When was the last time you looked at your phone? A recent study found that most Americans have a hard time going more than 10 minutes without checking their phones. But what are we checking? Talking on the phone has become a thing of the past, so we aren’t looking for missed calls. Rather, we’re checking for news, social media updates, and more frequently, text messages. Texting is the most used feature on a smartphone, but patients don’t just want to use text to keep up with their friends and share pictures with family members. They also want to connect with their healthcare providers through text.
Although texting is a great way to communicate with your patients, if you don’t follow a few best practices to ensure your patients can easily connect with you, deciding to incorporate texting in your office might backfire. Here are six tips to help you implement a texting solution your patients will love.
1 – Automate what you can
Using patient relationship management (PRM) software to replace manual phone calls for appointment reminders and recall messages lets you automate these messages. You configure the settings in the software, and if a patient hasn’t been seen in the amount of time you specify, they get a text message reminding them it’s time to schedule another appointment. For appointment reminders, you can decide when and how many reminders each patient gets. We recommend a 2-1-2 cadence—two weeks, one day, and two hours before the appointment, but don’t be afraid to find what works best for your practice. Automating these messages means that none of your patients slip through the cracks, and every patient gets a reminder message for every appointment.
2 – Make it personal
Automated text reminders are a great way to reduce no-shows, but they’re even more effective when you make the reminders personalized based on the type of appointment the patient has scheduled. Dynamic appointment reminders ensure patients are not only coming to their appointments, but that they’re showing up prepared. For example, if a patient needs to bring their medication, glasses, or retainers to their appointment, a dynamic appointment reminder will automatically add that note into the reminder the patient is already receiving. So your practice staff doesn’t have to waste any time following up with patients to remind them of those pre-appointment instructions.
3 – Update your automated response
When your office closes for the night, a long weekend, or a holiday, make sure you update and turn on the text auto-responder. An auto-response is a short message letting patients know your office received their text, but that you won’t be able to respond right away. This message can include things like your office hours, a link where patients can schedule their own appointments, when you’ll get back to them, and directions to dial 911 in the case of an emergency. This gives patients the peace of mind that you got their message and they’ll receive a response without one of your employees monitoring texts 24/7.
4 – Keep it short
A major benefit of texting for both you and your patients is that the conversations are shorter than phone calls. You don’t want to send patients a long text with unnecessary information. A short text with just the basics is sufficient. Also remember to keep your texts human. You’re a real person and you’re texting a real person—make your texts sound that way. A stiff, formal text may get the information across, but a personal text will help you build a relationship.
5 – Stay compliant
Texting is an effective way to communicate with patients, but it’s important to remember that your practice needs to keep patient information secure and confidential. Before you send any text containing protected health information (PHI) make sure you have the patient’s consent. It’s also a good idea to regularly review the regulations that are relevant to your practice to make sure you always stay compliant.
6 – Always respond
Once you have a text program in place, you should also have processes in place to make sure that every text receives a response. Some practices have designated people who are responsible for responding to each text message. Some messages may require some research or more information before they can be answered, so practice staff flag those messages to let other staff members know it’s being worked on. However your practice does it, it’s important that everyone understands the process and that every text receives a response from your office.
If you want to learn more about the best practices for implementing a texting solution in your practice, check out our educational video series, SolutionTeach: Patient Texting here.