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SMS Works to Improve Patient Outcomes

Medication reminders and appointment confirmations are just the start.

February 16 2017

Healthcare today is complex. Even for common conditions like asthma you need to take the right medication at the right time to keep symptoms in check. Now consider conditions like HIV/AIDS where the drug regimens require precise timing to work. Think about how hard it must be to juggle day-to-day life with a strict medication schedule.

Even if you don't have a chronic illness, keeping your doctor's appointments are important to your health. Truth is we've all forgotten appointments at one time or another, but forgetting appointments costs you and the healthcare system real dollars.

Wouldn't it be great if there was a simple way to solve these problems?

There is...a simple text message.

Medication reminders keep patients on track

Did you take your medication today?

It's a simple question that helps people get, and stay, healthy. Multiple studies have shown the efficacy of SMS reminders in reinforcing positive behaviors for health. Everything from smoking cessation programs and lifestyle changes, to mitigating cardiovascular risk factors and adhering to to long term medication protocols. Simple reminders yield big results.

When patients are reminded to take their medication via SMS they are more likely to see and act on the reminders than with email or other kinds of reminders. Text messages are seen, read, and acted on more reliably than email or other channels.

When you need to make sure someone gets the message; SMS gets the job done.

Make missed appointments a thing of the past

When patients miss appointments there is a ripple effect across the system. The doctor has wasted her time and has to juggle her schedule around. The patient has to rebook a new appointment and may need to pay for the missed appointment as well. If tests were scheduled, those all have to be rescheduled too. This doesn’t even take into consideration the negative health impacts of missing an important test or appointment.

The more complex the appointment (like an ultrasound or MRI) the harder it is to "just come in tomorrow". The healthcare system is busy and missed appointments throw everyone off. We're used to getting reminder phone calls for some appointments, but phone calls and voicemails are easy to ignore, plus phone calls need a person to take time to call patients. Office staff are busy enough as it is without needing to spend hours a day calling people reminding them about their appointments.

Text messages are another story.

Text messages can be sent automatically and even sent more than once. Using 2-Way SMS, patients can cancel or reschedule appointments without needing to call the office or tie up a receptionist. A simple message like:

Appointment reminder for Wednesday at 1 PM. If you can't make this appointment reply "reschedule" or “cancel”.

This reminds patients of the appointment and offers them the chance to cancel or reschedule if needed. All done without playing phone tag with a receptionist.

Complexity solved with simplicity

There is so much to manage today, it's no surprise that people forget to take medication and miss appointments. But when people forget to take medication or miss appointments, they don't get better and the entire healthcare system pays the price.

We're not saying that text messages will solve all our healthcare problems, but they can help with these simple roadblocks to better health. If 160 characters helps someone keep their asthma symptoms at bay or not forget to get an important test, then we think that's a good start.

Learn how we help create 2-Way response systems for patients

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