Medical Practitioner's Text Message Etiquette Guide

Text messages are an excellent way to promote improvements in medical compliance and clinical patient outcomes, as they allow for greater patient engagement and interaction.

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Understanding how text messages in healthcare helps improve patient outcomes

Understanding how text messages in healthcare helps improve patient outcomes

Text messages are an excellent way to promote improvements in medical compliance and clinical patient outcomes, as they allow for greater patient engagement and interaction. Investing in its services, and working to implement them into your practice can prove highly beneficial, as they work to streamline business processes, and boost the quality of care you offer to patients. With appointment reminders through text messages, you can significantly reduce no-shows by up to 100%, with customizable and automated systems allowing for notifications to remind patients of their upcoming commitments. There’s no limit when it comes to technology, and having text messages can efficiently work to reach patients, and provide an avenue for them to reply within their own time. As a result, text messages are becoming increasingly commonplace, and are often the preferred communication method when it comes to healthcare and how the treatment is delivered. Taking advantage of this will allow you to optimize your workflow, and ensure that you are able to treat as many patients as resources allow.

Text messages and HIPAA compliance

If you decide to implement text messaging services into your clinic, it is important that they are HIPAA compliant, and adhere to security protocol laws and guidelines. Like anything online, you must take extra care to ensure that information is safeguarded against potential cybersecurity attacks and breaches, and within the healthcare sector, this is especially important. Text messaging services can deal with highly sensitive information, so it is important that this is protected within all business processes. This includes encrypting all mobile devices and servers, and obtaining consent from users concerning who has access to their mobile information, and whether they are content for the messages to be deleted after a certain period of time. There should be alternate policies in place, in the case that mobile devices are stolen or lost, as well as having the right physical data protection in place for private health information to only be accessible to those needing access. HIPAA compliance is essential to ensuring that there is a high level of control over patient data, and ensures that you have secure servers to store information locally on a virtual private network. Your patients will come to appreciate and love the level of care you implement within your services, so we highly recommend that before you incorporate text messaging services, you consider the HIPAA impact.

Text messages and HIPAA compliance
Medical appointment reminder text message sample

Medical appointment reminder text message sample

While medical appointment reminders can look different for each business, we have provided a text message sample for you to play around with. It contains the core components of what should be included in a reminder, and is broad enough for you to adapt and customize to suit your business needs. 

Some elements that you should include for high-quality messages that emphasize high patient engagement, are the following:

  • Name of patient
  • Name of sender
  • Location
  • Opt-outs
  • Link for canceling or rescheduling

An example of this includes,
Hi Lisa, this is your friendly reminder that you have an appointment with Carepatron Medical on 18-05-22 at 3:20 PM with our center. If you need to reschedule, please follow the link <insert link> or reply STOP to opt-out.

Medical practitioner's etiquette guide to SMS communication

There are a multitude of factors to consider when composing text message reminders to patients, and despite the technology commonly being used as a casual practice, it is important to maintain a level of professionalism when texting. You should also keep in mind that you are dealing with sensitive patient information, and so it is important that you continue to develop secure business processes. To guide you in executing high-level etiquette within text communications, we have compiled some top tips:

  • Obtain consent - Before you send any information, you need to ensure that you have consent to message patients through text. Just because a mobile phone number is listed, it doesn’t mean that you have permission to send information this way. You need to inform patients that their number is used for reminders, and that you have a transparent privacy policy that is easily accessible to all. Consent can be obtained through registration, when confirming an appointment, or through an online patient portal, whatever suits your business best. 
  • Establish text policies - It is good practice to develop policies pertaining to text messages used to ensure consistency, and that all staff members and patients are on the same page. There should be a clear outline of who is authorized to send and receive text messages, as well as how messages are included in electronic health records. You should also implement regular checks to verify the patient’s mobile number is up-to-date and accurate. 
  • Be concise - You need to ensure that your messages are to the point, and contain relevant and factual information that can be easily understood by patients. We all have busy lives, and patients don’t want to spend time deciphering what you’re trying to say. Patients need to be able to skim read, and gather the gist of the text message. Sensitive and detailed information must be sent elsewhere, and not over text where it may be less secure. 
  • Document the text messages - All text messages should be noted in the medical record, as it is a point of communication that relates to the patient’s health. They also need to be noted to ensure they can be referred to when necessary, especially in the case of compliance issues, where you must provide evidence that a patient has violated particular guidelines or standards. 
  • Have review guidelines - It is important to audit the messages being sent to ensure that they are clear, and make sense to all patients. It is important that this is conducted by multiple members of your healthcare workplace to ensure a more robust system that can efficiently review and approve messages. Software for healthcare teams can aid you in this process, by providing automated messaging systems that are continually regulated and stored within HIPAA compliant servers, significantly improving the review process.

The bottom line

Text messages are convenient, commonplace, and a great way to communicate with the people we care about. Because of their easy-to-use software, and the fact that most of us use mobiles consistently throughout the day, text messaging is a great avenue for healthcare practices to incorporate into their services to increase patient engagement. When formulated correctly, in a way that is both professional and HIPAA compliant, you can elevate the quality of your service by improving patient communication, as well as clinical outcomes. To reduce no-shows, and build and strengthen patient relationships, consider incorporating text messages into your services today!

Further reading:

Medical practitioner's etiquette guide to SMS communication

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