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Texting in healthcare: 13 use cases and benefits

Alia Paavola
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SMS is a quick way for doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to communicate with each other and their patients. More medical professionals are turning to text due to its speed, convenience, and ability to be HIPAA-compliant when done right.

But how can healthcare professionals use SMS to its full potential? In this article, we’ll explore the overall benefits of texting in healthcare, security considerations to consider, and practical use cases.

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<h2 id="Basics">The basics of SMS in healthcare</h2>

SMS in healthcare is using texting to communicate in the medical industry. It can improve communication between patients, staff, and vendors. It gets messages delivered directly to a contact's mobile device.

One of the most critical considerations when using texting is HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. This law protects against the improper use and disclosure of individuals' health information.

When done correctly, texting is HIPAA compliant. This means using a secure SMS platform and implementing essential administrative, physical, and technical safeguards.

In the following sections, we’ll discuss the benefits and security considerations of using SMS in healthcare settings.

<h2 id="Benefits">8 key benefits of text messaging in healthcare</h2>

HIPAA-compliant texting has many benefits for healthcare professionals. Its effectiveness and affordability will give you a competitive advantage by reducing costs, increasing cash flow, and improving patient satisfaction. Let’s dive deeper into the key benefits.

Meet patient expectations

Patients want to receive texts from their healthcare providers. A study by CVS Health found that:

  • 83 percent of patients want text appointment reminders
  • 79 percent want prescription refill reminders 
  • 78 percent want annual wellness check reminders
  • 75 percent want annual screening reminders 

By adding texting as a communication channel, you can improve the patient experience by meeting their preferences and expectations.

Cut no-shows

Given its high open rate of 98 percent, text messaging is one of the best methods for appointment reminders. Text reminders can reduce the chance of patients forgetting about an appointment or canceling at the last minute. Studies show that sending text reminders can reduce no-show rates by up to 26 percent

Use our appointment reminder text templates to help you reduce your no-show rate!

Speed patient payments and cash flow

Healthcare billing often needs to be clarified for patients. Many patients walk away from a medical service, not knowing what they owe or when it’s due. Texting can help resolve this confusion about payment.

Text messaging alerts patients when a new billing statement is available and reminds them to pay. It can also be used to promote various payment plans for patients.

Text messages are sent immediately and allow patients to log in to their accounts quickly, speeding up the process dramatically compared to traditional methods like paper invoices and checks sent in the mail. 

Check out our payment reminder text templates for inspiration.

Improve communication

One of the top benefits of text messaging in healthcare is improving two-way communication between patients and providers. Often, patients don’t have a simple or convenient way to contact their healthcare teams quickly. Texting solves this by providing a quick way for both parties to reach out.

Texting gives patients and providers a convenient communication channel. They won’t feel pressured to pick up a phone call or log into their patient portals to get important information. Instead, they can reply at their convenience. 

Reduce operating costs

Automated text messages help healthcare organizations reduce manual labor costs associated with appointment scheduling, staff management, and general patient support. By streamlining these processes and reducing human error, healthcare organizations can save time and money while improving efficiency. This leads us to the next point.

Boost efficiencies

Better efficiency and productivity are key benefits of SMS in healthcare. Texting enables healthcare businesses to automate repeating and mundane processes like sending invoices, scheduling appointments via phone calls, and completing check-ins. This frees up time for your staff to work on more important issues. 

Lower patient acquisition cost

Getting new patients for your dental or medical practice always comes at a cost. However, with SMS, this cost can be minimal – between one and five cents per message. This makes texting one of the lower-cost marketing channels, especially when compared to traditional methods like TV and print advertisements.

Retain more patients

Text messaging is a great tool for improving personalized communication with patients at scale. It enables healthcare providers to engage in more regular and personalized communication with patients without taking up additional time. Personalized communication can help patients feel more connected to their providers, build loyalty, and improve retention. 

<h2 id="Security">Security considerations of SMS in healthcare</h2>

When it comes to using any technology in healthcare, there are security risks to consider before implementation. SMS platforms are no different. Let’s look at some of the security considerations for SMS in healthcare.

