4 Benefits of integrating SMS into hospital communications

Posted on September 20, 2017

With nearly two-thirds of Americans owning a smartphone, it’s no surprise that SMS has become one of the most preferred communication methods among businesses for interacting with their customers.

A mix of industries has begun to incorporate text messaging as a way to simplify communications and improve the customer experience. In particular, the banking and healthcare industries have outpaced all others in their ability to use SMS to improve customer service efforts, the accuracy of communications, internal operations, treatment quality and patient care.

Healthcare providers are leveraging SMS to make the patient experience more convenient and personal. A national consumer survey found that more than half of the respondents preferred receiving notifications such as appointment reminders and prescription updates via text message, rather than from email. Consumers are frustrated with email because of the constant bombardment of irrelevant junk mail they receive from businesses daily. They view text messaging more favorably because it is quick and most importantly, tailored to their individual needs and preferences.

Text messaging is also playing an important role in keeping patients engaged with their providers, motivating patients to improve their well-being and stay informed about their medical care and treatment plans. Although incorporating any new technology into the workflow can be an intimidating process, text messaging has improved hospital communications, in many cases making it smarter and more secure than other channels. Healthcare providers, hospitals, pharmacies and clinics alike can use SMS to see these four major benefits:

1. Improved communications among internal teams: A study found that group-texting between provider teams improved the in-hospital communications – while also providing the security that paging and texting over commercial cellular networks do not. Having designated phone numbers for internal teams creates a private and fast way for doctors and nurses to communicate about upcoming surgeries, test results, treatments responsibilities and shift changes. Not only is this method HIPPA complaint, it is a more convenient and efficient communication alternative that can be tracked and managed by the hospital and/or healthcare provider for health records.

2. Enhanced appointment scheduling: Hospitals are also using SMS to manage schedules and send appointment reminder notifications. Patients, in turn, are able to confirm, cancel or reschedule their appointments at their own convenience and in a matter of seconds. Using SMS in this context decreases the occurrence of no-show appointments, which in urban hospitals make up between 10 to 20 percent of appointments; and costs the U.S. healthcare industry more than $150 billion every year. Texting, therefore, saves the hospital money and time in being able to utilize staff already on site, and eliminate the need to track down a no-show patient and adjust the doctor/nurse’s schedule.

3. Accurate communication of wait-times, prescription pick-ups, and refills: Hospital pharmacies are also using texting to communicate prescription availability and pick-up windows to patients. By sending a text message, hospitals are proactively communicating to patients, instead of patients having to continually follow-up via phone to check on a prescription’s status. In large hospitals, pharmacy and emergency room wait-times can be unbearable; texting provides a simple way for people to virtually “get-in-line” without having to physically sit or stand at the hospital during peak hours such as lunchtime, after work hours or during the weekends. SMS also provides a quick way for patients to request prescription refills, in most cases, the patient will receive a text notification reminding them to refill, eliminating the fire drill of submitting a last minute refill.

4. Increased patient loyalty. What makes texting such a popular choice among many patients is the flexibility it provides in both the time and method of communicating with hospitals and providers. In addition to appointment scheduling, patients can also tailor SMS communications to receive reoccurring preventative care and activity reminders at the frequency and times of their choosing. For example, being able to send reminders to patients to take their medications or stay active, helps doctors provide better care for their patients and encourages patients to maintain healthy lifestyle practices. These tactics strengthen the provider-patient relationship and increase the likelihood that the patient will return to the hospital or healthcare provider for their regular primary care appointments and when dealing with emergencies or chronic illnesses.

Together these benefits create a strong supporting argument for healthcare providers to incorporate SMS as a communications channel. Between the savings to the hospital’s bottom line, and the improvements patients receive related to both inpatient and outpatient care, turning to SMS has become a viable communications channel for hospitals and clinics looking for ways to optimize appointment scheduling and their internal workflows.