Today’s consumers are accustomed to having easy transactions at their fingertips, from making a restaurant reservation online to checking in to a flight from their couch at home. Although the healthcare sector has traditionally lagged behind other industries in embracing digital technologies, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated providers’ adoption of online tools that streamlined processes and facilitated doctor-patient communication. Having experienced convenient communication options like email and text messaging, patients’ satisfaction—and expectations—are higher than ever.
A 2020 survey by Accenture showed that, based on their experience during the pandemic, 60% of patients wanted to use technology more often to communicate with their healthcare providers. They increasingly appreciate the convenience of having mobile options to connect with their doctor’s office. A March 2021 survey on health-technology preferences given to more than 4,000 patients checking in on Phreesia’s intake platform found that a growing number of patients are comfortable using digital communication tools in healthcare settings. Among those tools, text messaging is an easy way to start digitally expanding your patient interactions.
Here are four reasons to implement two-way text messaging in your practice:
1. Reach patients more quickly and reliably.
According to the Pew Research Center, 97% of Americans own a mobile phone, and 85% own a smartphone. While mobile phones are ubiquitous, eight out of 10 Americans generally don’t answer their phone when they see an unknown number, and are unlikely to listen to voicemail messages. Short Message Service (SMS) text messages, on the other hand, have a 98% open rate.
Texting offers patients a faster, more convenient way to respond to their providers, as opposed to returning a missed call or even answering an email. It only takes a few seconds to send a text reply, eliminating the hassle of trying to find time during a busy workday to call or email about appointment details and questions, or to reschedule or cancel an office visit.
Similarly, if you have last-minute practice updates—if a provider is running late or needs to reschedule, for example—text messaging may be the best way to notify your patients. And, with one-to-one text messaging, individual patients can respond in real time to confirm receipt of your message or to ask questions.
2. Meet patients’ technology expectations.
Whether it’s a password confirmation, a QR code for a concert ticket or an appointment reminder, people get business texts every day—and patients are more open to receiving texts from their healthcare providers than ever before. The March 2021 Phreesia survey found that more than two in three patients were comfortable communicating with their healthcare providers via text—an even greater number than those who were comfortable with email (59%) or online chat (24%).
Not only have patients’ expectations changed since the pandemic began, they are also pleased with how providers have incorporated new technologies to facilitate their care. In the same Phreesia survey, patients reported increased usage of technologies such as telehealth, mobile check-in and digital communication after the start of the pandemic, and 69% reported they were very or extremely satisfied with the care they received during COVID-19. And that’s not just younger generations—eight out of 10 patients age 65 and older reported being very satisfied with their care during COVID-19.
According to the Accenture survey, nine out of 10 patients rated the care they received during the pandemic as good or better than the care they received before COVID-19, with 40% citing more convenient access through new communication channels as a reason for their improved satisfaction. With those ratings, providers can be assured that digital patient interactions are here to stay.
3. Save staff time and improve efficiency.
While a staff member can only be on the phone with one patient at a time, text messaging allows them to communicate with multiple individual patients at once in real-time chat managed from a central dashboard. One provider group using Phreesia’s Patient Chat tool saved 100 phone calls a day per staff member. When they don’t have to make and return phone calls in every free moment, practice staff can focus on ensuring a positive experience for patients both in and outside of the office.
In addition to the time saved by texting instead of calling, practice staff also can create templates for commonly sent messages—such as pre-visit registration reminders or appointment-related instructions, for instance—making it even easier to deliver messages tailored to every practice and patient need.
4. Reach patients of all ages.
Texting isn’t just a young person’s game. The age gap in technology use continues to shrink: some 92% of adults age 65 and older have a cell phone, according to the Pew Research Center, while AARP reports that 86% of Americans over age 50 communicate via text.
Phreesia’s March 2021 survey also showed a marked increase in technology adoption among patients age 65 and older, with 58% reporting that they were comfortable using text messaging to communicate with their healthcare providers, up from just 37% in September 2019. With one-to-one, real-time text communication, patients of all generations can be reassured that there is always a healthcare professional ready to talk to them whenever and wherever their healthcare needs and questions arise.
Learn more about how Phreesia’s Patient Chat can help your healthcare organization better engage and inform patients.