Guest Column | June 27, 2019

Mom, Can I Text My Doctor?

By Jim Higgins, Solutionreach

 secure texting in healthcare

In their early years, children rely on parents for everything, especially their healthcare—from medication dosing to appointments and so on. As years go by, children eventually change roles from care-receiver to the primary caretaker of their parents. Being a caregiver is one of the most demanding roles out there—but also a very common one. Eight out of ten Americans say that caregiving is “the new normal” in our country. It is estimated that around 40 million Americans provide regular care for an adult over the age of 50 each year. And as the population continues to age, these numbers will only grow. Currently, 10,000 people turn 65 every single day. And for the first time in U.S. history, there are more than 50 million seniors. These numbers will continue to grow until at least 2029, when older people will outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history. 

What does this mean for healthcare organizations? It means that it is absolutely imperative to pay attention to what caregivers want. Caregivers are now huge stakeholders in the healthcare world. Meeting their needs now (and into the future) is critical to having a robust, thriving practice.

So, what do caretakers want when it comes to support in their important role? They need more time. The majority of caregivers work full-time while also spending an average of 20 hours each week taking care of a loved one. Obviously, finding ways to cut back on this time-burden would be huge. Fortunately, healthcare organizations can do just that through the use of technology. In this day and age, children of aging parents are at least familiar with, if not experts in, communicating digitally. Using technology is an important way to save caregivers time and energy.

What are some of the most desired digital features?

  • Two-way texting. Caretakers are busy. Communicating with their loved one’s healthcare provider needs to be easy. Two-way text messaging is just that. It gives practices an easy way to contact a patient’s caretaker using a platform that they and their family members are already familiar with. And as long as providers follow simple rules for HIPAA compliance, they can now share the types of information patients and their caretakers need most—without waiting for a phone call.
  • Online appointment scheduling. Every time a person calls their physician’s office to set up an appointment, it takes an average of eight minutes out of their day. And with many older patients seeing multiple specialists, those minutes quickly add up. In addition, there are often times when a caretaker may need to schedule appointments outside of regular business hours. These caretakers are busy with their own lives. Offering a way for them to schedule appointments online is an obvious solution to this challenge.
  • Digital bill pay. Most patients say that dealing with healthcare billing is one of the most stressful parts of the process. These concerns are just multiplied when the person in charge of making sure healthcare bills are paid is someone other than the patient. By allowing patients to pay online, keep a credit card on file, or even send billing notifications and payment options via text message, the payment process can be made exponentially easier for busy caretakers. It also will help ensure payments don’t fall through the cracks.
  • Online check-in. Sending out intake forms digitally prior to a visit boosts efficiency and security for practices, and it makes life a whole lot easier for caretakers. They can complete information with the patient at their convenience. Much of the information on those forms is the same from visit to visit and can be auto saved within a digital form, reducing the need to hunt it down each time. It also makes the waiting room a much more peaceful experience for both the caretaker and patient. It’s a win for everyone.

Being the caretaker of a senior citizen can be hard. The vast majority of caretakers are unpaid family or friends. Finding ways to reduce the burden on them is a great way for healthcare organizations to set themselves apart from their competition (and attract new patients!). One of the easiest ways to do this is by taking advantage of the latest in technology.

About The Author

Jim Higgins is the founder & CEO of Solutionreach. You can follow him on Twitter: @higgs77.