People are spending more time at home and more time on smartphones. Texting (also referred to as SMS) provides hospital providers with the perfect opportunity to connect directly with their patients.

With an almost endless amount of potential uses, texting is an incredibly adaptable tool for any healthcare provider. The hospital setting has so many touchpoints, interactions, and patient journeys in one place—texting can play a role in hundreds of them. Here are five ways texting can help to improve the patient experience in a hospital or health system.

1. Reduce “no shows” & improve outcomes

The data is in—and has been for a while. “Failure to attend” rates can be significantly lowered among patients who are sent SMS appointment reminders.

But did you know that texting can help remind patients when their appointments are due, even if they don’t have them scheduled? Let’s say that the discharge nurse has communicated the need for a follow-up appointment months later. Or maybe a primary care physician has asked a patient to increase their colonoscopy frequency. When it’s time to schedule the appointment, send a reminder by text. It’s a non-confrontational way to gently help increase compliance and improve health care outcomes.

2. Decrease anxiety during the pandemic

SMS messaging can help reduce patient anxiety about attending their appointments. Clinics can text patients information about how appointments are going to be handled (staying in the car until the appointment time, screening questions, mandatory temperature checks, etc.). This information, delivered directly to their mobile device, reassures patients that their safety is of the utmost importance.

Texting also allows for both digital check-ins and virtual queuing. As many offices are having their patients remain in the car instead of sitting in the waiting room, using SMS to let them know when it’s their turn keeps them engaged in the process, even while waiting.

3. Make booking appointments easy

Text messaging can be used as part of your marketing strategy—simply by making booking as easy as possible for existing patients. A group of Calibrater users recently leveraged our mass texting feature to drive telehealth bookings, resulting in ~$400,000 in revenue generated in just the first week. As virtual visits are likely here to stay, establishing a successful booking process is key.

Similar campaigns could target patients who have delayed care out of concern for exposure risk in the clinical setting. As Providence Digital Innovation Group notes in their COVID-19 Digital Insight report series, in many parts of the country, revenue for healthcare providers is still recovering from its depression during the initial coronavirus peak.

“Patient engagement through targeted channels—both during and in-between episodes of care—is critical to re-activating hesitant patients,” says Providence. “Digital applications include analyzing deferred appointment and clinical need data to inform and enable prioritized outreach.”

4. Improve continuity of coronavirus care

SMS also allows providers to maintain contact with any patients currently experiencing mild COVID-19 symptoms, or those who are simply unable to come in because they may have a high-risk comorbidity. This helps with continuity of care, even when other telehealth tools fall short.

“For patients without virtual platform capabilities or those in rural communities with little access to broadband, establish a system of telephone triage, pre-visits and visits, so patients don’t have to physically go into the hospital or clinics for care, whenever possible,” according to the American Hospital Association. “Set up communication with the patient or a caregiver, based on preference — phone, email or text messaging — for appointment reminders, questions and concerns, and alerts concerning test results.”

5. Learn from patient feedback

Using a push mechanism to trigger a text follow-up to the patient can also be extremely beneficial. This allows the patient to rate their visit and leave comments about what could have been done differently, which can help your office learn and grow.

It also makes patients feel heard, which is an important factor in future referrals. Calibrater Health can help create customized messaging that calculates your healthcare Net Promoter Score in a variety of different ways. Drill down by site, provider, and visit type.

Applying SMS to an interaction that used to be performed manually must be done the right way. That means personalized messaging. Generic text messages don’t promote a feeling of comfort and safety for the patient. One thing that hasn’t changed during the pandemic is that people continue to look more and more to find providers that listen to them and take their concerns seriously.

Adaptability right now is key to the survival of any practice. COVID-19 has presented healthcare providers with an opportunity to grow. One way to increase engagement and outreach is by applying and personalizing their use of text messaging to communicate with patients.

Patient Experience Case Study

We conducted a case study to measure the impact that the Calibrater Health system had on NPS scores in the first 6 months of implementation.