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#50: SMS Marketing? 7 Things To Consider When Thinking About Adding A Texting Solution To Your Practice

SMS Marketing

Information Explored in this Podcast:

The following is just some of the information that we’ve covered in this podcast, in case you wanted to skip ahead and explore a specific topic.

  • Texting With Patients Studies and Stats [1:40]
  • Choosing The Right Texting Software [5:50]
  • Texting Solution Tips [8:50]
  • Piroritizing Messages [9:27]
  • Signing To Exsisting Patients Database [9:51]
  • How To Be Easy Accessible [10:19]
  • Maintaining Compliance [11:22]

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Links Mentioned in the Podcast:

Automated Webinar Sales Funnel Course: https://onlinemarketingfordoctors.com/webinar-sales-funnel-course/

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Huyen:

Have you noticed that texting is everywhere?! It’s the most widely used feature on a smartphone. If you look around, you’ll find plenty of evidence of people texting as they go about their daily lives.

Mobile phones and texting have become an inherent part of our society. People carry their phone with them wherever they go and they are constantly checking and responding to messages.

In fact, studies have shown that people see an incoming phone call as an intrusion in their lives. Most people don’t answer incoming phone calls, and if you think your combating that by leaving a message, you might be surprised to learn that 19 percent of people never check their voicemail. Ever.

Texting has become the most preferred way to communicate.

In this podcast episode, we’re going to discuss the benefits of texting and the 7 things you should look for to make sure you choose the best texting solution for your practice.

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Podcast Intro

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Steve:

Welcome back to another episode of Online Marketing For Doctors podcasts, my name is Steve and my co-host from the intro is Huyen Truong.

SMS popularity is through the roof, and it is one of the most mobile friendly types of content.

But people aren’t just texting their friends and family. They are also using it to make other aspects of their lives easier. They text to communicate with their mechanic, pharmacist, and even the grocery store where they shop.

And studies have found that patients would prefer to communicate with their healthcare providers through text too. According to Solution Search data, 47% of patients want the ability to text back and forth with their provider, but only 15 percent have the ability to do so.

Huyen

Providing the convenience of two-way texting can be the difference between a patient returning to your practice and a patient choosing another provider who will communicate with them the way they would prefer to be reached.

Texting is a great way to communicate with patients anytime, anywhere; without being intrusive. It’s easy. It’s inexpensive. Best of all, it’s what your patients want.

And here are some additional stats from the same source:

  • 75 percent of patients would prefer receiving appointment and payment reminders via text
  • Text message response rates are 209 percent higher than those from phone calls
  • The average practice could save up to two hours a day on phone calls by using text conversations
  • 90% don’t answer incoming calls, 19% don’t check their voicemail
  • When people get a reminder, they are more likely to show up, reminders reduce no shows by 30 – 50%

Steve

Let’s us elaborate on the key benefit of texting which is Saving Time. Not only is texting the way patients want to connect with their healthcare providers, if used effectively, texting can be a huge timesaver for your office. On average, it takes a handful of seconds to send a text message, while a phone call can last about two minutes.

Now, two minutes may not seem like a lot, but that’s just the amount of time spent actually talking to the patient. This doesn’t include time dialling the number, waiting for an answer, leaving a message, and then calling back or waiting for a return call. Pretty quickly you can add up to more than two minutes per call.

Huyen

If you consider this: practices receive about 50 incoming phone calls each day. At two minutes per call (or more) that’s almost two hours that your staff will spend answering the phone every day. Add to that outbound calls for reminders or recalls, and the hours just keep adding up.

Text messages, on the other hand, take only seconds to type and send. And even if a text conversation takes a few texts back and forth, you’re still looking at less than a minute. Text conversations can be used for both inbound and outbound communication, giving your practice a way to reduce both types of phone calls.

Steve

Imagine the time saved in your practice if patients knew how to text you to schedule or confirm an appointment, get directions to your office, or ask questions about pre-appointment instructions. Add to that the time saved on making calls for appointment reminders and recalls, and you can free up a lot of extra time for your staff.

Huyen

But what does that really mean?

Redirecting phone calls to text messages means your staff will have more time to devote to engaging with the patients in your office. Most physicians believe that the biggest barrier to patient engagement is the lack of time the practice staff has to offer its patients.

When a text message comes in, the receptionist doesn’t have to interrupt the patients standing at their desk in order to answer the text like they would if they were on a phone call. Instead, they can finish the conversation, make sure the patient is taken care of, and then read and respond to the text appropriately.

Those few extra minutes of uninterrupted time will make a world of difference to your patients in making them feel valued and appreciated.

Steve

Now it comes to the key part… Choose the Right Texting Software.

Research shows that text messages are how your patients want to communicate. Phone calls feel intrusive, and nobody actually answers their phone anymore anyways. A text is convenient for your patients, and if you choose the right software, it can be a time-saver for your practice staff too.

