As the number of people using mobile devices continues to grow, communicating with patients via text messaging is becoming an increasingly powerful tool for radiology practices. While there have been very few in-depth studies focusing on the use of texting within the healthcare system, a recent report is shedding light on the impact that a text messaging marketing strategy could have on a practice of any size.
Communicating with Patients: Which is More Effective, Email or Texting?
Dhruv Chopra, CEO of Collaborative Imaging, suggests that while email is still highly utilized by businesses, it’s no longer the preferred option to contact a patient since they receive dozens – possibly hundreds – of emails a day. These emails can clutter a patient’s inbox and bury important messages from his or her physician. Additionally, it’s estimated that 58% of internet users prefer mobile over desktop, which is why Chopra recommends embracing the power of texting.
How consumers feel about receiving texts from a business:
- 73% of clients say that they would like businesses to text them
- 96% of clients state that they find telephone calls to be disruptive
- 83% percent of clients tend to respond to a text message within 30 minutes
Radiologists Can Use Texting to Improve Their Communication with Patients
Since 74% of consumers report having zero unread text messages at any given time, Chopra suggests that radiologists should start adopting the practice of texting clients, as opposed to emailing them. Additionally, he stresses that texting is a faster, more efficient form of communication, as well as more conversational and personal than email.
“We understand the importance of texting. So, we brought texting services to our radiology partners which allows a patient to engage in real-time, secure messaging with their radiologist,” said Chopra. “This route of communication allows patients to receive appointment updates, provide physician feedback and so much more. The healthcare industry continues to improve its convenience for patients, so we are focused on the consumer-driven world and understand the patients’ needs. Of course, everyone is aware of the importance of security in texting and we would never advocate texting any personal or patient related data in this discussion.”
9 Tips for Best Practices When Text Messaging Patients
Today, 65% of the world’s population sends and receives text messages, and 80% of the people residing in North America use text messages for communication purposes. These global statistics speak to the incredible role that texting can play in developing relationships with current patients while helping recruit new ones, too. So, when implementing a process for texting patients, make sure to keep these nine best practices from Chopra in mind.
1. Getting Started
Before your practices adopts the use of texting, a strong plan needs to be developed. To accomplish this, it’s important to determine how your practice wants to leverage texting, which may include the following:
- Scheduling and appointments
- Support and customer service
- Notifications and alerts
- Collections and billing
- Sales and inquiries
- Promotions and marketing
2. Start an Opt-In Text Messaging List
Next, you want to start building out your subscribe list of patients who you can communicate with via text messaging. However, according to Chopra, based on the industry regulations, radiology practices must give their patients the option to opt-in to receive text messages.
Allowing the patient to opt-in ensures that the patient is making the personal decision to receive these messages on their phone. Once the patient has willingly requested to receive text messages, the radiology practice has little chance of this being considered as an annoyance. In addition, SMS compliance and text message laws and regulations state that businesses must give the patients an option to opt-out. Those who fail to provide this option will be penalized.
3. Extend the Life of Traditional Communication with Text Messaging
Once a radiology practice text-enables their existing phone number, patients can send a text to respond to a traditional phone call or just call the office as usual to speak with a staff member. By offering a text-enabled phone number, patients can converse with their radiologist and other medical professionals via their preferred medium. On this topic, Chopra says that, “patients have different preferences of communication, which is why our radiologists like to use a real phone number to give their patients the option to call if they prefer to. It’s more personal and less robotic”.
4. Avoid Using Short Codes
It’s important to keep both lines of text communication open between the patient and the practice. Patients prefer to communicate back and forth with the physician. “We’ve found this method to be effective,” says Chopra. “Our Radiologists have received many replies from patients. Imagine if all these texts from patients fail to reach the practice? It will surely be a frustrating experience”.
5. Formalities in Texting are Essential
When it comes to digital communication like email, using abbreviations can be seen as acceptable. However, when it comes to texting patients or potential patients, formalities are necessary. This includes using full sentences as well as correct spelling and grammar. Failing to do so can make your practice look unprofessional, which could lead to losing out on retaining patients or recruiting new ones.
6. Radiology Practices Can Use Texting to Bypass Their Competition
“There’s no doubt that industry is very competitive. With increased consumerization in healthcare, it’s now more important than ever to provide convenient services and experience for your patients,” says Chopra. “Patients’ satisfaction not only helps increase loyalty, but it helps spread the word of mouth as more and more patients will be recommending your practice to their family and friends.”
7. Let the Chatbot Sleep
While chatbot technology continues to evolve, patients prefer to engage with a living, breathing person, as opposed to a chatbot. That’s why Chopra recommends using certain aspects of each communication option (i.e., human being and a chatbot) to provide patients with a truly innovative – yet satisfying – interaction.
8. Customize Each Text Message
Each text message should be somewhat informal and created specifically for the patient to whom it is being sent. For instance, when sending a message regarding a follow-up appointment or billing information, make sure to use the patient’s name to personalize the message.
9. Keep the Tone of the Message in Mind
As previously stated, a text message feels more personal than an email does. Therefore, it is imperative that radiology practices are aware of the tone being used when constructing their text messages.
In regard to a text message’s tone, Chopra states that, “radiologists are in an industry where client communication needs to be delicate and timely. One of the most important, and sometimes most difficult, things a radiologist will do in a day’s work is delivering news to patients. This makes it important to keep confidentiality and promptness top of mind when it comes to diagnostic reports and updates.”