In many industries, online chatbots are all the rage. Yet, healthcare practices have been slow to adopt this type of AI technology, and with good reason. While automated-response chatbots can offer greater efficiency and lower costs, they lack something today’s patients still expect and prefer: a more personal connection with their healthcare provider. It’s probably safe to say not many patients would feel comfortable sharing insurance information or “discussing” sensitive health topics with a bot.
How can busy healthcare practices take advantage of advanced communication technologies — intended to streamline workflow and drive new patient volume — without sacrificing the human connection? With patient text messaging. By using text messaging in healthcare, practices can deliver today’s patients a convenient interaction without subjecting them to a “fake” conversation with a robot. With patient text messaging, the patient-provider connection is maintained, and even improved.
Text messaging in healthcare: Meeting consumer demand for convenience
Text messaging has gained momentum so quickly that the technology has replaced phone conversations for most of us. Although it’s used more commonly for interpersonal communication among family and friends, industries have quickly understood the effectiveness of text messaging to keep consumers engaged, informed, and connected with their business. It’s also become powerful for attracting and engaging with prospective customers.
This common, habitual use of the technology, and consumers’ preference to connect via text, makes healthcare communication the perfect use case for text messaging. Practices with an eye toward growth must be able to quickly respond to inquiries from both new and established patients, and keep their current patient base engaged and connected in between appointments. With the right workflow, practices can easily use patient text messaging to achieve these goals.
Text messaging benefits practice staff as well. Instead of your overburdened front desk staff trying to juggle responding promptly to every phone call or email that comes in, they have a far less time-consuming option — one that serves an exceptional patient experience, the key to long-term practice growth.
Enhancing your connection with patients via text messaging
For patients not quite ready to book an appointment, practices can use patient text messaging to deliver near-instant responses to timely questions. For existing patients, practices can proactively send automated messages to remind patients of an upcoming appointment, to pay a bill, or to complete a digital registration form — all satisfying consumer demand for digital interactions and convenience. Research indicates that 69 percent of consumers want the ability to contact a business by text message; 54 percent say they’re frustrated when they can’t.
What about the intelligence of a chatbot to quickly respond to basic questions? For healthcare practices, text messaging avoids the possibility of a subpar response or experience, and gives office staff or providers the opportunity to quickly respond to messages personally, as part of their day.
Chatbots: Falling short on the consumer experience
Consumers show a clear preference for human interaction over a chatbot, even for what may be considered a small customer service issue. Seventy-seven percent of consumers preferred that personal contact — more than five times greater than those choosing a chatbot experience.
Additional research indicates that people generally think chatbots are less helpful than humans, often feeling the bots’ responses aren’t as detailed as they’d like. That’s an important factor for practices to consider, especially specialists that commonly treat complex or serious healthcare concerns.
Web-to-text functionality: convenient patient text messaging requests right from your website
Web-to-text technology provides a more communicative, text-centric opportunity for website visitors to connect with practices. Many will prefer this channel over other website contact options such as calling or sending an email.
Here’s how web-to-text works: On the practice’s website, visitors and patients are given the option to complete a simple form requesting a text message communication with the practice. The form asks (and captures) the individual’s contact information and indicates the office will be in touch shortly.
Patients request contact without the hassle of making a phone call (and sitting on hold) or sending an email and checking their inbox repeatedly for a response. Practice staff receive notification of new text messages via text, email, or browser notification, ensuring no message is overlooked.
Patient text messaging software: The many benefits of web-to-text for healthcare practices
Facilitates a better patient experience
Patients may find chatbots impersonal. A text message exchange, even after a request via web-to-text, can feel like a more interpersonal interaction with healthcare practice staff (even if it’s not). That’s simply the nature of people having exchanged text messages so frequently, as part of daily life. If a patient has a quick question for the practice (e.g. “Are you offering COVID testing today?”), they can send that message from your website and get a speedy, personalized response without having to call the office.
Supports practice growth
Web-to-text is also great for lead conversion, turning interested website visitors into booked patients. Imagine this scenario: It’s 10 p.m. A prospective patient is interested in scheduling an appointment online, but wants to ask if the practice accepts their insurance plan.
Because it’s after hours, no one from the practice is available. Web-to-text gives the patient a familiar communication option; without it, this patient lead could be lost forever. For practices using web-to-text, that patient can leave their phone number and ask their question.
By morning, they’ll receive a text message with both the answer and a link to book an appointment — right on their mobile device, with technology people use four times more frequently than email, according to mobile phone company Zipwhip.
Easier to manage
The frequent daily use of text messaging comes with a set of common expectations, too. With text messaging, users won’t expect the instantaneous response that a chatbot returns, and that’s okay. Office staff can respond to messages throughout the day as time permits, with very little risk of patients thinking those responses are delayed.
To help manage those expectations even better, practices should customize the response they send patients after receiving a text message or patient text messaging request. A couple of examples:
- “Thank you for your text message. We always do our best to get back to text inquiries within [defined timeframe] of your message.”
- “Our office is currently closed, but we’ll get back to you first thing when the office reopens.”
Driving doctor appointments with text messaging
More than 60 percent of patients regularly search online for a doctor, a dentist, or medical care. The best way to ensure that visitors to your practice website schedule an appointment with you is to give them multiple communication options. That way, patients can contact you in their preferred method of communication. What’s more, you remain accessible to patients when they’re busy or when your practice is closed.
Patient text messaging software can help you capture patient information when they have the highest intent in booking an appointment. PatientPop offers medical practices text messaging that supports web-to-text, call-to-text, and secure two way text messaging all within the PatientPop platform.
What should you do next?
1. Schedule a free PatientPop demo.
2. Measure your online performance using our free scanner.
3. Need help getting started? Check out our how-to guide on text messaging for doctors and healthcare practices.