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Hannah Coen

Communications Associate, NCBH

Does your organization use text messaging?

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Text messaging is a fast, relatively inexpensive way to engage under-served populations and to connect patients with 24/7 access to health tips and treatment options. It can change the ways clinicians deliver health care by acting as a care extender and creating a better picture of the population you care for.

Yet, it is underused. We did an impromptu poll during a recent webinar on text messaging and found that one-third of the webinar participants were brand new to understanding the potential use of of text messaging within their organization and one-third were familiar with the idea but needed more information before trying it out.

Dr. Donald Bux, director of behavioral health care management at Montefiore Medical Center, shared his experience with SenseHealth, something Montefiore used with high-risk patients in the New York welfare system.

The target population in this pilot test included adults with multiple chronic, but manageable, conditions who were at risk for future hospitalizations. Through SenseHealth, clinicians and care management providers set up automated text messages, which included appointment reminders and general health management tips, and patients responded and engaged in text exchanges.

To address HIPAA compliance, Montefiore’s patients opted-into the system and staff received training on content restrictions such as references to medications or specific diseases. As an added precaution, the system screened outgoing messages for patient-specific content before sending. Additionally, patients’ text messages that included “hot words,” like depressed, suicide or hospital, indicating that a person may be in crisis; those messages were forwarded to supervisors.

Montefiore saw a 40 percent increase in patients keeping medical appointments, and 90 percent of people who engaged with the system were “extremely interested” in continuing to use it. Although patients knew the texts were automated, they felt more connected to their care manager.

“I really felt like my care manager was talking to me when I got a text. I knew it was a computer, but it still made me feel like she was there checking in with me.”

Health care providers can use text messaging to support patients with self-management, better coordinate care and send appointment reminders that reduce no-shows. The game changer is that text messaging puts patients at the center of managing their own health by helping to bridge the communication gap between them and their health care provider.

Want to learn more about how technology is transforming health care? Watch the first of a three-part webinar series on technology (watch the recording and download the presentation slides) — and stay tuned for the other two in the series: Using Apps and Other Technologies to Support Physical Health in Behavioral Health Settings (Thu., Nov. 19) and Digital Self-Care: Using Technology to Improve Outcomes and Engagement on (Thu., Dec. 3).

Is your treatment organization using text messaging? Are you thinking about it? Share with us.