The year 2018 marked the 25th anniversary of text messaging. As I've thought about the history and impact of SMS, my mind turned to from its past to its future. Is text messaging still important? Will it be in the coming years?
I don't know about you, but my texting habits are still going strong. According to researchers, I'm not alone. Experts say that 97 percent of smartphone owners send text messages, making it the #1 most popular feature of smartphones. And of the billions of messages sent each year, 90 percent are read within three minutes.
The same is true in the healthcare industry. Patients love texting (both sending and receiving messages) with their practice. This is true for all demographics across the board—from Baby Boomers to Millennials. Texting with patients improves patient satisfaction and sets you apart from the competition.
Patient Texting is Incredible for Practice Efficiency
In addition, it's great for your practice. Texting saves practices a huge amount of time by reducing the two common types of phone calls:
1. The ones your practice staff has to make each day.
2. And the calls your practice receives from patients each day.
Phone calls to remind patients of their upcoming appointments or that they are due to be seen again can take up hours of time, and usually end in a voice message that may or may not be heard. On average, a phone call lasts about two minutes. This may not seem like a long time, but if you include the time spent leaving a message, calling back later, or answering the phone when the patient calls back, that two minutes adds up.
Text messages, on the other hand, only take about four seconds to type and send. Now, most text conversations will require a few messages back and forth to complete the conversation. But even if you have to send three or four messages to your patient, you are still conveying all of the necessary information in under 30 seconds. And the best part about text conversations is that it is easy to complete other tasks while you are carrying on the conversation. Texting doesn’t require you or your patient to be tied to the phone. You can send the information to the patient then help a patient who walks into your office (or any other task, really) while you wait for the response.
Outgoing phone calls aren’t the only thing your practice staff is trying to juggle, there are also incoming calls from patients looking to schedule an appointment, get directions to your practice, or ask questions about their appointment. Think about how much time your practice could save if your patients knew they could text you those questions, and your staff would send them all of the information they need in a text. A healthcare practice receives about 50 phone calls each day, so think of the time saved if the majority of those calls were redirected into text messages.
A Peek into the Future of Patient Texting
So while it's obvious that texting is super important to your practice today, that doesn't mean it won't continue to evolve. In fact, it's inevitable that it will. Currently, SMS does not have all of the features and options that people enjoy through instant messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat. The ease and convenience of instant messaging is driving change in the text messaging industry. To make it more competitive with messaging apps, smartphone companies are teaming up with the cell phone industry’s governing bodies to develop a modern take on texting — Rich Communication Services (RCS), which combines the best of Facebook Messenger, iMessage, and WhatsApp into one platform.
For now, take advantage of SMS messaging with your patients, knowing that RCS will be coming in the future.
Read more about the future of texting here: