How Can SMS Improve Patient Engagement?
Patient engagement is all about getting your patients more involved with their healthcare, leading to better health outcomes overall. There's a vast array of technologies available to help you achieve better patient engagement, but simple SMS messaging may prove to be one of the most useful and cost-effective
The History of SMS
The first SMS was sent in 1992 and for decades it remained one of the most popular means of communicating on the go.
However, the introduction of mobile internet technology (3G/4G) and the widespread adoption of smartphones has seen many people shift from SMS to instant messaging (IM). Through apps like Whatsapp, and Facebook Messenger, people can send messages, photos, and videos completely free of charge. It’s no wonder, then, that the annual number of SMS messages sent has been waning over the last decade.
If SMS is past its prime and people are turning away from the service, why are we recommending it as an excellent way of engaging with your patients?
Why SMS is More Effective Now Than Ever
Smartphones have allowed us to be more connected to information and each other than ever before. However, the constant stream of push notifications we receive each day can quickly become an annoyance.
It’s for this reason that communicating with your patients via SMS is so effective. Unlike pesky promotional emails and relentless Facebook alerts, which often go ignored, a recent study found that 82% of respondents read SMS messages from companies within five minutes of receiving them. This may be down to how infrequently people receive texts these days, or perhaps it’s because we don’t give our phone numbers out to just anyone. Either way, SMSs are seen to be more important and worthier of your patients’ time than an email or IM.
How Can SMS Improve Patient Engagement?
Staying in touch with your patients via SMS motivates them to be more involved with their treatment. You can use text messaging to:
- Let them know when their prescriptions are available
- Inform them about changes to their treatment plans
- Encourage them to adhere to their treatment regime (vital for those with chronic illnesses)
- Remind them about scheduled check-ups
All these actions encourage your patients to take a more active role in their healthcare, spotting symptoms faster, being more proactive, and leading to better health outcomes overall.
Builds Patient-Provider Relationship
People don’t just recommend your practice because of the treatments they receive, but also because of their relationship with the staff. Keeping in touch with your patients through SMS can help build this relationship.
Research by the Health Services Research journal concluded that patient-provider relationships are key to higher levels of patient engagement. The study found three key areas that had the most impact:
- The quality of the patient-provider relationship, including the quality of their face-to-face communication
- The amount of respect and fairness patients felt they received
- The frequency of patient-provider communication outside of appointments (texts/emails)
By texting them to keep up with their treatment plans and offering words of encouragement (when quitting smoking, for example), you let your patients know that you truly care for their well-being – thus improving patient engagement.
Cost and Time Reduction
Giving your patients the ability to manage their appointments via SMS is empowering, but it can also save your practice time and money. One of the costliest challenges facing medical institutions is non-attendance. The NHS lost a whopping £1bn last year due to missed appointments – that’s enough to have funded 250,000 hip replacements. And this isn’t just bad for your bottom line. If a patient fails to show up and receive the treatment they require, it could have a detrimental impact on their health.
SMS alerts are a superb way of combating this issue, effectively reducing non-attendance rates by 50% according to research. Patients can receive an SMS a few days before their appointment, reminding them of their booking and allowing them to cancel if they know they can’t make it – all at their convenience.
This streamlined system also saves your staff valuable time. Unlike lengthy telephone calls, reminder SMSs can be configured to be sent automatically, requiring little effort. Harnessing SMS alert automation will free up your team to focus on more important issues, like dealing with particularly needy patients or providing counselling.
It’s clear that SMS messaging – despite its decline in general use – remains a truly effective means of improving patient engagement levels. They’re more likely to be read than emails, can slash non-attendance rates, and save your practice valuable time and money – all while making your patients more proactive in their healthcare.
To see for yourself how utilising SMS technology can aid your practice, book a free demo of Jayex Connect today.