Value of Enterprise-Wide Text Messaging: Appointment (Part II)
Second part in a five-part series
In this blog, we continue our series in which we examine the importance of a text messaging platform's ability to scale across a healthcare provider's entire enterprise. By leveraging texting in this manner, patients can receive texts from the multiple departments that are supporting them as they navigate their care journey.
This covers the following stages in the journey:
We previously published a blog on the pre-appointment stage of this journey through the enterprise.
4 Appointment Text Messaging Benefits
In this second in a five-part series, we discuss four of the ways text messaging supports and strengthens appointment communications.
1. Increasing patient volume
Texting is a proven method to encourage patients to schedule services, show up for appointments, grow patient volume, and ultimately generate revenue — all of which are of heightened importance as organizations work to recover from declines experienced during the pandemic. Text messaging is being used to help patients reschedule everything from annual physicals to surgical procedures that needed to be postponed over the past year; streamline the scheduling of routine services, such as lab tests, imaging, rehabilitation, and physical therapy; and driving recall programs for services like mammograms, colonoscopies, vaccines, and immunizations.
Texting is also helping reduce patient hesitancy about receiving in-person services because of fear of contracting COVID-19. Texts can explain how organizations are working to ensure patient safety as well as provide guidance and reassurance leading up to appointments about safety and the importance of keeping appointments.
2. Loved ones and caretakers
To reduce COVID-19 exposure risk, many healthcare providers implemented restrictions concerning loved ones and caretakers waiting inside facilities while patients received treatment. Providers are using texting, including automated messaging, to share real-time patient progress updates with these individuals. In addition, text messaging is also being used to inform loved ones, caretakers, and transportation providers when patients are ready for discharge. These text messages can provide instructions on where drivers should go to pick up patients.
Even as waiting area restrictions are being reduced and lifted, organizations are continuing to use texting to deliver this information. Doing so can allow loved ones and caretakers to leave the waiting area once a patient is admitted and go to an on-site cafeteria or nearby dining or shopping location. Loved ones and caretakers can better use or enjoy the time when they are waiting while knowing they will receive timely updates that will help ensure they are back in the waiting room for discharge.
3. Migration to contactless/paperless
One of the safety protocols instituted by many organizations early in the pandemic was moving away from as much in-person communication as possible to help reduce contact between individuals and thus the risk of COVID-19 transmission. This covered verbal discussions and the passing of paper documentation. On the day of a healthcare appointment, such communications included safety protocol reminders, pre-screening questionnaires, and the paying of bills. For healthcare providers leveraging text messaging, texts could be sent to direct patients to complete these tasks. This was accomplished either via a two-way text message that asked patients if they are feeling well and reminding them to reschedule appointments if they are not feeling well or by including a hyperlink in a text that takes patients to a secure patient portal or webpage.
While the infection rate is declining, leading some healthcare providers to return to pre-pandemic methods of communication, many organizations that saw firsthand just how much text messaging helped streamline appointment communications plan to continue using texting in such a manner going forward. By doing so, they are freeing up valuable staff time and embracing a communication method favored by many patients.
The use of telehealth has surged dramatically as healthcare providers increasingly relied on virtual services to deliver care while supporting social distancing and stay-at-home efforts, improving access, and replicating face-to-face appointments. Many organizations have made text messaging an integral component of their telehealth programs, including for the initiation of telehealth consultations. Organizations can send text messages that include hyperlinks. When the link in the text is selected by the patient, a web browser or default videotelephony app will automatically open and the camera on the patient's phone should activate.
Texting can also be used to inform patients about the availability of telehealth services, scheduling telehealth appointments, and reminding patients about their appointments.
Healthcare Enterprise Text Messaging to Support Post-Appointment Communications
Part three of this series will cover the ways text messaging can help healthcare providers with post-appointment-related challenges and opportunities. This includes staff time allotted to follow-up phone calls, patient compliance with discharge instructions, and strengthening online reputation.