Communicating with Patients through SMS Text Messages

The manner in which you contact a patient, whether it be calling regarding appointment notifications or sending out co-pay reminders, is extremely important. Although helpful, these reminders don’t always come at the best time or in the best form for the patient. As extended business office companies adopt better practices and new technologies are introduced in medical collections training seminars, patients may soon have the option to receive payment reminders from their doctors in non-traditional forms, such as SMS text messages.

According to a recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, texting borrowers in the Philippines to remind them of a payment’s due date increased the chance of on-time payment by up to six percent. Although not specifically healthcare industry-related, the study has inspired talk of similar results in the United States and is certainly a relevant topic for healthcare collections.

Since texting is cheaper, less invasive, and possibly more reliable than calling, it would be beneficial to healthcare professionals to offer the option to patients. This method allows patients to review and reply to information whenever is most convenient to them. Follow these tips for integrating SMS communication into your practice:

  • Ask patients to fill out a consent form agreeing to receive text message communication for schedule changes, payment reminders or office announcements.
  • Take caution–unless a patient agrees to let you call their cell phone (just like with any other form of communication), sending an SMS text message could be a violation of the law.
  • Use the provider’s and practice/hospital’s name in the text message.
  • Make sure patients are aware of the steps they can take to opt-out of the service, and ask them to notify you immediately if they change their preferred number.
  • Make sure text messages are generalized and neutral, so as not to violate HIPAA regulations.

At a time when more and more people are giving up their landlines and instead using cell phones and email as their primary forms of communication, outdated regulations are preventing doctors and medical collections agencies from reaching patients regarding important issues. Changing trends will likely lead officials to address this and other bill collecting technologies in the near future. In the meantime, healthcare professionals can benefit from attending revenue cycle management seminars and training courses to better understand the communication laws and learn about other permissible technologies to assist in the medical collections process.

Learn more about patient communication methods in our revenue cycle management seminars.

This information is not to be construed as legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. Although we attempt to provide up-to-date information, laws and regulations often change. We make no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy or completeness of this document. For legal advice, please consult an attorney.