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Best practices when using text messages for patient care reminders

Text messaging has become a patient communication preference. Here’s how it can help your practice reduce no-shows and boost patient retention.

In the battle against no-shows and last-minute cancellations, an appointment reminder is a central tool for healthcare practices. 

Patients’ preferred communication to receive that reminder, and to schedule an appointment, is now text messaging. 

That preference is most recently reflected in results from our What patients want: 2020 patient perspective survey, which shows approximately 67% of patients would like a text message for an upcoming appointment reminder.  

And when it comes to reminding patients to schedule their next appointment, text wins out again. Almost 60% of respondents say they would like to receive a text message as a reminder to book that next visit. 

There’s an overwhelming demand for text messaging from patients — it’s the communication tool of choice, by a wide margin, for simple outgoing messages like reminders. But healthcare providers must ensure text messaging is used with care and compliance in mind.

Here are three main areas to consider when using text messaging for your patient care reminders. 

Choose the right platform for text messaging

As texting between patients and providers becomes more common, it’s imperative to consider the right platform. You and your staff should be able to send messages from a central location, optimally integrated within your platform for other important practice activities including online appointment scheduling, patient feedback surveys, and more. 

A centralized workflow within one comprehensive solution will allow your practice staff to streamline and manage text messaging along with your other key practice tasks, instead of having to sign in to multiple systems.

Know the HIPAA compliance rules

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has recognized that texting is often the preferred way for patients to communicate with their providers. 

As a result, texting e-PHI to patients is allowed under HIPAA in the limited circumstance where the provider: (1) warns the patient that the risk of unauthorized disclosure exists; (2) obtains the patient’s consent to communicate by text anyway; (3) documents the patient’s consent; and (4) offers the patient an opt-out option. 

PatientPop understands these requirements, and provides practices with consent language and the tools to obtain the necessary consent in order to be HIPAA compliant. Once consent is obtained, a practice can text patients about their PHI — but sending texts for marketing purposes is not allowed.

Become familiar with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) requirements

The TCPA is a federal consumer privacy law that regulates telephone calls to landlines and mobile phones, facsimiles, and text messages. The TCPA applies to text messages sent to individuals — and the legal requirements are more restrictive for SMS text messages and calls made to mobile phones because charges can apply to the recipient.

The TCPA generally requires a patient’s prior consent before sending them text messages. While it is the provider’s responsibility to obtain this consent, PatientPop makes the job of requesting and tracking consents for text messaging much easier. 

A provider can secure the patient’s initial consent to receive texts about health-related information (such as appointment reminders and appointment scheduling reminders) by obtaining the patient’s mobile number with the understanding it will be used for these purposes. 

After that, as is the specific case with PatientPop, the provider can use the messaging platform to obtain written text consent to receive future text messages about health and account information. The PatientPop platform automatically obtains a patient’s consent and provides patients with an opt-out option.

The patient demand for text messaging from healthcare providers is clear. Whether you choose to rely on the security and knowledge of a communications platform, or try to manage text messaging technology on your own, understanding the regulations around communicating with patients is important.

But once the connection has been made, you have yet another tool in your practice management arsenal to reduce no-show rates while improving patient satisfaction.

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