Before moving to the next important part, we have this message for you.

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Webinar Sales Funnel commercial

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Huyen

Welcome back to the show! Before the break, we had begun discussing how to choose the right texting solution for your practice.  To further that conversation, we have our best 7 tips for considering which texting solution you want to use;

  1. Use Your Existing Number: You don’t want your texts coming from a five or six-digit short code, you want them to come from the number your patients already know. Pick a texting solution that will text-enable your existing landline so patients can text you from the number that’s already saved in their phones.
  2. Two-Way Initiation: Not all of your conversations with patients will start with you, your patients need to be able to reach you just as much as you need to be able to reach them. And they would prefer to do it over text. About two-thirds of your patients would rather text you than call your office. So make sure you give them that option.

Steve

  1. Message History: Instant access to previous messages sent between a patient and your practice can make things so much easier for your staff—and your patients. Your staff can reference back to past messages to see what information was already given so they aren’t asking for the same information over and over again. Easy access to the message history also means any member of your staff can respond to any incoming text message.

Huyen

  1. Prioritize Messages: Some texts will require an urgent response, and some might need your staff to do a little bit of researching before responding. Flagging individual messages is a way to set those messages apart so others can see which are being worked on, or which need an immediate response.
  2. Sync to Your Patient Database: Knowing who a text is coming from just makes the whole process easier. Choose a texting solution that links to your patient database so you don’t have to ask your patients to identify themselves in every conversation.

Steve

  1. Registration-Free: Your patients already have plenty of apps on their smartphones, they don’t need another. They shouldn’t have to download a special app or register for a program to text you. After all, the point of texting is easy communication for everybody. Patients should be able to text you just like the text anyone else in their contact list.
  2. Easy to Use: Texting doesn’t have to be complicated or require you to log in to multiple programs every day. All you really need is a notification on your desktop or through an app on your smartphone and you can read and respond to texts from wherever you are. Your schedule gets busy, choose a texting solution that lets you be flexible with your texts.

Huyen

Another important component of SMS marketing is Maintaining Compliance. It can be a scary world of compliance out there. There are stories in the media almost daily about data breaches, so it’s important to have regulations in place to ensure patient information is kept private.

Fortunately, you can use text to communicate with patients and stay compliant. You simply need to understand the regulations and put practices into place in your office to make sure those regulations are being followed.

Steve

Let’s take a look at a few of the most common regulations surrounding this topic.

HIPAA in USA or Privacy Act 1988 in Australia

HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and provides rules around the uses and disclosures to keep protected health information (PHI) private.

Privacy in Australia is covered under the Privacy Act 1988.  If you want to read this act, we’ve left a link to it in our show notes below. But it allows you to communicate with patients via text. You can send automated messages for things like reminders and recall. You can also have real-time, two-way conversations.

However, if the patient wishes to discuss private health information you need to let them know that they are communicating on an unsecure channel and get their permission to continue the conversation.

Huyen

Now the second regulation that you need to pay attention to is TCPA

Which stands for …The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) in the US and Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999 for Australia

These were originally established to battle telemarketing calls and fax spam, however today it also includes text messaging.

Under this act, it is unlawful to make a robocall, send a fax, or text to someone in USA and Australia unless the person gives express consent. There are a few exceptions to that law, including healthcare-related messages.

We’ve left a link to this act in our show notes to for more indepth reading.

Steve

If a practice is communicating a healthcare message to a patient, they are exempt from the express written consent rule. This means that as long as your patient has given you their phone number, you are allowed to text to them healthcare-related messages. These types of messages include:

  • Appointment reminders
  • Confirmation messages
  • Post-operative instructions
  • Post-discharge information
  • Lab results
  • Prescription notification

But it’s important to remember that marketing messages are not exempt under the TCPA. You are required to have express written consent to send the following types of messages:

  • Advertisements for new services
  • Solicitations to events
  • Special offers
  • Accounting, billing, or collection messages

Huyen

If you don’t have expressed written consent to send these messages, you should communicate with them using alternative ways. If you send a text that includes both a healthcare message and a marketing message, the text will be held to the higher marketing standard and will require expressed written consent.

Staying compliant is important, but it shouldn’t stop you from effectively communicating with your patients. Reaching out to patients with relevant (and compliant) texts will lead to happier patients and a happier practice.

Steve

If you need help finding the right texting solution for your practice, please let us know, we’ll look at your current patient management software or any CRM that you are using and help find you the best compatible solution for your practice.

If you have enjoyed our show, we’d appreciate it if you left us some positive ratings on itunes and Sticher. It would mean a lot to us and motivates us to keep this show going and providing more great content moving forward.

Thanks for tuning in today and we look forward to speaking to you in the next episode.

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