According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone today, and 36 percent of smartphone owners use messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Kik, etc. Furthermore, 97% of smartphone owners used text messaging at least once over the course of the study period, making it the most widely-used basic feature or app; it is also the feature that is used most frequently
What this means is that use and reach of text messaging technology is becoming increasingly prevalent, and will continue to do so in the next few years.
This is especially true in the field of healthcare. For hospitals and other healthcare organizations, communication is critical, and often extremely time sensitive. Coupled with the fact that more healthcare providers develop and implement their own bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, text messaging to communicate patient data has become more common.
The problem with the use of standard text messaging and consumer chat apps within the field of healthcare is that such tools are not HIPAA compliant, and fail to adequately protect confidential patient health information. For this reason, HIPAA compliant and secure messaging apps have emerged as important solution for healthcare professionals that balances efficiency, compliance and security.
Beyond keeping patient data safe and secure, the use of secure messaging solutions amongst healthcare providers provides additional benefits:
More Efficient Workflows
Access to a solution that efficiently allows for the sharing of important and sensitive patient information can help doctors and nurses save lives. It’s an unfortunate fact that many hospitals, and doctors and nurses do not have access to HIPAA compliant and secure messaging solutions, and rely on antiquated communications processes, including loudspeakers and pagers–negatively affecting a staff’s ability to meet patient needs. By using a HIPAA compliant instant messaging system, healthcare organizations can streamline internal processes and more effectively manage their workforce.
Faster Response Times
A HIPAA-compliant messaging system that allows for integration with medical record systems so staff members can share information like X-Rays, prescription, treatment schedules, follow-up appointments and more. When staff is empowered with mobile devices with a HIPAA complaint instant messaging app installed, a simple message can guide them to the area of the hospital or practice that needs their attention. With that ability, patient information can be securely sent to the entire team of providers, which can help improve patient care and potentially lead to lower readmission rates.
A recent study examined the effectiveness of text messages as appointment reminders and their impact on patient no-show rates. The study consisted of nearly 4,500 subjects visiting five outpatient clinics within a two-month period. The first group included 2,151 patients. These patients were sent SMS reminders three days prior to their appointment. The no-show rate for this group was 14.2%. In the second group consisting of 2,276 patients, were not reminded with text messages, and this group’s no-show rate was 23.4%. In this particular study, delivery of text message appointment reminders to patients eliminated 39.3% of the no-shows that would have resulted without the text messages.
Another advantage of text messaging is its relatively low cost when compared to manual telephone calls or mailed communication. Manual telephone contact with patients requires many hours of expensive staff time, and only a limited number of calls can be completed within a given timeframe. SMS patient communication solves both time and expense problems for healthcare organizations.
In a World Health Organization bulletin concerning health communication and public health, researchers concluded that “health communication is seen to have relevance for virtually every aspect of health and well-being, including disease prevention, health promotion and quality of life”. Enabling hospitals, medical practices and healthcare providers to optimize their communications processes and serve more patients than ever before, without compromising sensitive medical information, will no doubt positively affect global healthcare in the near future.