When healthcare organizations tailor patient outreach to their specific goals, text messaging proves an invaluable tool
Before providers can help sick patients, they need that population to walk through a hospital’s (or doctor’s office’s) doors. Connecting people to the resources they need is one of healthcare’s greatest challenges, and outreach is a key tool in the quest for better care and health equity.
Here, Arcadia Senior Manager Nina Zelcer shares why it’s critical to plan year-round communication, leveraging technology to enable happier, healthier days for all. Read on to learn how automation and text messaging could be the ticket to unlocking better performance and closing risk gaps.
Why year-round patient engagement matters for healthcare
Looking to reduce inequity? Prevent chronic illness? Strengthen important relationships between a patient and their provider? Text messages are easy to automate, simple to customize, and a rapid-fire form of communication. A phone vibrates, its user sees they’re due for a vaccine, they click a link, and they’re scheduled for an appointment: it can be that easy.
As far back as 2011, healthcare organizations began to realize that this medium was particularly impactful. Using the principles of behavioral design, healthcare innovators like the Nudge Unit at Penn Medicine’s Center for Innovation are marrying emergent technology with empathy, uncovering the ways that engagement can take new (and impactful) forms.
Goal-oriented action, effective patient outreach
Before you begin crafting a comprehensive outreach plan, it’s necessary to zero in on your organization’s top goal — what do you want to accomplish, first and foremost?
“Mindless messages without a clear call to action for the outcome you're looking for, doesn't really help the patient or the provider, and it's not the best way to get the results,” Zelcer says.
For best results, get really specific. The narrower the patient population, the more you can tailor the messaging and approach. You could decide to target a certain demographic in need of colorectal cancer screenings, or a particularly low-performing practice within a CIN (and the patients they serve).
Don’t come on too strong in your outreach campaigns (but keep a regular cadence)
Based on Zelcer’s experience, the right frequency of communication will depend on population. That could be monthly, for a particular cohort, or yearly (to remind people to get their physical, say), but the overriding rule is that organizations should track opt-outs. Knowing who is unenrolling from texts will show whether patients feel harassed or helped.
When in doubt: once a quarter is a great place to start and gather initial metrics for preventive campaigns and chronic condition management. It’s also important to have year-round messaging to remind patients to come in for their annual wellness visits or to update their patient records. Many organizations pair this ongoing outreach with public health campaigns and immunization reminders.
Short, sweet, and customized text messaging for patient engagement
Working alongside customers of different sizes, with different ambitions, Nina’s noticed that the most effective text messages are short, sweet, and specific.
“We’ve learned that the shorter the text, the better,” she says. And beyond conciseness, the phrasing needs to get right to the point — the more specific, the more likely patients are to realize it’s relevant to them.
Adding links is another excellent strategy. Arcadia customers have used Engage to pair timely messaging with links to patient charts and portals, PDF resources, and even alerts pages for natural disasters or social service needs.
Some of the most common text messages that organizations send as part of their patient engagement campaigns include:
- Pediatric Vaccinations
- Pneumococcal Disease
- Well Visits (Adult and Child)
- Medicare Annual Wellness Visits (AWVs)
- General Well Visits
- Child Well Visits
- Preventive Care/Cancer Screening
- Adult Preventive (General)
- Colorectal Cancer Screening
- Mammography/Breast Cancer Screening
- Cervical Cancer Screening
- Oral Health Exam
- Health Risk Assessment
- Chronic Conditions
- Hypertension Management
- Diabetes Management
The image below includes examples of text messaging templates used by Arcadia customers.
These are only a few examples of effective text messages to include in your outreach campaigns. To learn about other templates our customers use, schedule a meeting with us, or download the patient engagement strategy worksheet to develop your own messaging templates.
Taking the pulse of a CIN or healthcare group for effective outreach
One reason crafting an outreach plan is beneficial goes beyond caring for patients (well, at least directly) — it helps organizations like CINs (clinically integrated networks) or vast healthcare networks take the pulse of their own engagement.
Getting serious about engagement strategy forces leaders to take stock of what outreach has been or is already being done. From that baseline, you can augment existing efforts or launch a new initiative.
“This process sometimes prompts an organization to do some due diligence on their end, to see if there are outreach practices happening within the organization they don't know about,” Zelcer says. “We frequently get hesitation that, ‘Well, I don't want to step on toes, and I don't want to duplicate efforts.’ And I'm like, ‘Well, we don't know what's going on. You have to go find out.’ And then we can use Arcadia to enhance or couple the work that's already happening.”
Better outcomes are only a text away
It might seem too good to be true, but automated outreach builds community and improves healthcare metrics. Whether you’re dipping your toes in the waters of outreach or accustomed to seasonal campaigns, approaching patient messaging with a calendar view could be your fast-track to better population health.