There are around 15 million GP appointments missed every year due to no-shows and last-minute cancellations and only 5% of cancellations are made in time for another patient to fill the slot.This is an ongoing problem across a variety of healthcare settings. On average the NHS is losing £216 million a year from lost appointments which is money that could be used for other urgent healthcare needs. Healthcare professionals are urging practitioners to use SMS for healthcare so that patients have a record of their appointments with them and can receive reminders and updates in order to prompt them.
Healthcare professionals are really up against it when delivering flawless service. The last couple of years has stretched our NHS hospitals beyond reasonable capacity. The UK government study suggests that 1 in 10 appointments are missed every year which can lead to wasted time and wasted care. The study supports the use of SMS communication to improve patient care and also to streamline the patient experience and that of the healthcare providers. Since entering into a pandemic, there has been more reason than ever to try and manage patient care and communications remotely wherever possible. Some admin teams have even been working from home, which comes with its own problems.
Using a short message service to communicate with your patients is the fastest way to interact with them. SMS messages can reach your intended recipient instantly and are now becoming the preferred method of engaging with end-users and transactional communications. With an open rate of 97% and a fast read rate within minutes, you can see why.
Things for healthcare providers to consider before integrating sms communications
With all big changes, it is important to ensure that your audience is ready and prepared. Here are some points to consider before you begin sending out sms messages to patients:
- Data security – It is a legal requirement for all medical practices and even subcontractors to guard protected health information. In the UK all healthcare professionals must comply with the Information Security Policy. So, all patient sms messages must be sent via secure text messaging platforms. As a data controller, TextAnywhere can offer you secure sms messaging and is already certified to ISO 27001 standards, which means your information is stored in secure environments to an internationally recognised standard that is externally audited each year. Patient privacy is of paramount importance in all healthcare settings.
- Growing and maintaining your database – Introducing text messaging in healthcare is only half the story. Initially, you need to grow and maintain your database to ensure that sms for communication can make an impact. This is easier than it sounds. You will already have ways in which you capture patient information, building your database will in some cases just be a matter of adding a tick box to a form you already give out to patients asking them to opt-in to receiving text messages. Where messages are transactional, such as booking confirmations and appointment reminders, opting in is not a legal requirement. Some healthcare settings use an internet booking system. Our TextAnwhere business sms can work with your existing booking software to integrate text messaging. Medical staff can also encourage patients to join your secure messaging system to receive confirmations, updates, reminders, and news.
- Categorise your audience – With TextAnywhere you can separate your audience into categories so that certain groups of patients only receive information that is relevant to them. There may be group demographics who need their text messages in different languages, there may be patients who only want transactional messages and do not wish to receive news. You may need to communicate information about a certain department with only those who use it, such as the physio or maternity department.
…And here are our top 10 reasons why you need sms text messaging for your healthcare provision now
1. Appointment confirmations
Here is perhaps one of the most important functions of appointment sms for healthcare. However your patients are booking their appointments, they can be encouraged to receive further notifications via text messaging. Most people find this facility very useful and welcome the information being delivered to their mobile devices, our phones are becoming more reliable than our diaries. Better still, confirmations can be synced with calendars on the phone so the appointment is placed in the patient’s diary and can set its own reminders.
2. Appointment reminders
Just as important as confirmations, sms appointment reminders can revolutionise the healthcare service. As we already know, so much money and time are wasted on missed or forgotten appointments. Appointment reminders are a great way to reduce no-shows. Once an appointment has been registered, the sms messaging system will automatically send out a reminder at intervals of the operator’s choosing. You can send out several reminders if it works for your patients. Unlike a letter that comes through the post or phone calls that may or may not get answered, a text message is delivered instantly to the patient and with such a high open-rate, it is 4 times more likely to be successful as a reminder.
As well as appointment reminders, patients can also receive check-up reminders on their mobile devices, calling them to action to make their next appointment instead of getting lost in the system. They can use two-way sms to reply back and even choose an appointment slot.
When patients need to cancel appointments, it can often be difficult to get through to the right person on the phone. In a busy hospital setting, you can get passed around to different departments and eventually give up. It’s easier to cancel a restaurant reservation, but a hospital or clinic appointment can cost much more and can’t be filled by walk-ins. With sms confirmations and appointment reminders, an option can be added to cancel appointments, giving the patient an easier option and can further reduce no-shows. The other benefit of text cancellations is that it will free up appointment slots for other patients and help to reduce wait times and waiting lists.
