How Does SMS Benefit Patient Experience?

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With 17.35 million Australians projected to own a smartphone by the end of 2018, mobile communication is well on its way to becoming universal. While it’s true healthcare has been a little slower to embrace the technology; things have begun to change in a big way over the past few years, with providers clamouring to offer patients SMS communication.

This is in large part down to its potential role as a driver of patient experience  but why? What does SMS offer that is so important to patient experience?

What is Patient Experience?

Patient experience is best defined as all the interactions a patient has with their healthcare provider, ranging from communication with reception staff through to the care they receive from doctors and nurses. Unlike its near relative, patient satisfaction, patient experience focuses on whether the patient's care meets a set of pre-defined standards.

It’s important because it’s essentially the key barometer your organisation is judged by. Good patient experience is invaluable to your patients and their loved ones and, as such, there can be no patient satisfaction without it.

To find out more about how technology can help you modernise patient  experience, check out our solutions. 

How Does SMS Communication Contribute to a Better Patient Experience?

Appointment Reminders

As the famous old aphorism goes: “to err is human”. The same applies to your patients; we all miss appointments from time-to-time, and, while there are many reasons for patient no-shows, among the most common is simply forgetting that it's happening.

Forgetting to attend an appointment can be as just as much of an issue for a patient as it is for their healthcare provider. It can mean missing out on a routine treatment, being unable to get access to important medication or having to wait longer for a diagnosis, with all the attendant stress that brings. All of which is hardly conducive to good patient experience.

Most patients are conscious of this, so issuing gentle reminders about upcoming appointments is usually welcome — provided they don’t become intrusive or cloying. In this respect SMS is perfect. Less interruptive than a phone call and requiring less attention than a voicemail or email, SMS delivers a concise reminder to patients wherever they are and whatever they’re doing  all that’s required is a mobile phone.

Better Access to Short Notice Bookings

An indirect benefit of SMS reminders is that by reducing the number of no-shows, you also make it easier for patients to get an appointment at short notice. If a patient is aware of an upcoming appointment and it then transpires they can’t attend,  they are much more likely to actively cancel the appointment than if they haven’t been reminded.

This means organisations can minimise the amount of staff time taken up with the day's unattended appointments. In turn, those slots can be offered to patients who need to see a doctor at short notice. The benefits for patient experience are obvious  after all, what’s more important to patients than being able to access treatment quickly?

Health Benefits

The usefulness of SMS isn’t limited to appointment reminders, it can also be used as an important tool for helping patients better manage their own health. An example of this in practice is the use of SMS to issue patients with reminders to take medication. This not only boosts adherence to drug programmes, which in and of itself makes for healthier patients, it also reduces the likelihood of patients having to return to their doctor for treatment for the same condition.

SMS can also be used for raising awareness of important public health concerns. For instance, according to studies carried out by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, timely reminders about seasonal health concerns, such as flu vaccination, can actually boost immunisation rates among patients.

Keeping Patients in the Loop

Finally, SMS can be a simple and relatively catch-all method for informing your patients of anything important they need to know. It could be details of an upcoming practice closure or a healthcare initiative such as the recent changes to cervical screening in Australian practices. Either way, keeping patients informed of important changes is not only crucial to delivering a consistent and helpful patient experience, it also plays a role in increasing patients' engagement with their health.

 

SMS should be a key pillar of any strategy to improve your patient experience, alongside other complementary technology such as online appointment booking. Fast, simple and well-suited to patients’ busy lives, it offers healthcare organisations a way to tackle the age old problem of missed appointments as well improving patients' engagement with their healthcare.

Of course, Patient experience isn't limited to SMS and online appointment booking. There is a whole host of other potential methods to improve the way patients interact with your organisation, from digital displays to self-check-in systems. To learn more, check out our solutions

Jayex Solutions

Topics Patient Experience Patient Engagement Technology