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Dollars and sense: Using HIPAA-compliant medical practice SMS to increase revenue

Nina Godlewski
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The use of software in medical practices has become more common with the introduction of electronic health records and reporting. Using software can even help medical practices make more money as well. But some businesses are missing the opportunity to enhance their two-way patient communication with secure SMS. We’re going to cover how business texting can be HIPAA compliant for medical practices, the unique challenges medical practices face, and the ways business SMS can make patient communication easier and less expensive while helping to bring in more money.

How can medical practices legally use business SMS?

If you work in a medical practice you might be wondering how can business SMS be HIPAA compliant? Many medical practices use SMS reminders, but don’t use platforms that allow for two-way conversations like Textline does. Textline offers a fully HIPAA compliant solution for its customers and offers the security and protection you need in place to keep your data safe.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, more commonly known as HIPAA was put in place in 1996 to protect the privacy of patients. It’s meant to help protect patients from having their health data shared or accidentally given to unauthorized parties, and especially has to do with how that data is stored and moved. There are ways to make sure that you’re using HIPAA-compliant texting legally though. When done right, using business texting can have major financial and operational benefits for your business like increased collections and decreased support costs.

The challenges that medical practices face

Medical practices face unique challenges when it comes to the finances of running a business and that means trying to save where you can.

High operating costs

Medical practices face high operating costs. The startup cost alone for opening a private practice is between $70,000 and $100,000. Many of the highest costs associated with a medical practice are unavoidable and completely necessary, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t save where you can.

Stethoscope with money symbol

Highest costs of running a medical practice:

  • Staffing (salaries and benefits)
  • Insurance
  • Office rent
  • Technology, like an electronic health record system
  • Monthly operating costs

While many of the items above are fixed costs, there is an opportunity to make sure that the business is running as efficiently as possible to maximize revenue. Two-way business texting can help your teams operate more efficiently, retain patients longer, lower cancellation rates, and fill more appointments.

Patients have higher digital expectations

Your patients are looking for you to be more technology forward. The rise of medical care that’s technology centered has changed the expected operations for the entire field. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that as more businesses move to more digital experiences, your patients expect the same when it comes to their medical care.

When it comes to booking appointments online, canceling them, or changing them, 68 percent of patients in the United States want that capability, according to research from Accenture. Not only do they want it, but it’s also one of the factors they consider when actually choosing a provider. Additionally, the same study showed that 70 percent of patients want appointment reminders and follow-ups via email or text message as well.

Reasons medical practices should use business texting

Anyone looking to improve their medical practice operations and make more money in the process should consider adding HIPAA-compliant SMS to their workflows. Not only will it help with patient relationships and improve appointment coordination, but it can also save time for everyone on staff, as well as patients.

Better customer experience and meeting expectations

As we mentioned above your patients already have the expectation that their care providers offer texting as a solution for scheduling and appointment reminders. The sooner you meet those expectations, the more likely you are to keep those patients and to win new ones.

If you can win just five more patients a month by offering appointment scheduling and reminders via SMS, and each patient brings in an average of $250 you’re already looking at an additional $15,000 per year.
5 new patients/month x $250 average appointment cost = $1,250/month of additional revenue
$1,250/month of additional revenue x 12 months = $15,000/year of additional revenue

By introducing texting now you can show your patients that you’re ahead of the trends and that what’s important to them is important to you as well. Using two-way business texting can help you deliver better care throughout a patient’s experience and can also be a way for businesses to offer continual care.

Using texting to check in with a patient after a procedure or check in on how their new prescription is working is just another way two-way business texting can help extend the bedside manner. It offers doctors and support staff the chance to be empathetic and proactive without requiring it to take up a lot of the patient’s time or the practitioners.

If a patient texts into the medical office, using Textline’s whispers feature and transfer feature, there can be better office coordination to respond to the patient. The conversation can be transferred to the appropriate nurse or doctor for a response. Plus everyone involved could have access to the conversation history in order to best serve the patient.

Lower acquisition cost

You can use business texting to gain new patients by using texting throughout your entire advertising and acquisition process. You can convert new leads to new patients by making the entire process of becoming a patient easy and quick. Texting can also save time for the front-of-office employees who do much of the intake and paperwork. They can help multiple patients or potential patients in the same amount of time they might spend with just one person on the phone.

Using business texting can also bring down your cost per lead, or cost per new patient. You can include your texting number on your website, in ads, or on any referral that another doctor might give out to potential patients. Knowing they can easily text you to check whether your practice is taking new patients, and when the soonest appointment is can be a big help to bringing in patients.

