Text messaging is the most accessible form of communication in the US. According to Pew Research, 96% of U.S. adults own a cell phone and 81% own a smartphone – and text is the most-used functionality on those devices. In fact, there isn’t a single demographic reported on that has less than 90% cell phone ownership. With so many of your patients connected by — and to — their phones, your practice needs to have a text-first communication strategy to improve your connection with your patients and deliver better outcomes for your business.
The Case for Text
Many practices still primarily use phone calls or emails to communicate with their patients; but when you look at the numbers, relying on voice or email just doesn’t make sense. Patients only open about 20% of emails and answer 45% of phone calls, whereas 99% of text messages get through. Data from Luma Health’s platform also suggests that text messages drive action.
We support all types of practices, health systems and FQHCs across America; from single provider offices to large businesses with hundreds or thousands of providers; from rural locations to offices centred in the heart of the largest metropolitan areas in America. What’s consistent across all that data, is that regardless of a patient’s age, there’s around a 50% chance that they will respond to a message sent via text.
The simple truth is that a text-first communication strategy enables you to more effectively reach your patients. When you dig into the data, there are five key reasons why you can’t afford to delay texting to your patients.
1. Reduce No-Shows
Patient no-shows are an unfortunate reality for all medical practices. When a patient simply fails to show up, your clinic loses out on the revenue from that appointment, the patient misses an important interaction that could impact his or her health, and another patient is deprived of the opportunity to consult with the medical professional who unexpectedly has availability.
When actionable text message appointment reminders are deployed, though, clinics can see a 50% decrease in no-shows. Chuck Leider, CIO at Houston ENT and Allergy, went as far as to poll patients after it implemented a phone call appointment reminder system and still saw higher-than-desired no-show rates.
According to Leider, “The results of all that calling and polling of the patients was really quite interesting. Most of the time, they said ‘well, when you called, I was in a meeting and I couldn’t take the call, and then I forgot about the appointment reminder.’ Another one was, ‘We didn’t recognize the phone number.’ And then the last one was “We recognized your phone number for the appointment reminder, and I guess that it went to voicemail and I didn’t check it.”
Once Houston ENT and Allergy Clinic implemented text reminders, the clinic-wide no-show rate dropped from 15% to 6%, a 60% decrease that ended up saving $1.8M in annual revenue for the practice.
2. Improve Outcomes
Preventative care drives myriad positive outcomes, like reduced emergency department and urgent care use. Unfortunately, many practitioners struggle to support patient adherence to preventive care programs.
Using a text-first outreach approach to preventative care has shown to be highly effective. In fact, Luma Health customers have seen a 32.7% increase in preventive screenings upon adopting a text-first communication strategy.
Additionally, numerous studies published in medical journals like JAMA Internal Medicine and Respiratory Medicine have shown that text messages can deliver a significant increase in medication adherence, which is also important to improve patient health outcomes.
Supporting preventive care with a text-first approach is a critical communication strategy, then, for every health provider.
Download this eBook for ideas on how preventive care campaigns can help recoup revenue lost to COVID-19.
3. Get New Patients in the Door
Regardless of whether you’re a fee-for-service clinic or you’re reimbursed in a capitation model, your success requires that you get patients in the door. But often, trying to set up appointments is a big exercise in frustration for your staff, who make phone call after phone call with little success.
Given the high deliverability of text, using SMS as a means of booking appointments makes good sense: one of our customers saw a 38% increase in conversion of attributed patients after implementing a text-first scheduling initiative.
Using text to get new patients scheduled is also useful in the context of specialty practices. When a referral comes in, the manual process to convert the patient to a scheduled appointment is the same challenge faced by captitated clinics with attributed patients. Automated text-first workflows can simplify the process and drive higher referral conversions here as well.
4. Easily Implement Telehealth
COVID-19 has dramatically reduced patient volumes in many practices, with a reported 55% decline in revenues and a 60% decline in patient volume since the outset of the pandemic.
Many providers have realized that telehealth visits are now an economic necessity for the survival of their practices. When it comes to telehealth, text can also be a great facilitator.
“We’ve used automated messaging to transition ourselves into telehealth.”Chuck Leider, CIO at Houston ENT and Allergy
“We’ve used automated messaging to transition ourselves into telehealth,” said Leider. “An automatic message goes out in our system that tells patients about their upcoming video appointment, and to be prepared. It reminds them not to come into the office just to make sure that there’s no confusion whatsoever.”
The high deliverability and read rates of text messages ensure that these important messages are received by patients.
As well, many Luma Health customers – including Houston ENT and Allergy Clinic – use text to send out appointment links to patients with upcoming telehealth visits – no apps, logins or portals are required for this HIPAA-compliant type of televisit.
5. Facilitate Better Patient-Provider Connections
A few years ago, a survey was taken that revealed 7 out of 10 patients wanted the ability to initiate conversations with their doctors via text message. Patients desire a deeper connection with their providers and, on the flip side, enabling asynchronous communications between patient and provider opens up a new revenue stream for practices.
These types of engagements invite patients into a deeper conversation about their health, can help facilitate better care management, and when patients and providers converse, are often billable under specific codes through CMS and private payers.
Given what we know about patients’ use of mobile phones, and text messaging in particular, it’s clear that practices of all types, sizes and patient profiles need to implement a text-first communication strategy to be successful in today’s current climate.
To learn more about how Houston ENT and Allergy is using text, check out the joint presentation we made to the Medical Group Management Association.
To find out how text can augment your practice’s processes, download our Automated Patient Outreach Data Sheet.
Until next time, stay healthy and stay safe.