It’s no understatement that text has the power to revolutionize healthcare messaging—and health care in general. This mobile technology allows practitioners to provide their patients with not only a fast, convenient means of communication, but also better, more informed care.

Plus, considering that 52% of smartphone owners use their phones to look up health-related information, mobile is the perfect platform to engage with patients. In fact, according to a 2015 physician survey, 90% of participants used mobile as a mechanism for patient engagement.

There are many ways to engage patients through mobile, each with its own benefits. Apps, for example, allow you to offer more thorough services and maintain longer-term relationships with your patients.

Text allows hospitals and doctors to reach a wider range of the population and to improve appointment attendance, while mobile live chat allows providers to diagnose common conditions via phone as well as better serve patients in emergency situations.

Here are some examples of best practices for each of these mobile platforms:

1. Apps

Apps can help improve patient care—and the patient experience—in a variety of ways. For example, providers can use apps to distribute relevant health information to their patients. Apps also provide a convenient place for patients and providers alike to store and track information. In fact, 93% of doctors believe mobile apps can lead to improved patient health.

Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia, for example, used a mobile app to send messages to 350 patients suffering from congestive heart failure. As a result, the hospital reduced 30-day readmissions by 10%.

Here are some more stats about how mobile apps can impact health care:

  • 86% of doctors say apps enhance their understanding of patient conditions.
  • 50% of doctors say apps improve patient care efficiency.
  • 46% of doctors say apps improve the doctor-patient relationship.

2. Mobile-Optimized Live Chat

Patients can also engage with their providers in real time—anywhere, at any time of the day—through mobile live chat. This is particularly useful in emergency situations where patients are experiencing acute symptoms and need to be attended to immediately. Additionally, providers can use live chat to diagnose symptoms of common illnesses and to prescribe medication and treatment regimens.

This type of service can also help prevent overflow in hospitals during high-volume times—such as flu season—by allowing providers to treat patients virtually. However, this type of care often comes as part of an insurance package and is rarely available to uninsured patients.

3. Text Messaging

Text messaging provides a lot of benefits that differ from those offered by mobile apps. While many patients may not go to the trouble of downloading an app, they may be open to using text to communicate with their care providers.

Additionally, text messaging allows physicians and hospitals to reach a wider segment of the population—including patients who don’t have smartphones. Plus, because text doesn’t rely on Internet access, it’s a more reliable option in emergency situations.

Text can be used in a variety of instances, from alerting patients to the availability of lab test results to allowing patients to schedule appointments quickly and easily. You can also use text to survey patients about their level of satisfaction with your services and facilities.

Furthermore, appointment reminders delivered via text can help providers avoid incurring the costs associated with missed appointments (texts have a 98% open rate). And, along those same lines, providers can use text to fill open appointment slots when there are no-shows or last-minute cancellations.

Bear in mind, though, that there are HIPAA implications to any type of patient-provider communication—text included. Per HIPAA, patient data must be transmitted through secure channels. And in order to meet HIPAA standards, patients must opt-in to any text messaging service you offer.

It’s also important to set up a secure authorization process to ensure that only authorized staff members have access to patient history information. According to Daniel Mongiardo, MD, “From my standpoint as a provider, we have to have HIPAA compliance when communicating with these patients. Just a few years ago, this was not available and all we had was face-to-face communication with these patients. In a rural area… you can’t do face-to-face communication with the patients. This [mobile texting] really drives down the cost and increases the compliance tremendously.”

And Chase Hensel of Welkin Health says, “Having the right policies and procedures in place as a company is a key part of protecting our patients’ information.”

Using mobile communication in a HIPAA-compliant manner can enhance patient care, reduce no-shows, and improve doctor-patient relationships—and all of that leads to improved satisfaction and better patient experiences. Has your practice used secure text messaging to communicate with patients? If so, has it been effective? Let us know in the comment section below.

Tracy Blanchard is a seasoned business writer and content crafter. She covers topics like client communication, customer retention, and team collaboration, and she is really passionate about the impact technology has on human interactions.