- Brandon Daniell
Value of Enterprise-Wide Text Messaging: Pre-Appointment (Part I)
First part in a five-part series
If healthcare providers hope to maximize the numerous benefits of text messaging, they must rely upon a texting platform with several qualities. Among them: The platform must be easy to use and integrate with existing electronic health record or similar systems. It must be HIPAA compliant. And the platform should offer providers multiple texting solutions that can help meet current and future needs — everything from automated, two-way texts to direct/live texting to mass text alerts and even multiple language options to accommodate diversifying patient populations.
One quality that is often overlooked but is critical if providers want to leverage the power of texting to its full potential is the platform's ability to scale across a provider's entire enterprise, allowing text messaging to be used by multiple departments across a patient's full care journey. This covers the following:
6 Pre-Appointment Text Messaging Benefits
In this first in a five-part series, we'll highlight some of the key ways text messaging supports pre-appointment communications.
1. Reducing cancellations, no-shows, and no-goes
Text messaging is a proven way to reduce cancellations, no-shows, and no-goes. For example, a physician group used texting to drop its collective no-show rate by about 34% over a seven-month period (yielding a projected $100,000 in additional revenue).
Prior to an appointment, providers can send a text message reminding patients about their scheduled treatment, including details such as facility address and time of appointment. If a patient must miss an appointment, an organization cannot assume they will pick up the phone and call to do so. The patient may simply choose not to show up rather than take then time to navigate a provider's phone system/directory and then explain their situation.
However, patients may feel more comfortable cancelling via text, especially if prompted by a message asking patients to confirm their appointment or asking if patients have any concerns. A follow-up text can help with rescheduling the appointment, when necessary.
2. Improving appointment preparation compliance
Texted reminders can help keep patients compliant with pre-appointment requirements, such as fasting, modifications to medication regimens, COVID-19 testing, and securing transportation.
Texting can also be used to remind patients about what they should bring with them for their appointment, including insurance cards and photo ID, medication list, driver contact information, cases for eye or dental wear that must be removed, and an appropriate method of payment.
Finally, providers can use text messaging to remind patients about what they should do if they have questions or concerns about preparation compliance or if they are not feeling well the day before or day of their appointment. By making it easy for patients to have any questions and concerns addressed, providers are more likely to keep patients on track for their appointments.
3. Evolving safety policies
The COVID-19 pandemic forced all healthcare providers to introduce or make substantial changes to their safety policies and procedures, including those affecting patients, caregivers, and accompanying visitors/drivers. Text messaging can provide the most current information about an organization's policies and procedures, including requirements concerning the wearing of masks, revised waiting room policies, and new check-in and discharge/patient pickup procedures.
4. Pre-screening questionnaire
Text messaging has proven to be a valuable tool for providers to streamline completion of COVID-19 and other pre-screening questionnaires. Two-way text messaging can be used to ask patients if they are feeling well on the day of their appointments and if they have been near someone who is unwell or recently tested positive for COVID-19. If a pre-screening questionnaire requires patients to complete a longer form, providers can send hyperlinks that direct patients to online screening surveys.
5. Telehealth preparation
The usage of telehealth and virtual services has surged over the past year as a way to replicate face-to-face appointments, deliver care, and improve access while reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Many organizations have made text messaging an integral part of their telehealth programs. From a pre-telehealth appointment perspective, text messaging can be used to provide instructions to patients on any software/apps they will need to download and set up to join their telehealth appointment.
In addition, texting can provide instructions to patients on what they should do if they have technical questions concerning telehealth technology. Providing technical assistance in advance reduces the likelihood that patients will miss appointments and can help patients feel more comfortable with new — and possibly intimidating — technology.
6. Kick off the start of the patient journey
The pre-appointment period is also the time when providers would be well-suited to initiate a texting campaign that would then follow patients throughout their treatment journey. By sending texts during this initial period, providers are establishing the usage of text messaging as an option for their patients — one that can continue into and through the periods that follow while using the same sender number.
For example, mammography departments can send pre-appointment texts informing patients that it's time to schedule their annual mammogram (i.e., recall) and confirming appointments. As another example, an ambulatory surgery center with a total joint program could send texts to patients that confirm appointments and remind patients about following eating and drinking guidelines.
Healthcare Enterprise Text Messaging to Support Appointments
Part two of this series will cover the ways text messaging can help healthcare providers with appointment-related challenges and opportunities, including growing patient volume, communicating with those providing patient transportation, boosting recall programs, and moving to contactless/paperless services.