How to connect with your patients – part 2

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doctor 2Last week I started this two series about how you can better connect with your patients. You may have noticed that the underlying theme, and what we do, is connecting via SMS. This can be either connecting directly with your patients, or with your staff, which in turn helps them to connect better with your patients.

In this post we’ll talk more about connecting directly with your patients, and thereby showing care and concern for them, as well as potentially saving their life.

Dosage reminders

First up is dosage reminders. The International Journal of Medical Informatics found that, over a six-month study period, patients receiving SMS reminders were more likely to take their recommended doses within predefined time windows. Patients receiving no reminders were less likely to take their medication: 50% vs. 39%. This was for patients that are already familiar with taking their medication, and do so for a serious condition: type 2 diabetes. It was even more effective for timely dosages. Within certain time frames, the chances of them taking their medication in time was significantly improved with the use of SMS reminders.

This can be applied for any type of medication that needs to be regularly taken, and one would assume that it would be even more effective for patients that may have trouble remembering their medication. For example, those new to taking regular medication or perhaps patients that have trouble with their memory.

Further to this, Jayne A. Orra & Robert J. Kinga  realised that healthy behaviour, such as quitting smoking and adherence to prescribed medications, mitigates illness risk factors but health behaviour change can be challenging. They found that SMS messages were shown to have a positive and significant effect (g = 0.291) on healthy behaviour and regular medication taking.

Vaccination reminders

Each year, all over Australia, many people get their annual influenza (flu) vaccine. This is recommended for everyone over the age of six months old, however one out every three Australians fail to receive their shot each year. The highest risk of complications from influenza is in the elderly, those with pre-existing medical conditions and pregnant women, but even healthy people can get severe influenza.

In 2012, Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health ran a trial to see whether SMS reminders increased the rate of vaccinations among pregnant women in New York City. The study yielded particularly powerful results, showing that women who received text messages were 30% more likely to be vaccinated. Further to this, an SMS survey was sent out to all women that received the messages, and found that 83% of those women liked the SMS reminders. This is further evidence to show that your patients appreciate the contact via SMS, it also shows them that you care and are looking out for them.

Although this was carried out on pregnant women, one would expect the results for the general public to have a similar trend. For the other “at risk” groups, you’d expect the results to be very similar.

It is important to get the Influenza vaccination annually, as the virus changes year to year. For this reason SMS is particularly powerful, because once you have the details of past patients that had the shot, you can remind them each year to return to your practice for the vaccine.

Regular breast screening

A study carried out in England suggests that women are much more likely to keep a breast cancer screening appointment if they’re sent an SMS reminder about it.  Within the UK, the NHS—their National Health System—invites all women between the ages of 47 to 73 to be screened for breast cancer every three years. From this study, of over 800 women, they found that 72% of the women that were sent an SMS reminder attended their appointment. Whereas, only 60% of women that were not sent a reminder attended. That is a significant enough difference, especially when we’re talking about a health issue as prominent as cancer, to justify the small expense a simple SMS.

Particularly with breast screens, with appointments being so far apart, there is no doubt that many patients would easily forget an appointment made three years in advance, if they made one in the first place. It is much easier for a computer system to send out a reminder to patients three years following their last screening, reminding them to make a new appointment.

One of our customers, Breastscreen Victoria, has found that many of their patients often forget about their appointments, but following up with an SMS really helps boost attendance.

Summary

SMS can play such an important role with helping you connect with your patients to show you care about their welfare.

These simple methods above, and in the previous post, can be applied to so many other situations and applications, with very little effort. Once you have the systems in place, it will take next to no time to connect with potentially thousands of patients at once. From their point of view, you will be giving them unobtrusive and caring reminders or tips to improve their health and potentially save their life, or the life of their unborn child.

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Andy

Marketing man at Esendex.