Healthcare practices need to consider what their patient communications would look like should situations out of their control arise, and affect the way that they care for patients. From adverse weather conditions leading to the suspension of services, or emergency health concerns requiring fast and widespread messaging, providers need to make plans now to limit the impact.
The speed at which communications can be sent to patients, and also making sure that all of your patients receive the communication, are the critical success factors. This is where mobile-messaging tools like SMS come into play. They’re delivered almost instantly and most of the UK population now own a mobile device that will support SMS.
What are the benefits of using SMS for emergency communications in the healthcare sector?
- 95% of text messages will be opened by your patients (Esendex)
- 90% of your patients will read an text that you send them within 3 minutes (Techjury)
- 95% of UK residents own a mobile phone which can receive texts (Statista)
- No internet connection required to receive SMS
- Two-way chat communications can be used where required / feasible
- Traceable messages mean providers can check when patients have received messages
- There’s no spam or ‘promotions’ folder; messages arrive directly in your patients’ inbox.
What are the applications of SMS for emergency comms in the healthcare sector?
1. Emergency messages/healthcare centre closure notifications
Traditional means of communication are less effective when it comes to emergency comms. Either the patient isn’t at home to take that important call, and then fails to listen to the voicemail message that’s been left behind, or the letter that’s been sent gets ignored, or even lost in the post. Not ideal when patients’ health is at stake.
From practice closures and revised appointment details, to test results and emergency health advice, SMS is an ideal alternative. An added benefit of SMS for these types of communications is that they can include hyperlinks, meaning that you can link to more digital services like web pages and appointment booking platforms.
SMS can be deployed in one of two ways. Firstly via API, which means that SMS functionality can be integrated directly into healthcare providers’ existing admin systems. Secondly via a secure online platform. This method also offers the benefit of being able to send texts (in bulk when needed) from any device with an internet connection – you don’t have to be at your desk.
In both cases message templates can be used meaning you can send consistent messages every time, which can be personalised for every recipient where required.
2. Communications with staff/arranging extra workforce cover
Situations may arise which require more healthcare professionals than you currently have arranged to be on shift. For example, an incident which has resulted in an influx of patients.
By setting up an SMS alert, you can send messages quickly and in an engaging way to relevant teams who may be on-call or able to provide cover. With SMS being delivered instantly and the majority of them being read within 3 minutes, this simple way to communicate will save time in an emergency.
3. 2-way mobile communications for conversations with patients
In many ‘crisis’ scenarios, there will be lots of questions from worried patients. This can cause big problems when we consider that most healthcare providers only have a finite amount of staff to answer those questions and a limited amount of phone lines through which they can be made.
Online mobile messaging through our platform can solve this problem by allowing staff to manage multiple conversations at the same time through widely used channels like SMS. This also provides a benefit to the patients in that they don’t have to wait on hold for immediate access to trained healthcare professionals, and it can all be done at a time and place that suits them best.
For simple enquiries messaging bots can also be deployed here, meaning that some questions can be answered completely autonomously, freeing up more time for staff to answer more complex queries.
4. Sending richer, more interactive messages with SMS Landing Pages
Healthcare providers may wish to increase their emergency communications engagement by offering comms which are more visually attractive and offer additional functionality. This is where SMS Landing Pages can help.
They allow healthcare providers to include any imagery, including all practice branding. Interactive buttons also make it easy to link to additional content like more in-depth healthcare advice and automated appointment booking platforms. Healthcare providers can also use buttons to add automatically add appointments to patients’ device calendars, and also link to interactive maps helping patients find the healthcare provider’s location.
How healthcare providers can get started with mobile messaging for emergency communications
We’ve worked with a variety of different healthcare providers to provide better ways of providing emergency communications.