4. News and updates
Share important healthcare information with your patients by demographic group or medical condition. You can let them know when there are certain disease outbreaks in their area along with a link to important medical information that can help them avoid catching it. You can report clinic closures, poor weather conditions, or staff shortages to save people a wasted journey and invite them to click on a link to rebook their appointments. Your subscribers can receive announcements welcoming new members to their care team or details of department changes. Text messages of this nature would need to be opted into and have instructions for opting out.
You can manage patient prescriptions using text messaging in healthcare. Traditionally, prescriptions would be ordered in person, over the phone, by letter request, and more recently by email or on the healthcare website. All of these methods of communication require input from your admin team, even ordering prescriptions on the website is more complicated and time-consuming than text messaging. Some patients are likely to need tech support. For those who are happy to use your website to order their prescriptions, they can receive text notifications when their prescriptions are ready to collect which will streamline your process.
6. Cut your wait time
Reduce wait times in busy departments by using sms keywords. When a patient texts the keyword “waiting time” or, “queue”, automated sms communication can send an update using data taken from the scheduling system. This can be useful to help patients to decide the best place to get care. And help to reduce the number of walk-ins when staff are already running overcapacity. This may urge patients to seek advice from NHS services like 111 to check whether a visit to a walk-in centre, A&E, or, calling an ambulance is really necessary.
7. Sign-posting and additional information
By using sms keywords and sms long numbers, patients can get medical information and access to additional services without calling or emailing the busy admin teams. Access to this information can be advertised in places where patients may see it, such as TV adverts, leaflets, and the GP surgery, or even shared in news and updates via sms. For example, Text “Cholesterol” to find out more about reducing your cholesterol level. Patients can even get access to downloadable PDF digital information guides via text messaging.
8. Cost efficient
Healthcare professionals can benefit from reduced costs by becoming fully integrated with sms messaging. Allowing patients access to new communication streams will enhance customer experience and reduce administrative costs. There will be fewer inbound phone calls and fewer emails for a stretched workforce to have to tackle. Customers will experience an instant response from sophisticated two-way automated sms and in many cases be able to find the answers they are looking for without physical support. In addition to administrative savings, no-shows will be greatly reduced, and cancelled appointments repurposed and not wasted.
If that wasn’t reason enough, you will not find a cheaper way to reach your subscribers than through sms.
9. Manage rotas, shift changes and staff information
SMS is not just a great tool for managing patients and keeping them informed but can also be used to help with staff management, medical professionals are busy people too. Send out rotas, and shift requests, and receive sickness notifications from employees to get an up-to-the-minute snapshot of your staffing levels. You can even integrate your people management system with an agency you are working with and send out work hours via text message to a pool of workers when you are short-staffed. Keep employees updated with changes happening at work and even use sms messaging for social events.
10. Receive feedback
All organisations understand that to improve services, it is vital to seek feedback. Gathering feedback via text messaging in healthcare couldn’t be easier and it’s virtually instant. Send out short surveys directly to your patient’s mobile devices and ask to hear about the level of patient care they have received from your practice. Not only is feedback great for making improvements, but the information can also be integrated with doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals’ ongoing training.
How secure text messaging platforms can play an essential role in the healthcare industry
The evidence is clear that healthcare organisations are about to be revolutionised by sms messaging platforms. There can be no doubt that this is the future of patient care. Once you have collected your patient data and prepared your database, getting your practice started with sms communication could not be easier. When you choose TextAnywhere you will feel safe in the knowledge that your patients can be confident in using a secure texting system that won’t compromise their data security. As a healthcare provider, you will benefit from reduced costs, a better appointment management system, and a reduction in no-shows and cancelled appointments.
At TextAnywhere we are the UK’s leading SMS provider, supporting businesses of all sizes. Our powerful and advanced API gives you the following benefits:
- Secure and easy-to-use SMS Platform.
- Send messages online, via email, or by integrating with your own application for free.
- Improve your customer experience, engagement, and retention by SMS.
- Instantly send individual or bulk SMS messages
- Perfect for marketing campaigns and transactional messages.
Patient care starts with the very first appointment. So, make a good first impression.