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The Future of Text Messaging and Health Care

The Future of Text Messaging and Health Care

There’s an app for nearly everything these days. Yet no health care app has taken center stage and dominated the market. There are countless possibilities for the use of both smartphones and texting when it comes to improving health care, though. Curious about what the untapped potential of texting looks like? Here are some interesting facts that will help us predict the future of text messaging in health care:

The Facts:

Text Messaging is Pervasive

Neither household income nor education level affects adult usage of texting. Usage ranges from 71% – 88% among American households (this data includes all income and education levels).

Pew Research from June 2013 reported that the mobile phone penetration rate was 86% among American households earning less than $30,000 per year. While in the same demographic, 59% have access to a desktop or laptop and 47% have broadband set-up at home. They also reported that 76% of patients 65 years and older own a cell phone. Texting is pervasive across demographics, and it goes without question that we’ll begin to see health care companies optimize for mobile within the next few years.

People Actually Read Their Text Messages

Email has an open rate of no greater than 50%, depending on who you ask. However, 99% of text messages are opened, and 90% are opened within the first three minutes. Text messages offer a far greater opportunity for relaying a message and/or receiving a response than phone calls, as well. Unlike text messages, many calls go unanswered as they’re often screened. Most people have caller ID and won’t answer a phone call from an unknown number. With the sky high open rates of texts, it gives you the greatest opportunity to be seen and heard by patients.

So, What Does This Look Like?

Using texting for appointment reminders is currently the most common use of text messaging in health care. Several studies have looked at the utility of text messaging as an effective tool for reducing appointment cancellations, and their financial impact, such as one study conducted by NHS. However, the use of text messaging outside of appointment reminders is not very common or well-known. Below are several interesting cases of other possibilities of text messaging being used to impact patient care, though. Although many of these are single study results, they each underline new possibilities for text messaging and health care.

  • Increased Screening Penetration
  • Improvement of Therapy Adherence
    • Improving adherence to oral therapy in diabetic patients
    • Encouraging therapy adherence, appointment attendance, and behavioral changes in HIV patients
  • Opportunities for Pre-Appointment Education
    • Reduce appointment cancellations and educate patients prior to a sedation. In this study, cancellations were reduced by 40%.
  • Reduction of ER Visits
  • Improvement of Childhood Health & Wellness

 

At Luma Health, we’ve been toying with some innovative ideas, as well. Here are few…

1. Increase Patient Consults Scheduled After Referrals

When a primary care doctor sends a patient to a specialist, it’s critical that they close the loop. We’re working with some innovative clinics to use text messaging to get patients to come in for their consult.

  1. Continue Patient Education

Automated text messages could be sent following appointments providing the patient with educational material relevant to that appointment. A significant number of patients find it difficult to clearly remember treatment instructions during appointments, anyways. Let’s ensure they’re fully educated on their diagnosis and treatment instructions.

  1. Improve the Overall Patient Experience

We can make the patient experience even better before and during their appointment. SMS gives us the ability to inform patients when clinic appointments are running behind, so they’re prepared for a longer than expected wait time in the waiting room.

  1. Provide Better After-Appointment Follow-Up

We can also improve the patient experience following an appointment. Automated text messages sent following an appointment can allow us to check in and see if the patient has any follow up questions.

 

The future of text messaging and health care is exciting and innovative changes have only begun to be implemented. We’re excited to be a part of these changes!

Interested in how we’re currently using SMS? Contact Tashfeen Ekram at [email protected].

 

Tashfeen Ekram, MD, is a radiologist, self-taught coder, healthcare innovator and Co-Founder of Luma Health. Contact him on Twitter at @TashfeenEkramMD.

 

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