Texting can help you get new patients in the first place and makes it easy to do intake for them so visiting your medical practice is easier than visiting a different one.

Use business texting to ask patients to:

  • Fill out a medical history form
  • Share photo of insurance card
  • Coordinate their intake or conduct a “virtual waiting room”
  • Answer any questions before their visit
  • Easily set them up with their first visit

Making their intake and getting their first appointment easily done with care and excellent record keeping can help keep them as patients. Some Textline customers even use business texting to create a virtual waiting room for their patients so they don’t overcrowd their physical waiting rooms during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keep customers for longer

You can also use medical business texting to help keep your patients longer and easily keep track of your conversation and appointment history with them. Use texting allows you to have a good paper trail and makes it easier to re-engage customers who you haven’t heard from lately. For medical practices in particular, many patients only come in once a year for a check-up appointment anyway. But keeping your patients for longer can also increase their longevity as well.

Primary care physicians might have patients who only come in for their annual physical, or dermatologists might have patients who only come in for skin checks to monitor moles and freckles. These patients are just as important for practices to keep. Using texting can help engage them and remind them that it’s time for their annual check-in when the time comes. This means not having to acquire more patients and protecting the existing relationships you already have with your patients.

Fewer no-shows and easier scheduling

Many businesses use business texting to remind customers about appointments and confirm that customers will be present for their appointment. If they can’t make it, businesses can use two-way texting to reschedule them and then try to fill the newly opened appointment slot with another patient.

Business SMS can be a great resource for reducing no-shows, and therefore saving you money. Some specialties in the medical industry are more likely to see no-shows than others, for instance, the dermatology field has a no-show rate of 30 percent.

If each appointment is worth $250 and there’s a 30 percent no-show rate, and currently 1,000 appointments are booked each month, that means the dermatology practice is missing out on $75,000 of revenue per month from those 300 no-show appointments.

1,000 appointments/month x 30% no-show rate = 300 no-shows/month
$250 cost per appointment x 300 no-shows/month = $75,000 missed revenue/month

We can do some simple math to see how reducing this no-show rate by 26 percent (the average decrease in no-shows seen after implementing texting) can increase revenue pretty significantly.

If the no-show rate dropped by 26 percent, that would mean 80 fewer no-shows per month, bringing the total no-shows to just 220 per month.
1,000 appointments/month x 22% no-show rate = 220 no-shows/month
$250 cost per appointment x 220 no-shows/month = $55,000 missed revenue/month
$75,000 missed revenue/month (without texting) - $55,000 missed revenue/month (with texting) = $20,000 additional revenue/month from texting
Adding texting can result in an additional $20,000 in revenue per month totaling to $240,000 additional revenue over one year.

Improved billing and collections

Medical billing doesn’t have to be as much of a headache when you add business texting to the process. You can use business texting to help streamline the billing and collections process. Business SMS can offer any kind of business benefits when it comes to billing and collections but especially medical businesses. Business texting can be used to send invoices, send payment reminders, and even clear up any billing issues with patients.

In the United States, 32 percent of people have some form of medical debt. Meaning only about 68 percent of bills get completely paid. If we take that average to do some basic hypothetical math we can find how much money medical practices are missing out on.

Revenue for a medical practice can vary greatly by practice type and by location so for this example, we’ll use hypothetical, round numbers to make it easy to understand.

Let’s look at a hypothetical medical practice called “Family Medical” that bills $1,000,000 per year. If Family Medical is only getting 68 percent of bills paid now, based on that average medical debt, and that’s $680,000 annually, so they have $320,000 left on the table to earn by getting 100 percent of bills paid.

68% collection rate (without texting) x $1,000,000 in billings = $680,000 billings collected

Texting has a 98 percent open rate, so Family Medical can be sure their patients are seeing the SMS reminders about their bills. If using business texting can get Family Medical's payment rate up to 80 percent they’d be earning significantly more money annually.

Mail envelope opening with 98 percent
Texting has a 98 percent open rate.
80% collections (with texting) x $1,000,000 in billings = $800,000 billings collected
$800,000 billings collected (with texting )- $680,0000 billings collected (without texting) = $120,000 additional billings collected
That’s an additional $120,000 after implementing business texting.

This additional $120,000 is a large chunk of change. It's not everything their patients owe in debt, but it's something. And when added to other revenue that can be gained by implementing business texting throughout a medical practice, can significantly increase the amount of money a business can make and keep.

The bottom line: Dollars and sense adding business texting to your medical practice

When it comes down to it, using business texting at your medical practice can help your business get paid. You can use texting to decrease your no-show rate, increase the percentage of bills that are paid, even keep your patients longer resulting in a higher lifetime value for each one.

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