How patients really want to communicate with doctors

By Nathan Eddy
01:32 PM
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The answer lies in existing tools that are already widely used and known for simplicity, according to new research.

Whether you’re working to improve patient experience, engagement or activation, the range of technologies for communicating with patients is expanding, which can make it harder to pick the most effective one.

So, here’s a tip. Physicians and the IT shops that support them might consider messaging alternatives to meet consumer preferences for communicating via text messaging.

WHY IT MATTERS

The vast majority (91 percent) of 200 U.S. respondents would like the ability to communicate with their loved one's care team via text messaging, according to a DrFirst survey.

Just 10 percent of patients surveyed said they prefer to receive physician communications through patient portals, but nearly twice that many (19.6 percent) said they favor receiving information through secure text messages if in-person visits or phone calls are not possible.

THE BIGGER TREND

As simple as texting might seem, SMS has already been called the digital health tool of the century, notably for the technology’s simplistic elegance and widespread use.

A June Black Book Market Research survey of 770 hospital professionals and 1,279 physician practices also indicated secure texting is becoming the first choice to send information while keeping sensitive data secured.

The Black Book survey revealed that 85 percent of hospitals and 83 percent of physician practices are using secure communication platforms between care teams, patients, and families.

Health IT companies are stepping up to fill that need in a variety of ways. Earlier this month MobileHelp Healthcare, a healthcare technology solutions specialist, announced a partnership with Casamba, a provider of electronic health record (EHR) solutions, to provide secure text messaging capabilities, video capabilities. 

Microsoft, in September, announced that it will be adding secure communications and care coordination features to its Teams software.

And in October, KLAS said that many secure messaging vendors are transforming themselves into broader communications platform providers.

ON THE RECORD

"Clinicians who use secure text messaging to connect with patients and their family members can improve patient satisfaction, drive medication adherence, and empower patients to be more actively involved in their health and wellness," G. Cameron Deemer, president of medication management solutions firm DrFirst, said in a statement. "The survey results confirm our observation that patients want to be more engaged in their care and desire more options for interacting with their healthcare providers using the same communication methods they regularly use in every other part of their life."

Nathan Eddy is a healthcare and technology freelancer based in Berlin.

Email the writer: nathaneddy@gmail.com

Twitter: @dropdeaded209