How Smartphones and Text Messages Improve Patient Engagement
There’s no denying it. Young and old, we’re becoming more tech savvy and reliant. And we didn’t need Pew Research to tell us that health and technology make efficient partners.
With the rise of text (SMS) messaging (the most used communication mechanism today, according to Gallup), healthcare’s response has been to accommodate. Patients want easier communication and connection with their healthcare providers. They want answers--and they want them yesterday.
All things mHealth promise patients better connection. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) define mHealth, which includes mobile and wireless network technology, as “the use of mobile and wireless devices to improve health outcomes, healthcare services and health research.” Smartphones and text messaging improve all three.
Text (SMS) Messaging
Integrated platforms that securely automate text and phone call reminders about appointments, billing information, lab results, or alerts to upcoming clinics or free services, like flu vaccinations, help grow the health partnership between patients and their providers.
Studies show patients like appointment reminders coming to their smartphones via text, even slightly more than mobile telephone calls, a close second. Not only more convenient to patients, texting saves time for physicians. The outcome: improved attendance at appointments, equal to phone call reminders, at lower cost.
But text messaging brings more than appointment reminders to patients. Text reminders for medication administration aids treatment of chronic illnesses, like diabetes, hypertension, oral contraceptives and HIV, for example. Patients receive texts reminding what medication to take and when, which improves compliance with medicine regimes. Texting reaches a broad range of patients quicker.
Also, with weight loss and smoking cessation programs, as well as flu vaccination reminders, text messaging proves helpful to patients successfully shed weight, quit smoking and prevent illness.
The corollary to text messaging, smart phones deliver and communicate the patient information and reminders physicians generate in office. According to Pew’s last national survey on healthcare and technology, 1 in 3 mobile phone users searched for health information on their phones or downloaded health apps to their smartphones. This delivery method follows on the heels of electronic records access. Patients familiar with electronic delivery systems find receiving information regarding advice, wellness, care, recovery, pain management, therapies, surveys, and medication via smartphone convenient, which betters the odds for compliant follow-up during recovery and continued care.
Platforms, like The healthy-TXT Platform, for example, allow patients to receive scheduled messages from their healthcare providers, tailored to each patient’s profile, for care delivery from prevention through treatment and recovery. And it’s customizable to patient preference: text message or email. Messages can carry multimedia options, like video, PDF, and links, for fuller patient engagement. And, most importantly, the platform complies with federal privacy regulations.
Other examples include the numerous Text4Health projects recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. These initiatives show the immense opportunities to engage underserved groups and improve health. For example, the National Cancer Institute’s SmokeFreeTXT effort more than doubled the smoking quit rate among teens by texting smoking cessation messages to them.
And the Text4Baby campaign, where pregnant women text in their due dates and receive prenatal care instruction and resources, helped expecting mothers take the simple steps to ensure the health and safe delivery of their babies.
Happy Patients are Healthy Patients
The greatest benefit, however, to patient and provider alike, is the communication ease and quickness. Patient satisfaction soars when medical answers arrive swiftly after--or even before--patients inquire about care, treatment and recovery via electronic means. It reduces patient anxiety. Patients feel more in touch, informed, and less alone (especially with videotaped messages and care/technique demonstrations) in vulnerable times.
And patient communication, engagement, and satisfaction count more than ever with healthcare’s ever emerging fee for value culture. Promoting wellness, medication adherence, treatment cooperation, safety and education through text and email on emerging convenient and HPPA-compliant healthcare platforms promotes quantifiably and qualitatively healthier behaviors.
From physicians to insurance companies and the workplace, the economic and psychological benefits of improving patient care at reduced cost pour through the entire healthcare system.
And, as a healthy culture, we want patients equipped with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to manage their own health, working with doctors. Patients must have the will to help physicians help their patients, and physicians must have the will to help their patients help themselves in designing their health care plans.
Patient Engagement Saves Lives
So long as informed office personnel use these platforms according to a strict office protocol that respects patient privacy and limits patient health information exchanges over text and phone calls, all sides benefit from:
Improved communication: the cost of miscommunication between treating doctors and department may be life. And 80% of medical errors occur from poor communication, say, from one treating physician to the next or among many specialists for one patient. Quick texts fill the gap.
Following orders: patient reminders to take medicine, prep for surgery, and comply with treatment, prevention and recovery recommendations through secure text message (the preferred method by 80% of surveyed users in one American College of Surgeons study) drives efficiency and better health outcomes.
Improved patient engagement: From better preparation with targeted questions at doctor visits to proactively researching on their own, patients empower themselves and improve doctor-patient relations with text communication exchanges via smartphone, resulting in streamlined care.
There’s no downside. Smartphones and text messaging improve patient engagement--an enormous boon to all of us.