by adgrooms on June 7, 2019

When a patient makes an office visit, the provider may send home information, prescribe medicine, and schedule a follow-up appointment. What patients lack are points of accountability and reminders to help stay on track in order to make health improvements. Patient care should not have to stop at the clinic door, and it does not have to add to provider workload. In fact, messaging can reduce it.

A recent review of studies on SMS health reminders showed a range of positive outcomes for patients. Automated messaging improves compliance through appointment reminders, immunizations, and prescription reminders. Behavioral reminders for smoking cessation and diet reminders for patients with diabetes or heart disease are also shown effective.

The study references articles showing "major financial savings" in the reduction of missed appointments, alone. Reminders can be automated for frequency, duration, and helpful custom information, such as addressing each person by their first name. Even two-way messaging can be automated using chatbot technology. This can be the first line of communication to answer patient questions, with a path to escalate to a provider, if needed. More sophisticated integration of messaging with EHR can measure the effectiveness of messages to hone the system.

SMS is not encrypted and not a secure method of communication. Although text messaging is an accepted daily risk for most people, reminders must be crafted to contain no PHI. Care should be taken to obtain permission to use this channel of communication. It is also important to inform each patient of the risks to their personal information and the types of messages you intend to send. Examples of the types of messages and the information they will contain will be helpful for patients to make an informed decision.

Automated messaging is a low-cost method of communication that has been shown to improve patient compliance. There are still more areas where this approach can be explored.