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5 ways you can use SMS to connect patients and providers

George Perry George Perry
George Perry
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Patients and providers are increasingly turning to text messaging for communications. Instead of waiting on hold, or sending an unrecognized number to voicemail, the patient experience has been improved by providers expanding the ways in which they use SMS to communicate with and improve the way patients receive care.

Here are just a few of the ways that SMS can be used to improve the patient experience.

Appointment reminders

Missed appointments cost the healthcare industry around $150B each year, with most patients just forgetting about the appointments. Using SMS to send reminders in the days and weeks leading up to the appointment can reduce no-shows and cut back on lost revenue for providers. Text messages are a great channel for appointment reminders because they have a higher engagement rate than email (~98% open rate for SMS vs ~30% for email) and text messages are usually responded to within 90 seconds of receipt (email has a 90 minute response time on average). And, thanks to the ability to send SMS over approved local numbers and toll-free numbers, patients can easily escalate from text to a voice call if they need to reschedule or need to talk to their doctor about a question ahead of their appointment.

Team scheduling

Sending out scheduling updates and open shifts is the crux of creating a better patient experience. With SMS you can easily send out shift updates, including when a shift becomes available, making it easier to avoid working short handed and allowing you to provide a better level of care to your patients by lowering wait times and seeing that they get the care they need.

Medication reminders

Outside of being alerted that a refill is ready to be picked up at the pharmacy, SMS can be used to remind patients to take their prescribed medication, as well as remind them of their dosages. Studies have shown that nearly 50% of medication for chronic disease is not taken as prescribed [source], which can in turn lead to complications and even visits to the emergency room, costing patients and providers money.

Automated text messages that remind patients of when to take their medication, and the dosages, ensures a better quality of care, which in turn creates a better patient experience.

Lifestyle interventions

We all know that eating healthy and exercising is the worst. But, it’s also a good way to improve your overall health and reduce the symptoms of several chronic diseases. Using SMS, providers can send regular reminders to patients that nudge them in the correct direction to eat the salad instead of the french fries or that going for a walk would help lower their cholesterol. These lifestyle interventions can help reduce the need for repeat visits to the doctor and enable providers to encourage patients to make good decisions, all while improving the overall quality of life for patients.

Patient portal access

Using a portal to check on appointments or review test results sounds like a good idea, until your patients have to remember another password that needs to have a capital letter, a number, a special character, and a GIF while being over 12 characters all to be acceptable (ok, the GIF isn’t real). But by using SMS you can make it easier for patients to access the portal without sacrificing security.

By implementing one-time-use passwords that are sent over SMS, you can preserve security and make it easy for patients to login to your portal and review their information, send questions to the doctor, or schedule an appointment. Simply verify the patient’s phone number when they first sign-up for the portal and at login send an access code over SMS—no more having to remember another password.

A start, but certainly not a finish

These are just a few of the ways you can use SMS to improve the patient experience. With more and more industries shifting to text messaging as a means of communicating with customers, the healthcare industry is primed to follow suit. Working with a partner like Bandwidth that has the experts to help you navigate changing local and national rules and regulations and that can provide you a single source for all your communication needs, including voice, messaging, video, and in-browser calling allows you to focus on creating a better patient experience and providing a higher level of care.

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