The most effective technology isn’t necessarily always the newest. Text messaging patients, for example, may be a better solution than patient portal messaging or phone calls. The Utah-based practice management company Solutionreach recently published a report on text message effectiveness in patient communication relative to phone calls. The quick takeaway: texting wins.
According to The Numbers Don’t Lie, patients prefer to hear from healthcare providers by text and texting is more cost effective than phone calls or email. If 72% of Americans own a smartphone and 97% use their smartphones to text, that means most patients are likely to use texting. Recipients read nearly five times (98%) as many text messages than email messages (22%). Average message response time is 90 seconds for text messages and 90 minutes for email. It takes two minutes on average to call a patient by phone but just 4 seconds to send a text. Voicemail isn’t a reliable contact mechanism because 19% of people never check voicemail. Compared to phone calls, 76% of patients believe texts are more convenient and 75% would prefer appointment reminders, payment reminders, and surveys through text. Solutionreach also reports patients are 209% more like to respond to text messages than to phone calls. If one phone call costs $20 but text messages are only a few pennies each, both in overall practice costs, the effect on the bottom line seems clear. All sources for the stats and figures in the Solutionreach report are included with live links in the report.
So if patients prefer text messages and practices can save time and money adopting texts for most patient communications, does that mean electronic health records (EHRs) are a non-starter? That answer is absolutely not; EHRs can capture, scan, read and include text message content. Phone calls and email look less and less like effective communications tools.