News Feature | November 25, 2013

Best Practices For Healthcare Texts ;)

Source: Health IT Outcomes
Katie Wike

By Katie Wike, contributing writer

HTO Texting

Texting - with patients and within departments - is a natural step in the evolution of mobile healthcare; now providers need to set best practices

Health IT Outcomes quoted Cheri Lattimer, RN, BSN, CMSA executive director of TCS as saying, “While traditional communication methods such as phone and face-to-face advice from physicians and care managers still dominate the field, the use of new HIT applications and solutions including smartphones, social networking, and text messaging is quickly increasing. The widespread acceptance of email communication is a perfect example of how care managers can adopt new technologies that patients are comfortable with, thereby avoiding potential barriers associated with new technology, and focus their efforts directly on patient guidance and engagement.”

Lattimer makes an important point - healthcare professionals are adopting new technologies constantly in order to communicate with their patients. MU requires a certain percentage of patients use portals, and there are apps for making appointments and finding doctors. But the one way to easily contact the majority of patients is via cell phone. Banks send text message account updates, so why couldn’t hospitals use the same technology to remind patients of appointments or prescriptions that need to be filled?

But security is an incredible concern. As HIT Consultant points out, “Text messages can sometimes get sent to the wrong person, and even if it gets to the correct number, the text could be read by someone other than the recipient. The information can be forwarded to anyone, and could remain on phones for indefinite amounts of time. In addition, if a phone gets lost — as they often do — a plethora of patient information could be compromised.”

HIT Consultant raises other questions: Would there be a charge for texting the doctor? What is an appropriate number of communications? What hours are appropriate to text? How many doctors are willing to text their patients? And most importantly, how can text messages be made more secure?

Healthcare IT News has recently posted best practices for text messaging in healthcare, based on the research of Frederick Muench, a clinical psychologist at Columbia University Medical Center who will be speaking at December’s HIMSS Media Health Summit.

"We ended up realizing that we were writing all sorts of different messages, but we didn't really know the basic tenets of what constitutes a good text message,” said Muench. “That is, what constitutes a good text message in that patients would be most receptive to receiving and heeding it?"

Muench’s study found 75 percent of respondents prefer receiving statements to questions, most are likely to prefer messages in "non-textese," and happy emoticons and correct grammar increase satisfaction with messages received.

 "We're still new to understanding texting as a unique medium," he concluded, since prior to this study there was little research into consumer preferences in text messages.

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