9 Tips for Crafting Perfect Patient Text MessagesPosted: March 8, 2023 - By Health Dev
The perfect, one-size-fits-all patient message doesn’t exist. But while there are no golden ticket templates, there are some best practices for patient text messaging.
1. Utilize a HIPAA-compliant Texting Platform
Despite the ubiquity of text messaging, many healthcare organizations have been slow to adopt this technology for patient communication due to privacy concerns. However, there is now HIPAA-compliant patient text messaging software that can allow you to take advantage of this convenient way to communicate with your patients.
Healthcare providers are among the first to understand the importance of compliance with standards such as HIPAA. This is also probably why you may be reluctant to rely on messaging platforms where automation could be dangerous. But HIPAA-compliant message service providers ensure all processes and tools within their platform are fully compliant — and stay compliant even as regulations change. If you’re unsure, you can consult your counsel for official legal advice on how to guarantee HIPAA compliance on a texting platform.
2. Enable Two-Way Text Messaging
The ability to reply is important. This is known as two-way text messaging, and there are several benefits of using this type of system:
- Two-way text messaging allows for more efficient communication between patient and doctor. For example, if a patient needs to cancel an appointment, they can simply reply with “canceled” rather than having to call the office and speak with someone. This saves time for both the patient and the staff.
- It allows for quick reminders about appointments or upcoming tests/procedures. Studies have shown that patients who receive reminders are more likely to show up for their appointments or follow through with procedures in a timely manner.
- Two-way text messaging can help improve overall patient satisfaction rates because it provides another convenient way to communicate with their doctor’s office outside of calling or coming in person.
3. Demonstrate the Value of Opting In and the Ability To Opt Out
Make the value of opting in crystal clear — from convenient reminders to valuable information. Likewise, patients should know they will not be bombarded with constant messages and can easily opt-out if they wish. Remember that not everyone uses texting as their preferred method of communication. Make sure you give patients other options for receiving updates (email, voicemail, etc.) so that no one feels left out or burdened by having to check multiple channels for information.
4. Remember That Shorter Is Better
This is self-explanatory. Most practices already ensure they don’t bore their patients with unnecessary filler. However, there are some important things to keep in mind:
- Always include the patient’s first name in the message — this personal touch goes a long way.
- Get straight to the point without any unnecessary details (it’s worth mentioning twice!).
- Avoid using abbreviations or acronyms. Stick with simple language so everyone can understand.
5. Keep It Friendly and Formal
As mentioned above, address patients by their first name. This personal touch will make them feel valued and appreciated.
One other way to stay friendly but formal is to use proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation at all times. Texting shorthand is inappropriate in this context. Texting shortcuts can come across as curt or lazy, neither of which inspires confidence in patients!
Finally, make sure the patient experiences you promise match your messaging: only send messages that give value in the right cases.
6. Provide Simple Action Items and Next Steps
“OK, what’s next? What should I do?” Imagine your patients asking this whenever you send a message, and think about answering it preemptively.
Make patient communication actionable by including one simple task for the reader, such as taking their medication or scheduling a follow-up appointment. This enhances the likelihood that patients will engage with the message and see it through rather than discarding it as another piece of digital clutter jostling for attention on their mobile device.
7. Factor in Timing
A major factor in patient texting is timing — specifically, how long it takes you to respond.
Texting can be incredibly useful for doctors who want to stay in touch with their patients between appointments. But it’s important not to overdo it or text at inappropriate times. Here are a few guidelines:
- Respond within 24 hours during the workweek.
- If the text is urgent, respond within one hour.
- Don’t send unsolicited texts outside of normal business hours (i.e., after 5 p.m. or on weekends).
- If a patient texts you after-hours with an emergency, call them back immediately.
- Always err on the side of caution when deciding whether or not to text a patient. If you’re unsure whether something is appropriate, it’s best not to do it.
Most of these guidelines can be incorporated into the automation of your patient text messaging software of choice, such as when timing patient reminder text messages.
As a final note, remember the tip about patient experiences? That also extends to timing. Your patients won’t appreciate being sent special offers when waiting on critical news, for example.
8. Try Adding a Personal Touch
One of the best ways to show your patients that you care is by adding a personal touch to your text messages. This can be as simple as including their first name in the message or addressing them with Mr. or Mrs. Another way to add a personal touch is to send them a birthday message, holiday greetings, or even just a “thinking of you” text from time to time. If there are patients you want to avoid sending these stand-alone types of messages to, append them into scheduled messaging instead, when applicable.
