The healthcare sector more than any other is undergoing a technological revolution. New equipment, software, cloud capabilities and analysis techniques are set to provide far greater insights and responses into major diseases and illnesses.
It is impossible to exaggerate the impact of the Internet of Things, wearable technology, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data in healthcare. They are driving the way in which science, medicine and pharmaceutical companies map, understand and diagnose health issues. They are also providing a previously undreamed of level of individual responsive care and treatment.
Technology and some of the greatest analytic and academic brains globally are working together to unravel the mysteries of the human body. And beneath all of this, on ground level, a much quieter revolution is taking place – improved communication to inform and support healthcare provision.
Why text messaging connects providers and patients
SMS is being successfully used by public and private sector healthcare providers to improve two-way communication, ensuring more individualised support and better monitoring systems.
Don’t be fooled into believing that text messaging is only for the millennials who have grown up aware of the value and reach of mobile technology.
Mobile phone usage went from zero to around 7.2 billion in just 30 years. Research now shows that 91% of the population of Britain has a mobile phone close to hand. That is clearly not just younger generations.
Text messages have an almost 100% open rate. Around 90% of text message communications are read within three minutes of them being received. Studies have shown that people find themselves itching to respond quickly to text message too, as they carry an immediacy and implied urgency.
So how can this unparalleled system of personal communication inform and support the work of healthcare providers and businesses?
Ways to make healthcare more efficient
Every organisation needs to streamline its operations, reduce waste and operate on “lean” principles; from global pharmaceutical companies to local GP surgeries.
SMS provides superb value for money in the way it reaches and engages stakeholders. Messages go straight into the hands of the right person in an unmissable way.
Backed by an SMS provider in the UK familiar with public and private healthcare, systems can be created to use text messages to save money and time.
One of the best illustrations of this is the way the NHS has begun to use SMS services to cut down on DNA gaps – Did Not Attend.
Figures quoted by the NHS suggest that in previous years, there were over twelve million no shows at GP appointments annually, costing taxpayers over £162 million per year.
Figures for outpatient hospital appointments are similarly shocking – 6.9 million missed slots each year.
Better use of technology and a more responsive system for making appointments are making big inroads into this horrific resource waste.
This includes medical surgeries – and increasingly other providers – texting appointment reminders out.
There are no reasons why private sector healthcare companies can’t work with text message providers to create a similar system. And it is quick and easy to add an option for the recipient to click on a link to cancel or re-arrange appointments.
Clearly, this means the SMS service must be integrated with your appointment software. With the right online SMS provider, text messaging can be seamlessly interwoven with many and various operating systems, so appointment systems are “well” within their scope.
Not just better business, better survival rates
SMS is not just supporting the nuts and bolts of getting people to appointments though. As already mentioned, healthcare is becoming far more individual and responsive, and SMS can inform and support this.
Instead of waiting a couple of weeks before visiting doctors for test results, patients are being sent SMS messages within hours to inform them of their next step.
Using text messaging for healthcare communications is also making the prescribing medications more efficient and less error prone.
According to figures from the National Reporting and Learning System, in 2015, over 500,000 medication errors occurred within the NHS over the preceding three years. Clearly, the bulk of this was errors in the actual administration of medicines in NHS facilities. However, prescribing and preparation also played a role.
This is the tip of a deadly iceberg. How many people in the UK take medication in their own homes inappropriately or at inadequate levels, unwittingly or in confusion?
Imagine if they didn’t have to rely on interpreting written instructions and remembering verbal guides but instead received an SMS message reminding you when to take medications and in what dosage.
Couple this with ways to respond too such as ‘unsure what to do, having an adverse reaction? Click on this link to get help’.
Connecting patients through their mobile
This leads to another excellent use of text messaging in healthcare.
The various forms of wearable technology and medical alert systems are becoming far more prolific and advanced. But mobile phones are already providing a way to connect patients and “check in” regularly.
To some, this may sound hands-off and remote. It needs to be applied with caution too. Over automation of healthcare monitoring and partnerships can remove the human touch.
However, a quick message checking on someone’s health and well-being is 100 times better than leaving them alone with their condition until they actively seek help. A well-worded text message morning and evening, to someone with mental health challenges, can be a vital connection with the outside world, a sign they are not alone.
Even better still, provide these individuals with a series of links to click on that empower them to respond. Then you have a highly effective two-way system to engage patients. Though it is impossible to measure, it’s beyond doubt that connecting people to healthcare support 24/7 will save lives.
Text messaging to inform care teams
This more responsive communication service extends to family and other caregivers too. The individual receives a daily text from their health or social care provider, to monitor health and well-being, and a response is received. This can then trigger reassurance to their named contacts to let them know that all is well.
Changes and updates, altered medications and new protocols, appointments and successfully completed therapies – the list of information that can be passed around to authorised recipients depends on the organisation and the needs of its patients. If it needs to go quickly and be read immediately, there are many reasons online SMS beats email.
Using text messaging can also mean a better sharing of knowledge between healthcare staff working in the same organisation. Instant, unmissable, “joined up” working.
Keeping healthcare staff in the loop – instantly
Recruitment and staff retention are a colossal headache for the healthcare sector in the UK. One of the deficits that appears on many assessments of faults and failings (below pay and work conditions of course) is communication and engagement.
How much better informed and included would your staff be if they received regular text messages? They’re quick, easy and much harder to miss than emails. They can also contain links to more information, access to line manager call-backs, staff rotas and a huge range of other avenues to support them.
A prescription for better communications
To give your organisation a better communications prognosis and a healthier instant rapport with patients and other stakeholders, contact Fastsms today. It could be the perfect remedy for creating more responsive and personalised provision.