Why is Patient Text Messaging During COVID-19 Important?

As the coronavirus continues to spread, so is the level of uncertainty and fear among patients. This aspect has changed the dynamics of the healthcare system.

For instance, health care staff now have to rapidly screen coronavirus patients, prioritize essential over non-essential medical visits, communicate with patients to ensure their symptoms are not getting worse, and disseminate this information quickly.

These dynamics have indeed turned the healthcare system upside down. And in order to manage the communication aspect to patients effectively, it’s vital to look for a quick and easy way to communicate. Which method is the most effective in this COVID 19 situation? Text messaging.

Here are stats to assert why this method is the ideal tool for communication with patients during this pandemic trying times:

  • Did you know seniors between the ages of 65-84 actively engage the health care providers on appointment reminders? According to Luma research, seniors use text messages a lot when communicating with healthcare staff.
  • Unlike emails, users open text messages within less than three minutes of receiving them. This enables great engagement, especially with patients. When it comes to disseminating information, text messaging is the most effective.
  • According to CTI’s annual report, patients may not be very receptive when it comes to phone calls. Statistically, 84 percent of customers don’t pick unknown calls, and 76 percent may not like to communicate with businesses via phone.
  • People can’t stay away from their smartphones. The fact that a person will always have their phone on arm’s reach shows that it’s a great tool to increase patient engagement.
  • Studies by Luma health show that a patient is likely to communicate using a text messaging platform. Why? Patients love SMS. This is one of the most vital reasons why healthcare providers need to adopt this tool, especially during this COVID 19 pandemic.

Although text messages are the best for communication with patients, they are not 100 percent. The reason is patients sometimes feel frustrated when text messaging is one way with providers.

This means the patient can’t reply to the text. To improve patient care and engagement, messaging should be two ways.

9 Ways Healthcare Providers Can Utilize SMS in Corona Era

1. Broadcasting Patient Information

During a pandemic like COVID 19, most patients and people are in the dark. This means all the information on prevention comes from healthcare professionals. To disseminate lots of information, staff use text messaging since it’s fast and most effective.

With hospitals and other healthcare providers having the ability to send mass messaging to many patients at once, it helps in delivering essential information on patient care in a timely manner.

This is an example of a sample text message to a patient to alleviate fear.

“Healthcare name: In this time of uncertainty, know that COVID 19 is preventable through social distancing and sanitizing. Check more information from the CDC…”

This is another text message that targets certain regions like New York.

“This is to let you know you are residing in a high-risk coronavirus area: In case you are experiencing symptoms like high fever, shortness of breath, or cough, please reach us now. {provider phone number}. Meanwhile, keep 1.5-meter social distancing and sanitize.”

2. Managing Cancellations

covid text cancellationsIn these trying times of the pandemic, some healthcare facilities in high-risk areas like New York are getting overwhelmed. This is due to the fact that the staff has to prioritize patients who have COVID 19 symptoms. Meaning, non-essential visits have to be canceled.

These cancellations have to continue till COVID 19 is suppressed. Can you imagine the confusion if patients considered to have non-essential visits were not aware that their appointments were canceled? Or if you had to call each person to cancel their appointment? That would be hectic.

SMS messaging bridges this communication gap quite effectively. Also, requiring patients to go to healthcare facilities to cancel appointments personally beats the essence of preventing the spread of COVID 19.

Recent advancements in technology allow patients through text platforms to cancel appointments through natural language processing. For instance, when patients use terms like “nope,” “can’t,” or “sorry,” the platform interprets it as appointment cancellation. This aspect allows both health staff and patients to communicate effectively about cancellations during this coronavirus time.

3. Screening COVID 19 Patients

Health care providers are having a hard time when screening COVID 19 patients. Having to screen thousands of patients at once can be hectic for any hospital. Reaching them for contact tracing is even worse.

This issue can be made easier to manage by using a text managing platform. By the use of advanced platforms, hospitals can effectively screen COVID 19 patients. This is done by leveraging HIPAA-compliant and multilingual messaging. For instance, a medical facility or hospital can send a survey to patients. The answers are used to assess whether they may have contacted COVID 19 or not.

Here is a sample SMS to help providers quickly screen patients.

“We have noted that you are residing in a high-risk COVID 19 area. To help us protect you and those around you better, kindly fill the following survey. In case you have any symptoms like a cough, fever kindly call the nearest health facility. { medical phone number}.”

4. Use Telehealth Platforms to Enforce Social Distancing Rules

social distancing rulesWith these platforms, health professionals are providing COVID 19 patients with more care during this pandemic. So how does communication happen using telehealth platforms?

Here, televisits help COVID 19 patients get some time with medical providers while limiting their exposure. These practices are important since they help reduce the spread of COVID 19 while giving telehealth help to patients.

Likewise, these practices help COVID patients stay at home while receiving the necessary help. Through telehealth, medical staff can use texting to maintain contact and support with patients. In case some patients need to visit the medical center, which may not be practical at this time, then telehealth can effectively fill the gap.

5. Leverage Communication with Quarantine Patients

senior teleheatlh repliesTexting is a great way to monitor and support patients in quarantine. This way, a team of staff can communicate with many patients to gauge how they are responding to treatment through simple questions. Through texting, a physician can tell if a patient needs more support or if they are getting well.

All this is done while reducing the family members or medical staff’s exposure to the virus. This texting practice is a critical strategy to ensure patients in quarantine with the highest risk access treatment faster. Automating this process can make treatment and the work of members of staff more efficient.

Similarly, through texting, surveys can be automatically shared with patients in quarantine. This aspect can ensure the high-risk patients are automatically flagged and triaged quickly.

6. Engaging High-risk Patients

Through text messages, patients with chronic ailments, people over the age of 60, and those with immune deficiencies need to be made aware that they are more likely to be infected by the virus. By identifying these high-risk patients, a provider can share tailored messages to these groups of individuals.

7. Keeps Communications Clear, Simple, and Precise

When sharing communication about the outbreak, that is it’s prevention strategies and best practices to manage the pandemic, it’s important to keep the information simple. Few tools are better at making communication precise than text messages. This way, people get new information about an outbreak quickly.

8. Patient Outreach

Although the public is much more aware of the outbreak by now, this was not the case at an earlier stage of the pandemic. There were lots of misconceptions, half-truths, and misinformation at the beginning of the outbreak.

With text messages, medical centers and hospitals can send general messages to patients about ways to stay healthy as well as potential activities that could put them at a higher risk of contracting the virus.

For instance, providers can conduct an outreach centered around handwashing, sanitizing, or social distancing. This is a great way text can be used to sensitive patients on ways they can protect their families. Targeted mass messages can also be sent to areas at high risk. Similarly, hospitals and centers can send texts to show updated clinic hours or changes in operations.

9. Quick Two-way Communication

At times, patients may have more than one question. This may need some quick back and forth texting. Rather than having patients connect through a portal, hospitals can take advantage of HIPAA compliant chat platforms to communicate with individual patients.

Bottom Line

Text messaging is one of the best tools to communicate with patients during this pandemic. The reason is most patients incorporate texting in their daily lives. When hospitals and other healthcare centers adopt technology to their texting platforms, communication between patients will become seamless.

Hopefully, you will utilize these ways to communicate with your patients throughout this pandemic. With all said and done, keep safe, maintain social distance, and sanitize your hands.