  • HIPAA breach. The biggest concern about using SMS in healthcare is a HIPAA breach due to improper disclosure of protected health information. Read the ways to ensure your texts are HIPAA-compliant here.

  • Improper use. Improperly using a text message platform can put patient data at risk. Ensure staff are properly trained on SMS technology, collect consent, document text history, and know what information they can share via SMS.

  • No end-to-end encryption. Text messages are not end-to-end encrypted. This means there is a risk that a third party could illegally intercept texts intended for a patient. To protect against this, it’s important to leave out ePHI and only text the information necessary to get the message across.

  • Patient consent. You must get patient consent to text. Your consent message must include a note that text messaging may not be fully secure. This ensures that they know the risks associated with texting your medical facility. 

Overall, you can mitigate these risks with a secure HIPAA-compliant SMS platform. Ensure these providers follow the data security standards you need and enter into a business associate agreement (BAA) with your organization.

<h2 id="Uses">13 use cases of SMS in healthcare</h2>

Let’s look at 13 ways to use texting in healthcare and get the most out of the 160-character messages.

Internal communication

Use SMS to communicate with your healthcare staff quickly and efficiently. With the right SMS software, you can send text messages to individuals, a specific group (like OB-GYN nurses), or the entire workforce.

Here are a few ways to leverage texting to improve staff communication:

  • Shift scheduling
  • Shift reminders
  • Fill last-minute shift openings
  • Emergency alerts
  • Meeting reminders
  • Staff memos or business updates
  • Coordinate with field staff

Home healthcare and staffing businesses can significantly benefit from using text messaging to provide updates to staff who don’t sit behind a computer screen. For example, you could send patient addresses, appointment times, or other vital updates to keep home health aids informed.

An internal communication SMS example for healthcare

Appointment reminders

One of the best ways to use texting in healthcare is for appointment reminders. Healthcare facilities lose upwards of $200 every time a patient misses an appointment, making it crucial to reduce no-shows.

Healthcare organizations can use SMS to:

  • Confirm appointments
  • Remind patients about upcoming appointments
  • Share late-cancelation policies
  • Alert patients to newly opened appointment times

With SMS software like Textline, you can automate these appointment-related messages, whether they are confirmations or reminders. 

Appointment reminder text example

Appointment scheduling

In addition to reminders, SMS is great for appointment scheduling. You can allow patients to schedule or reschedule an appointment via text. SMS is also a great way to share reminders to schedule routine appointments, screenings, or follow-ups.

Appointment scheduling SMS example

Patient education 

Improve patient education with texting. Texting is a great way to share bite-sized informative content, such as health tips or PDFs with frequently asked questions about a patient's recent diagnosis.

A patient education text message example for healthcare.

Patient follow-ups

Use SMS to check in with patients after their appointments. Touch base with patients following their visits and quickly respond to any concerns. 

A patient follow up SMS example.

Collect feedback and reviews

Collect valuable feedback from patients via text message. Ask patients to take a quick survey or leave reviews via SMS.

While surveys help you identify areas for improvement, patient reviews are a top way to attract new patients. One study found that 75 percent of Americans read online reviews before scheduling a medical appointment.

Patient feedback request text example for healthcare

Payment reminders

Late or missed payments strain any organization, especially in the medical industry. But billing doesn’t have to be as much of a headache when you add business texting to the process. You can use texting to help streamline the billing and collections process. Easily send:

  • Billing invoice alerts
  • Early-payment incentives
  • Payment reminders
  • Payment confirmations

These gentle nudges remind patients to pay, ensuring your practice collects proper payments.

A payment reminder SMS example for healthcare.

Verify information

Sometimes, it’s easier to text to verify some information before a patient gets into the office. Use a text message to speed up this process. You can verify information to improve patient intake such as:

  • Insurance coverage
  • Contact details
  • Pharmacy preference

This will ensure the accuracy of your patient records, help you provide better care, and save you time during the check-in process.

