If you often choose to text message a friend rather than calling, you know exactly the convenience and immediacy that text messaging provides. Studies show that 85 percent of consumers prefer a text message over a phone call or email, the rapid proliferation of text messaging stretching far beyond personal use.
For patient care, text messaging is a powerful tool that ensures patients arrive at their appointments and stay engaged in between visits. It’s also an effective lead conversion tool that facilitates scheduling an appointment at your practice.
The power of text messaging for medical and dental practices
Why does text messaging work so well? In addition to being strongly preferred, it’s accessible from our mobile devices, widely used, and easy to use.
In short, it’s easy to send a text message to a practice if you’re a patient, and hard to miss an incoming message if you’re a practice. This translates to better visibility, cohesive communication, and more engagement.
There’s a widely agreed-upon statistic that text messages have open rates as high as 98 percent — multiple times greater than open rates for any other mode of communication — with an average of 95 percent opened within three minutes. When it comes to response rates, the results are just as compelling: people are 4.5 times more likely to respond to a text message than an email, according to Learning Hub.
5 ways your practice can use text messaging to attract and retain patients
When used appropriately, text messaging can be a highly effective communications tool to help healthcare practices convert prospective patients who’ve found the practice online, and retain current patients.
Here are five great ways to use text messaging to improve patient satisfaction, loyalty, and engagement at your healthcare practice.
1. Increase conversion from your practice’s website
When a prospective patient visits your website, they are likely seeking care. To ensure you don’t miss out on a new patient, your website should include a prominent call-to-action, whether it be via your office phone number, online scheduling, text message, or better yet: all three.
Online scheduling is a great appointment booking tool for busy patients who know exactly what they need or may be trying to reach you outside of your office hours. But how does your practice engage with questions from those who aren’t ready to book an appointment?
By offering your website visitors the option to communicate via text directly from your website, you deliver a new type of call-to-action that promises prospective patients a quicker, more informal communication experience that’s simpler than a phone call. Offering your patients the ability to text your practice for an appointment is easier for them and helps keep your phone lines free.
2. Booking appointments for your patients
Your front desk staff is accustomed to answering phone calls from patients eager to book an appointment with you. If your staff is often having to place callers on hold, give those callers the option to text you to book their next appointment. This offers a new level of patient convenience, while reducing your front-desk staff’s phone time.
In addition to redirecting some of your practice’s calls during business hours, this also ensures you can capture appointment information after hours via text. You can automatically request that patients provide important contact information in their message, so you can follow up as needed during business hours.
This also removes the frustration patients so often experience when calling. Instead of reaching voicemail or a lengthy system of recorded phone prompts, patients get the option to send a text message instead, requesting that directly from the phone system. This offers immediate peace of mind and satisfaction, and helps your practice never miss an important message.
Existing patients can also use text messaging to quickly ask to book or reschedule an appointment without the delays that often come with sitting on hold or playing phone tag. This instant gratification enhances the patient experience while helping reduce no-show rates.
3. Enhance interpersonal communication with your patients
The simplicity, immediacy, and convenience of text messaging makes it a highly desirable communication tool, even for personal interactions with a healthcare provider.
In our 3rd annual patient perspective survey report, more than one in four patients said they prefer text messaging when receiving their provider’s response to questions or feedback. That’s just about equal to those who prefer other communication options, such as phone (22.1 percent), email (26.9 percent), and via online portal (23.5 percent) for Q&A with their doctor.
With secure two-way text messaging, healthcare practices can quickly connect with patients and answer questions, respond to requests, and confirm appointments.
4. Deliver automated appointment reminders to patients
Appointment reminders help reduce no-shows and last-minute cancellations, but they’re only as effective as the communications channel practices use to deliver them.
With email open rates often falling below 20 percent, your patients may not see their reminder in time for their appointment. With an open rate above 90 percent, text messages are more likely to be seen and seen quickly.
Plus, patients prefer them. In fact, two-thirds of patients (66 percent) prefer text messages when receiving medical appointment reminders, according to PatientPop survey data. What’s more, 59 percent would also like a text message reminder when it’s time to book their next appointment.
Practices should also request that patients confirm their appointment via text. This is convenient for the patient, but also gives your front desk fast insight into those who say they can’t make their appointment. You can then open those newly vacant schedule times sooner and increase the chances of booking another patient appointment.
5. Facilitate patient payment collection
Additional insights from our patient perspective survey show that more than half of healthcare consumers prefer digital options to pay their bill. Offering this convenience to patients can help boost your collection rate and reduce your patient obligation days in accounts receivable.
By text messaging, you can reduce the number of steps needed to secure payment. This way you save the time and money it takes to mail bills, send outstanding bills to collections, or wait to collect payment in person.
Instead, practices send a simple text message to remind patients to complete their payment online with a link to do so. This can streamline your patient payment process and support your practice growth goals — all while reinforcing your practice’s commitment to fully modernizing the patient experience.
The power of text messaging for medical and dental practices
Healthcare practices ready to implement text messaging as part of their marketing and communication strategy will find themselves ahead of the curve in their market. Today’s text offerings for patients will differentiate practices from competition, positioning themselves to win over patients with a more modern experience while also streamlining practice workflow.
Best practices when using text messages for patient care reminders
Patient survey: Tracking patient behavior, preferences, and habits in healthcare in 2021