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How to Use SMS for Patient Engagement and Better Healthcare

healthcare sms

There is something of a revolution occurring in the UK, and worldwide, where healthcare is concerned. Gone are the days of patients idly sitting and waiting for doctors to dole out advice. With 93% of the population holding a tool in their hands, anybody can use a mobile phone to access a wealth of information, just at our fingertips. Yet cruising through a mass of information on online sites such as reputed Web MD or NHS Choices can lead to self-diagnosis and misunderstanding.

As with all healthcare, a better approach is for patients to form an alliance or team with their healthcare professionals; a team who manage the health system specific to them. This includes doctors, nurses and the patients themselves. Interaction and engagement are crucial to managing health care. If you can get your patients to take responsibility for their health, it will see an improvement. This is true almost irrespective of the condition. Cancer patients, for example, are advised to eat specific foods, which may alleviate symptoms and side effects from treatment. The Anat Baniel Method of movement has been successful in helping people with cerebral palsy to form new patterns of movement, cognition, feeling and emotion, and relies heavily on patient participation.

Traditionally, doctors and other healthcare officials have operated behind a smokescreen and been revered as experts, to be obeyed from afar. This revolution taking place empowers patients to understand that they are as much an expert of their own healthcare as their doctors, nurses and specialists, and as such, for optimum health management, they should work in collaboration with healthcare officials.

What Does This Have To Do With SMS?

Creating a dialogue between patient and professional is key to engagement. SMS messaging is the optimal tool for engaging patients, from the all important behavioural change to managing a chronic health condition and remembering to take medication. Opening the channels of communication, particularly in such an intimate way as on the device we all carry around with us, is an optimal tool for fostering that empowerment and engagement.

Behavioual Change

Most things in life, from the economy to the environment, and even more so with regard to our healthcare, can be improved with behavioural change. Essentially, this harks back to empowerment. When we see what we are capable of, it motivates us to try harder and see even more pronounced results. Healthcare officials recognise that maintaining healthy habits can be sidelined by patients for a variety of reasons. Factors such as forgetfulness, stress, and lack of accessible information can hold patients back from adhering to a treatment plan, and the consequences contribute to a spiralling problem and exacerbating the condition.

How SMS Contributes to Behavioural Change

Dialogue is the best way to combat these issues. Providing motivation, information and support on a personal and accessible level has never been easier than with the use of SMS messaging. This allows an intimate dialogue, which makes the patient feel supported and cared for, thereby motivating them to support and care for themselves. Breaking down ways to improve their health into manageable steps allows patients to reverse the risky or negligible factors contributing to a decline in conditions and encourages self-care.

SMS messaging is a direct line of communication, which is cost-effective and saves time. In 2012, GSMA conducted a study which found that 89% of healthcare providers believe mobile health solutions can influence better choices, and upwards of 60% of patients agreed that SMS messaging would be a contributing factor in motivating them to manage their health.

SMS and Managing Medication

SMS messaging can be set up to remind your patients to take medication. Often people are managing a list of multiple conditions, and therefore multiple medications. As such, even the most organised mind can slip up sometimes. Setting up automated SMS reminders allows patients to take responsibility for their medication patterns.

This technology can also be used by pharmacists to remind patients to put in a repeat prescription request, saving time and hassle at the surgery. It could even be set up to actually allow patients to make repeat prescription requests by a response, offering a lifeline to those who struggle to get out, and reducing queuing time at surgeries and pharmacies.

How SMS Can Save Time

Whether it be a scheduled phone call or through chat, remote healthcare assistance has gained popularity as a way to respond quickly and effectively to people. Live chat SMS conversations are one way to offer this to patients, whilst preserving their anonymity and allowing them to get help from the comfort of their own home. SMS messaging is faster and more efficient than phone calls, which can be missed. Additionally, all of the dialogue can be saved, creating a record that can be referred back to whenever it is needed. Many people suffer from anxieties surrounding their health and are concerned that they may forget important information. Via SMS messaging, everything that you and the professional has said can be re-read to reinforce the message.

Are There Any Security Implications for Medical Professionals?

Many people are concerned that they are in some way breaching patient confidentiality by implementing an SMS system. However, there is a solution which can encrypt any personal information. Choosing a reputable and professional SMS provider will allow you to set these limits.

You may also wish to consider:

– Setting up your automation with a code, such as a uniquely created wording structure that conveys a specific meaning, which means that you can agree with the patient how to discuss sensitive matters.

– Including links in your SMS, allowing you to direct them to a specific part of your website.

There is a range of ways in which SMS messaging can increase patient engagement and open the channels of communication between you and your service users. This is largely due to creating a safe and intimate space to assist with day-to-day healthcare.

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