The Benefits of Connecting with Patients Via Text Messaging
You see or hear a text message, you automatically look at your phone, can you say the same for an email or phone call?. Simple communication for you and your patients.
These days, around two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone. One of the most popular forms of communication via this technology is text messaging. So, it’s no surprise that text messaging is becoming an increasingly popular way for healthcare providers to communicate with their patients.
The number of patients texting with their healthcare providers increased from 5% in 2011 to 17% in 2018.
Texting is not only an excellent way to remind patients of an upcoming appointment. You can use a text messaging service as part of your day-to-day communication with patients.
Why Connect with Patients Via Text Messages?
Using text messaging to stay in touch with your patients affords the following benefits:
Stay connected to your patients:
Keep in touch with your patients between appointments regularly. But it’s a valuable tool that can be used for more than just reminding patients of appointments. You can communicate with them on many topics, from their general health management to their test results. You can also let them know if you are running late or if they need to reschedule their appointment.
Manage chronic conditions:
You can set up regular text messaging services to help patients struggling with chronic health conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. For example, you could send text messages to remind them when to take their medication.
Promote preventative healthcare:
Many patients report that they would prefer their practitioner to offer more proactive care. You can use texts to help encourage patients to prevent health issues. For example, you can provide advice on healthy diets, preventative screening, and wellness events.
Reduce clinical costs:
Using a texting service can make a significant saving because it reduces the need for administrative work, for example, by messaging several patients at once or sharing digital files. Before using text messaging, documents would have been sent through the mail, and messaged would have required personnel to make phone calls, thus costing more money.
Improve doctor-patient communication:
Text messaging systems can improve the quality of communication between physicians and their patients. It helps patients feel more informed about their care. It also allows patients the freedom to talk to their provider outside of the clinical setting, which alleviates stress. It can also boost patient engagement.
Defining Text Messaging Protocols
Before you let your patients know that you will be communicating with them via text messages. This will allow you to explain the types of messages you will be sending and ask their permission. For instance, they may agree to receive reminders about their upcoming appointments, but they may not want to receive notifications about wellness meetings.
Text messaging is fast and convenient, and it allows you to transmit documents, images, videos, and other files to remote devices. But you must also be aware of the risks of text messaging.
Although it is an efficient form of communication, it’s not without its challenges. Many typical messaging applications do not feature end-to-end encryption functions. This is a security hazard and means that message interception in transit is a possibility. If there is no recipient verification, inadvertently sending it to the wrong person is also possible, and texts containing private patient health information could go astray and fall into unauthorized individuals’ hands. A secure platform is needed if you will be communicating with your patients via text messaging. For this reason, HIPPA provides a series of regulations for texting patients. You must comply with these.
HIPAA Regulations for Texting Patients
Before you begin using texts to communicate with patients, you must first establish which members of your clinical team are authorized to access, change, or distribute patient information. HIPAA mandate the following rules:
Unique user identification:
Accessing patient health information must only be by individuals with assigned unique user IDs. Tracking enables healthcare facilities to hold their team accountable.
All text messaging to and from patients must have encryption. You are preventing it from being read by anyone who does not have authorization.
HIPAA regulations mandate that medical practices and their teams must have audit controls and reporting procedures in place to review the use of patient health information. Allowing you to assess, highlight, and prevent the chance of any risks that may arise when you are communicating with patients via text messages. In this context, the HIPAA mandate applies to any messaging application that sends texts and stores or manages patient information on in-office or personal devices.
Protect patient information:
Besides protecting the storage of patient information, HIPAA states that you must also prevent it from being altered or destroyed in any way. In the context of texting, technological safeguards must be in place to prevent this from happening.
Provide proof of ID:
Each user who is accessing patient health information must authenticate their ID. It’s essential to use a specially designed secure text messaging application compliant with HIPAA rules and regulations so that the user can log in with their unique ID and password. The following methods of login meet HIPAA compliance:
A PIN or password, A token, smart card, or key biometrics, e.g., voice, fingerprint, or facial recognition
Protect against unauthorized access:
Security measures must be established to prevent unauthorized access to patient health information while it is being transmitted. Secure encryption methods must be used when data is sent over the internet.
Text messaging in healthcare is a valuable tool. There are also many other valuable ways that you can use technology to improve your services.
PrognoCIS is a healthcare technology service that serves medical practices of all sizes and specialties.