A patient intake text message example

Check into appointments or late arrival

Use SMS to speed up the check-in process. Let patients know they can text your office when they arrive or if they are running late. SMS helps practices with contactless check-in and improves the check-in experience. 

A text example showing a patient texting a provider.

Share documents ahead of an appointment

If you need your patients to fill out specific documents, ask them to do so via SMS. For example, you could send them a link to a screening questionnaire before their appointment or remind them to complete online check-in through their portal.

A text example of a patient reminder to fill out documentation

Medication reminders 

Pharmacies can also use text messaging to help improve patient communication. It’s easy to use SMS to remind patients about their prescriptions. Use SMS to:

  • Let patients know their prescription is ready for pickup
  • Inform patients when their refill request can’t be fulfilled
  • Inform patients of any medication shortages or delays
  • Share reminders to take medication

A medication reminder text message example.

Customer support 

As healthcare becomes more digital, you may need to offer customer support to patients. For example, patients may need help logging into their accounts, understanding their bills, or scheduling appointments. You can use text messaging as a channel to address their concerns.

An example of using texting for patient support

Other alerts and notifications

SMS is a versatile communication tool. Here are a few more examples of how to use SMS in healthcare.

  • Inform patients that their test results are in
  • Share weather alerts if it impacts the drive into an appointment
  • Share emergency updates
An example of a weather alert for patients.

Do you want text message templates for each of these use cases? Check out 71 ready-to-use text templates for healthcare

<h2 id="Best">Best practices for texting in healthcare</h2>

Follow these best practices to stay compliant and get the most out of your healthcare SMS strategy.

  • Choose a HIPAA-compliant platform. When using SMS in healthcare, you must pick a HIPAA-compliant platform. These platforms have the proper data safeguards in place to protect your medical practice. HIPAA-compliant platforms will also always offer you a business associate agreement.

  • Get permission to text. A critical component of texting in healthcare is gaining permission to text your contacts. You must get written consent and inform patients that SMS isn’t fully secure.
  • Text during standard business hours. Stick to texting your patients during standard business hours. Although hospitals may run 24/7, patients don’t want to get woken up by business texts.

  • Keep messages concise. Text messaging is great for sharing bite-sized information. Because texts are limited to 160 characters, you need to be concise. This means only sharing the information required in your SMS messages.

  • Personalize your messages. Ensure your text messages are personalized and tailored to your contacts. This is as simple as including their name and understanding a real human is on the other side of the message.

  • Educate staff on proper SMS use. Ensure your staff members know how to use the SMS platform, reply to patients, and keep data safe. For example, they should know how to set up 2FA and keep personalized health information out of texts.

  • Honor opt-outs. You must always honor when a patient unsubscribes from messaging and not message them again. Most SMS platforms will do this for you automatically, but ensure that you follow through.

<h2 id="Get">How to get started with text messaging in healthcare</h2>

Your medical facility can get started with healthcare text messaging in just a few steps. We’ll discuss them below.

1. Determine your SMS strategy. The first step is to establish your text messaging strategy. This means you need to determine your use cases, core audience, and goals. 

2. Pick a HIPAA-compliant SMS platform. Next, you’ll need to pick a HIPAA-compliant SMS platform. To choose the best one for your business, decide what features, pricing structure, and integrations you need. You should also look at the SMS provider’s security practices and BAA. SMS platforms like Textline make it easy to text in a compliant way with a patented patient consent feature and proper data controls.

HIPAA compliant SMS promotion graphic

3. Collect patient consent to text. The third step is to collect patient consent to text. This consent is called an opt-in and is required by law. To be HIPAA-compliant, healthcare providers must get a double opt-in, confirming patients’ consent to text and letting them know about the potential risks.

4. Start texting. Once you have proper consent, you can start texting patients!

Choose Textline’s HIPAA-compliant texting platform

Try texting in healthcare today to level up your communication with patients and staff. 

Thousands of providers across the country trust Textline’s HIPAA-compliant SMS platform. Textline is the most secure SMS platform on the market, with proper safeguards to protect data.

Start a free 14-day trial today or schedule a demo to see our HIPAA-compliant platform in action.

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