One of the most effective ways to build and grow your practice is by marketing to your very own patients. This means you need to reach out to them regularly. Studies show that around 90 percent of patients say they're more willing to sign up for additional treatment after reading educational info on the subject. And when YOU are the one educating patients on the need for said treatment, YOU are the one they will call to be seen. One of the best ways to reach out is via text message. Unfortunately, many practices shy away from sending marketing text messages due to a fear of compliance breaches. In this post, I'll walk you through some easy ways to get the consent you need to reach out to patients through text message.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is a federal law that regulates the way consumers are contacted by telephone, fax and text message (TCPA does NOT cover email). These regulations apply to the text and automated landline messages you send to your patients. The TCPA requires that companies obtain consent from consumers prior to sending any sort of text or automated telephone messages, unless an exemption applies. Many messages fall under that exemption. According to the FCC,
“Non-telemarketing healthcare calls, for which the called party is not charged, are exempt from the prior express consent requirement.” For example:
- Appointment and exam confirmations and reminders
- Wellness check-ups
- Hospital pre-registration instructions
- Pre-operative instructions
- Lab results
- Post-discharge follow- up intended to prevent readmission; prescription notifications
- Home healthcare instructions
Healthcare calls related to accounting, billing, debt collection, or containing other financial content are not part of this exemption.
Whether or not you officially need consent, it is always a good idea to cover your bases and have patients fill out a form giving consent before you send out messages (especially any marketing messages).
Here are a few easy ways to get the consent you need to stay safe:
1. Ask during appointment scheduling. When you are speaking with a patient about an upcoming appointment is a great time to suggest text messaging consent. Ask if they would like a reminder by text, email, or phone. You should also find out at this point if they would be interested in other text messages like health reminders, care tips, or about new services/products you offer. If they indicate they are interested, send them to a place where they can sign for that consent.
2. On your in-take forms. For new patients, including a form that asks for consent to be contacted via text message is a great practice. Be sure to include an explanation (and options) for what different texting might look like. Are you going to be sending simple reminders or will you be sending info about your practice as well? Be sure to include information on how patients can opt out at any time.
3. Waiting room or exam room. While your patient is waiting in the office is a great time to highlight the benefits of text messaging. Include a sign or poster that walks patients through the benefits of signing up for the texting service. Let them know you will be sending health tips along with alerts for new services.
4. Email. Since email does not have the same restrictions that phone and text do, sending out an email inviting patients give their consent to receive text messages is very effective. Here is an example an email you could use to send to your patients:
Important - Update your text messaging preferences with (PRACTICE NAME)
Dear (Patient Name),
Your health care is important to us. In order to provide you with the best possible care, we occasionally send convenient text messages to our patients about their health care and the products and services we offer.
The mobile device(s) associated with your patient files at (PRACTICE NAME) can be found below:
You are currently set to receive text messages for appointment reminders and information about your health care treatment, but you will not receive text messages about promotions or other services we offer. If you wish to change your preferences in order to receive promotional text messages or if you wish to decline receiving all text messages from(PRACTICE NAME), click here.
Can't see the image above? Click here to manage texting preferences.
Click here to go to a web page where you will be able to provide your consent for receiving text messages from time to time about the products and services we offer our patients.
We look forward to providing better and more convenient communications with you via text messaging. Our goal is to provide you with relevant and useful information about your health care and the products and services we offer for improving your health. Thank you!
If you'd like to read more about how different regulations may impact your texting and/or email, check out our free guide "Become a Text and Email Compliance Guru."