How practices can use SMS text messaging to boost patient engagement

It's become clear that the majority of people prefer to use text messaging as a means of communicating with not only friends and family but businesses — and healthcare providers.

For healthcare providers, SMS text messaging delivers an immense opportunity to better engage both current and potential patients with personalized messages.

In a featured session of the Becker's Working With DSOs and Private Equity Virtual Event sponsored by Podium, Trevor Cox, director of enterprise sales at Podium, and Kelley Knott, co-founder and vice president of marketing at Intrepy Healthcare Agency, shared ways to improve patient engagement using SMS text messaging. 

Two key takeaways were:

  1. Patient engagement is critical to every provider organization. "Fully engaged customers represent a 23 percent higher share in profitability, revenue and relationship growth," Mr. Cox said. "Retaining those patients is critical, and a key to that is engagement." He shared further data: "In fact, 54 percent of consumers want companies to fundamentally transform how they engage with customers."
  2. SMS texting is a powerful tool to increase patient engagement. The potential and results from text messaging are unmatched, which is why healthcare practices can benefit greatly from learning about and leveraging SMS texting. 

Here are seven reasons why texting is so important. 

1. Patients respond to texts. Text messages get opened. Mr. Cox said that 95 percent of text messages are opened within three minutes and 89 percent of consumers prefer to communicate with businesses via text. Texting is three to eight times more effective than other types of communications across generations. "It's the ideal platform for connecting with patients," Mr. Cox said.

Despite these statistics, healthcare organizations face roadblocks. "They are nervous about HIPAA compliance, need to find a point person to make sure texting is a great experience and are uncertain about what types of information should be sent," Ms. Knott said.

2. Texting feels more personal. "Start creating different types of personalized campaigns not only to see what consumers are interested in but also to drive them toward new services," Ms. Knott said. A tip: when sending a text, introduce yourself; it's a great way to let patients know they are texting with a person.

3. Text-based chat boxes are more engaging that chatbots. Consumers prefer to get an answer to their question without entering contact information, which is required by many chatbots. "When you personalize your messaging, you can ask targeted questions to deliver the information they need," Ms. Knott said.

4. Text-to-pay provides a touch-free, contactless option to engage patients. Mr. Cox shared that 80 percent of consumers say they want businesses to continue offering contactless payment options after the pandemic and 64 percent of consumers who have tried text payments either liked or strongly liked it. "Text-to-pay can help your staff collect payments more easily," Ms. Knott added. "Sending a text message is more efficient and can allow employees to focus on other areas of their jobs."

5. Integrating your text platform boosts multi-channel engagement. "Businesses with the strongest multi-channel consumer engagement strategies enjoy, on average, 10 percent growth, a 10 percent increase in average order value and a 25 percent increase in close rates," Mr. Cox said.

6. Texting helps generate more reviews. Reviews are critical for attracting more patients, with 88 percent of consumers reporting that they read reviews and 72 percent saying that positive reviews increase their trust of a local business. A tip: "After each appointment, send a text message inviting patients to post a review," Mr. Cox suggested. "It will have a massive impact on your ability to drive reviews and flood your Google listing with positivity."

7. Text-based promotions and campaigns engage patients. "Create specific campaigns using text, sending consumers information that is relevant to what they are interested in," Ms. Knott said. "This helps stop information overload and will reduce your opt-out rate."

By using text messaging, health systems can successfully boost engagement, helping to improve patient loyalty and attract new consumers.

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