Dentist texting her patient.

Texting a Link to Update Medical and Office Information

How do patients perceive your attempts to secure updated information? There might be some areas to consider.

Electronic texting is becoming a common practice for updating H&P (health and physical), HIPAA, Consent to Treat and Financial Policy information before a dental appointment. From a patient and risk management perspective, here are some points to consider before sending.

Who does the message come from?

If you’re using an automated system, it doesn’t always clearly identify the sender. If your patients receive an anonymous message from a number they don’t know, they may not click on the link provided in the text – especially if the text is asking for PHI (Protected Health Information) and/or PII (Personal Identifiable Information).

How is the message worded?

Automated messaging sometimes refers to patients as though they are new. Assuming most patients are repeat visitors, this can be confusing.

What are you asking patients?

Don’t ask patients questions that your office should be the expert on – i.e. “When were your last X-rays?” In cases like these, their answers may be guesses or estimates, and your records should show you the most accurate information.

What forms are you sending?

Anything involved with HIPAA, Consent to Treatment or financials should be secure. If they are signing electronically, an official Docu-Sign is needed. Also keep in mind that many people won’t bother to read lengthy forms or agreements on a cell phone that requires a lot of scrolling. If you don’t have a secure portal or other safe way to have protected information signed, you may consider asking patients to come to their appointments 15 minutes early to complete paperwork.

Where do the forms go?

If you ask for information via online form, make sure that form is used efficiently in the office. Your patients should not be asked to fill out the same form in the office that they already filled out online.

Tips to Consider

If you are going to provide HIPAA, Consent to Treat (which is different than informed consent) and Financial Policy information in a text message, you should also provide a copy to the patient when they arrive at your office since there is a possibility they didn’t read it on their cell phone. If they decline, you can at least document that you offered them a paper copy and it was not accepted. Additionally, providing your patient a hard copy of your financial policy might reduce payment issues in the future.

Additional Resources: 

What a Texting Policy Should Include

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