How many of you don’t answer a call unless you know who’s on the other end of the line? What about emails? How many of the hundreds you get each day do you even open? 

If you’re like many Americans, you answer fewer than half of all calls you receive on your mobile phone and only some of the estimated 121 business emails you’re sent on a daily basis. Perhaps that’s why many B2C companies in the United States have switched to communicating with their target audience(s) through text messaging

Studies have found that texting is the most preferred form of communication in the U.S., with nine out of ten customers picking text messages over any other method. And, the numbers back it up with the average open rate for text messages being 98 percent, while email open rates only stand at about 20 percent. In addition, roughly 90 percent of texts are read within the first three minutes of the message being received. 

Text messages also appear to be the leading choice of communication for patients with approximately 70 percent reporting that they want to receive texts for things like appointment confirmations, appointment reminders, previsit instructions and care instructions. Many healthcare providers understand this, as 68 percent of medical practices are using some form of text messaging to communicate with patients. 

The benefits healthcare providers achieve when using HIPAA-compliant text messaging are numerous, especially for administrative tasks such as appointment reminders. Not only do text message appointment reminders save time for a provider’s staff, they improve productivity, appointment confirmation rates and patient engagement, reduce cancellations and call volume and also make rescheduling easy. 

Another big advantage? Automated HIPAA-compliant text messaging aids in mitigating patient no-shows, which create gaps in scheduling, reduce operational efficiency and cost the healthcare industry $150 billion annually. These missed appointments also cost a single-physician medical practice an average of $150,000 per year. 

To help your healthcare organization maximize the perks of using text messaging as part of your patient engagement strategy, we’ve compiled these four tips for using text messaging with patient appointment reminders to help you customize the specific business needs of your practice. 

1.    Make Your HIPAA-Compliant Texts Short and Sweet

Unlike an email or letter where you have room to expand upon the information you’re sending to patients, text messages only allow a total of 160 characters before turning into a multi-part message. Therefore, your text should only contain essential information, including who’s sending it, as well as the date, time and location of the appointment, and steps for confirming, rescheduling or canceling it. If possible, remind patients to bring required documentation and paperwork (i.e., insurance card, form of payment). 

Another recommended part of your appointment reminder text message strategy is ensuring your patient has given you consent to send text messages. Include an opt-out method for patients who no longer want to be contacted by you via text, and don’t include any private patient information. 

2.    Don’t Overdo It With Text Messaging

Sending patients too many texts can do more harm than good, so don’t send more than three about an upcoming appointment. Many providers who utilize automated text messaging send out the first message a week before the appointment, then three days prior, followed by 24 hours until the scheduled visit. Avoid texting patients too early or late in the day. 

If your patient confirms his or her appointment after the first message, only the reminder text the day prior to the appointment is needed. Measure your patients’ engagement regularly, and consider altering the cadence of your appointment reminder texts as it dictates. 

3.    Make Patient Text Messages Personal

Selecting the right tone for your message is important — you want to be friendly but professional. Always use the patient’s first name, and customize your text messages with personalized fields if possible. 

4.    Follow Compliance Rules and Regulations for Patient Texting

To avoid possible fines and fees, make sure you’re using a HIPAA-compliant texting app. These solutions utilize encryption, which is the only method for effectively securing protected health information (PHI). Healthcare providers who use HIPAA-compliant text messaging applications are able to fulfill the requirements of the administrative, physical and technical safeguards of the HIPAA Security Rule.  

In addition to these tips, regularly train your staff on the legal rules and regulations for provider-patient messaging. Failure to do so may result in costly penalties, dissatisfied patients and a damaged reputation. 

Solutions like CareCommunity help providers increase revenue, enable contactless check-in and reduce the headache of managing patient no-shows. This resource enables them to activate real-time communication, change messaging in seconds through our self-service portal and monitor no-shows and predict risk with a customized dashboard. In turn, patients receive clear and concise HIPAA-compliant, personalized text messages to remind them of an upcoming appointment.

Interested in trying CareCommunity for your office? Schedule a demo to see how it works and enhance your patient outreach!