fall in the recommended screening age range of 45-75. AARP has found that among those ages 50-69, text messaging is the technology tool most used to stay connected. This dispels the commonly perpetuated myth that age is a barrier to texting.
3. Easy to use
For a GI organization to use two-way texting — the most effective means of using texting for patient engagement, which enables information to be pushed to and pulled from patients, caregivers and facility staff — all it typically needs is its existing computers and patients' mobile phone numbers. No special hardware is required.
For patients, two-way texting requires no behavior change. They just need to provide their mobile number to their provider, opt-in to the texting program, and know how to open and, if necessary, respond to the texts they receive.
4. High level of patient engagement
Data has shown that texting can achieve a reach rate well-exceeding 80%.(1) For GI providers, this is particularly helpful for powering screening recall programs. Since patients' mobile numbers typically do not change, phone numbers captured and entered into your text messaging system are likely to remain the same for years.
5. Reduces cancellations, no-shows and no-goes
The work that goes into connecting with a patient and scheduling them for their screening will be for naught if the screening does not proceed as planned. A missed screening means a patient is not only failing to receive the care they need, increasing their risk for colorectal cancer, but if a GI center learns a patient will be missing their appointment too close to its scheduled time, this could lead to unused procedure room capacity. This then translates to a missed billing opportunity and staffing costs not offset by billable services.
Texting patients is proven to reduce cancellations, no-shows and no-goes. Prior to the scheduled screening, gastroenterology ASCs can send messages that remind patients about the procedure and prep requirements, include a phone number if patients have questions or concerns, and give directions to the organization. When text messages are sent far enough in advance asking patients to confirm their procedure, a center may have adequate time to fill an opening if a patient indicates a need to reschedule.
6. Reap the benefits of automation
GI organizations can schedule text messages to go out to patients in advance, whether that be days, weeks or months before recommended screening appointments. With such automation, there's no risk of falling behind and creating a backlog of outreach efforts.
7. Improves optimization of staffing and productivity
With healthcare organizations, including GI providers, struggling with staff retention and recruitment, text messaging is helping ease workloads and allowing more efficient use of available staff time. Text messaging can help centers maintain a more optimal schedule, limiting the need for overtime and PRN staff. Texting substantially decreases the number of phone calls staff must make to and receive from patients and caregivers. The time saved on calls can allow a GI ASC and practice to reduce the number of hours staff need to work or provide an opportunity for staff who would be making these calls to help with other work that can strengthen clinical and financial performance.
8. Delivers cost savings that add up fast
The cost of sending a stuffed envelope, taking into consideration staff time and materials, can exceed $2.00. Most outreach efforts by phone require multiple calls — and are often unsuccessful. Every call takes up precious, expensive staff time. The cost to send a text message is usually pennies.
9. Enables more effective colon cancer screening program oversight
Since two-way text messages are delivered through a technology platform, GI centers will gain the ability to track and evaluate their screening program's by running reports and reviewing key metrics. On a high level, centers should have access to data concerning the number of patients subscribed to a screening recall program, how many mobile phone numbers are in the center's database (which can be increased), the number of patients who successfully received text messages, and how many patients proceeded with scheduling an appointment and then maintaining that appointment. Such information and other data captured by a texting technology platform can help a GI center and practice identify opportunities for improvement and more effectively benchmark performance.
10. Improves usage of online resources
Since nearly all mobile phones have access to the internet, text messaging is an effective way to steer patients to resources and information on the web. For example, if a GI center has a portal patients can use to schedule their own appointment, a text can inform patients that they can schedule their screening online and include a hyperlink to the portal. Linking can also be a simple way to notify, educate and provide support to patients. Links can steer patients to prep instructions, frequently asked questions, directions to a facility, educational resources and more.
Adding Text Messaging to Your GI Center
HIPAA-compliant, conversational two-way texting is a communication platform that's proving to be an asset to GI facilities nationwide. By embracing the convenience, speed, and ubiquity of two-way texting, GI centers and practices are increasing patient engagement, improving staff performance, and boosting patient volume and revenue. Most importantly, and in the spirit of the goals of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, texting is helping more patients who benefit from colorectal cancer screening to undergo the procedure and get the care they need.
To learn more about Dialog Health's industry-leading two-way texting platform, used by leading GI ASCs and practices nationwide, schedule your demo today.
 Dialog Health 2022 data