Texting Your Patients
Texting can be a convenient and efficient way to contact your patients. However, before you implement text messaging at your practice, take some time to determine the intention of your plan for establishing a formal communication policy.
Posted in Risk Management on Thursday, January 14, 2016
Are you using text messages as a form of communication between your dental practice and your patients? Texting can be more convenient and efficient than an email or phone call, and a great tool for reducing patient no show rates. However, before you implement text messaging at your practice, take some time to determine the intention of your plan for establishing a formal communication policy. Texting comes under the heading of social media and warrants a well thought out plan to avoid HIPAA and TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) violations, among other concerns.
To begin establishing a communication policy, you should first determine what text messaging will be used for. Some examples include:
- Communication purposes of providing information and education (general health reminders and/or special offers)
- Clerical purposes such as appointment reminders and account balances
- Diagnostic issues such as triaging patient concerns
- Consultative issues such as having specific interactions with patients
Next, ensure that your formal office communication policy includes protocols detailing your text message policy.
Remember: Your patient must agree to receive texts from your office. Your communication policy should incorporate a consent form which authorizes you to send text messages. The consent form should:
- Acknowledge that patients may receive messaging and data rate charges from their cellular provider
- Inquire/Confirm whether other individuals, such as family members, associated with that cell phone number may also receive alerts via text
- Confirm with patients that text messaging is not always a secure means of communication
A few additional elements to consider when using text messaging as a form of patient communication include:
- Texts involving information that could be considered PHI need to be documented in the patient’s medical records
- Texts, like other medical record information, must be retained for the legally required time period
- Provide an “opt in” and “opt out” option
- Have a protocol as to when and how often patient reminders are sent out
Remember: an informed patient is more likely to be agreeable to your texting initiative.
For more information on best policies and practices for texting your patients, review the Medical Economics article, “New consent rules for contacting patients on mobile phones.”