These small gestures will go a long way in showing your patients that they are more than just another number to you and that you genuinely care about their well-being.
9. Save Time With Automated Text Messages
This is a no-brainer, but note that overuse of texting can lead to reduced visit volume and patient satisfaction scores, so be thoughtful about when and how often you send texts. Automated SMS reminders, for instance, are an effective way of improving adherence among patients, but it is important that these texts are well-written to overcome some common pitfalls.
Different Types of Patient Text Messages
Some patient text messages can be templated to maximize efficiency and efficacy.
Appointment reminders are the most common type of patient text message. They typically include the date and time of the appointment, as well as the name and contact information of the doctor or medical office. Some appointment reminder texts also include a link to an online scheduling system.
These messages remind patients to schedule appointments, take medication, or get vaccinations. They can also include information about upcoming changes in office hours or locations. These message types open up many opportunities for excellent patient experiences if you utilize them well, such as making sure your patients are given key bullet points of their post-discharge information for post-visit care.
Patient Feedback Requests
Patient feedback request texts are becoming increasingly popular for doctors and other healthcare providers to get direct feedback from their patients about their experiences (good and bad). These texts typically include a link to a short online survey that takes just a few minutes to complete.
Bill pay reminders are another type of text message that’s becoming increasingly common (particularly among larger healthcare organizations). These texts remind patients that they have a bill coming due and provide them with a link to an online portal where they can make a payment.
Another type of patient text message is appointment reminders. These messages remind patients about upcoming appointments and include the date, time, and location of the appointment. Patients can reply to these messages to confirm their attendance or reschedule.
New Services Message
Usually, these patient text messages are considered miscellaneous — they don’t fit into one of the other categories. These messages are sent to patients who have not been seen at the practice lately or may be new to the area. It is a way to inform them of the practice’s current offerings and how they can benefit from them.
The content of a new services message will vary depending on the practice’s specialty or focus, but some elements that could be included are:
- An introduction to the practice
- A description of the services offered
- Information on how to make an appointment
- Contact information for follow-up questions
The Advantages of Patient Text Messaging
Some primary advantages of patient text messaging for health professionals and doctors include improved communication with patients, increased efficiency in scheduling and reminder appointments, and enhanced coordination of care. Additionally, text messaging can help reduce no-show rates for appointments and improve patient satisfaction levels.
- Improved communication with patients: When used correctly, patient text messaging can enhance two-way communication between doctors and their patients. This improved communication can help ensure patients are more engaged in their care, leading to better health outcomes. Additionally, improved communication can help build trust between doctor and patient.
- Increased efficiency in scheduling and reminder appointments: By automating appointment reminders via text message, healthcare practitioners can save time that would otherwise be spent on making phone calls or manually sending out reminders. This increased efficiency can free up time for other tasks, such as seeing additional patients. Better schedule adherence among patients also leads to improved satisfaction rates.
- Enhanced coordination of care: Patient text messaging can also help coordinate care among healthcare providers. For example, a primary care physician could use a secure texting platform to send information about a patient’s condition to a specialist for consultation. Depending on how systems are integrated, a compliant platform can also be leveraged to link with relevant electronic health records and become even more useful for your practice. This enhanced coordination of care may lead to better patient health outcomes.
Patient messaging as a two-way communication tool allows patients to receive reminders for upcoming appointments and share any questions or concerns they have with their care providers. It’s been shown to effectively reduce no-show rates for appointments and improve patient satisfaction levels. One study found that sending appointment reminders via text message reduced the no-show rate by 14.6%. Another study showed that patients who received appointment reminders via text message were more likely to be satisfied with their care than those who did not.
The bottom line is that patient text messages are a convenient and cost-effective way to improve communication between patients and providers, which can lead to better health outcomes.
Invest in Patient Communication Software That Works
Texting has become a go-to method of communication for many people. It’s quick, efficient, and cost-effective — making it perfect for businesses. Healthcare providers can utilize patient text messaging software to streamline communications. Bulk texting is perfect for sending large amounts of information quickly, while photo messages are great for catching attention and motivating action. Automated text messaging can also handle essential tasks like appointment reminders and review requests, freeing your staff to provide excellent patient care.