Using SMS in Healthcare for Better Outcomes
Healthcare is a complicated business where the customer isn’t necessarily receiving a service they want—it’s a business of necessity. Whether it’s treatment for an ear infection or a yearly checkup, patients aren’t always the most reliable customers. Sometimes we just forget we have an appointment or there has been a miscommunication with the office. Somehow, we miss the appointment. Reminders, when combined with automated systems, can help decrease the number of no-shows. That’s only one reason providers are investing in SMS in healthcare settings.
The Cost of No-ShowsThe causes for patient no-shows vary based on the office location, the population being served, the treatments being provided, insurance problems, office inefficiencies, and more. The costs of no-shows to both healthcare organizations and patients, however, are clear.
- With missed appointment rates as high as 30%, no-shows cost $150 billion per year.
- Each missed appointment results in a loss of revenue for the provider.
- No-shows cause delays and scheduling complications, resulting in office inefficiencies and patient dissatisfaction in the waiting room.
- Essential health interventions are missed by the patient, resulting in poorer outcomes.
Why SMS in Healthcare?Human behavior shows us why SMS in healthcare is growing. In the US 95% of adults have some type of mobile phone, and 77% have a smartphone. That means that most adults are carrying around a mobile reminder system in their pockets. Despite this, the answer rate on reminder calls from doctors is low.
Part of that is just the timing of the call. Unless the recipient happens to have a pen handy to jot down a reminder or check their calendar at the moment the call comes in, it’s easy to hang up the phone and immediately forget the details of the reminder. As our access to communication tools has increased, so has our expectation for fast, no-touch communications. People are simply changing how and when they speak on the phone, which means patients are less receptive to the intrusion of a ringing phone, even when the information communicated is valuable and helpful.
There’s good news, however. Sending reminders via SMS in healthcare can result in reduced no-shows. Even better, SMS can extend your healthcare communication beyond simple appointment reminders.
It’s AutomaticAdding SMS to your healthcare communications arsenal opens new opportunities to automate communication. When integrated into a scheduling platform, reminder SMS messages can be scheduled as soon as the appointment is set. You can set a single reminder, a series of reminders, or reminders with dependencies. Plus, with two-way SMS, the patient can not only receive an appointment reminder, but they can also respond to confirm.
This is where human behavior kicks in again. A text reminder just popped up on the phone. The date, time, and location are now logged and available to easily find again in a frequently used app. Better yet, many messaging apps allow users to create a calendar alarm on the phone with a single click directly from the messaging screen.
It’s FlexibleUsing SMS in healthcare opens a world of new possibilities. With staff having to make fewer reminder calls, they can spend more time on quality patient interactions focused on outcomes. Appointment reminders are only the beginning. With solid IT integration, SMS in healthcare can expand to:
- Providing pre- and post-care information
- Send prescription refill reminders
- Notify approved family members when a patient’s procedure is complete
- Notify patients when test results are available
- Keep staff notified and engaged in scheduling and more