10 reasons text reminders can be a GI recall program game-changer

Statistics show that about one in three of U.S. adults ages 50-75 are not getting screened for colorectal cancer as recommended.

This means millions of people are missing the chance to prevent the cancer or detect it early. While some of these are individuals who do not undergo an initial screening, many are failing to receive subsequent screenings as recommended by guidelines.

Recall programs that inform patients when it's time to get screened for colon cancer can be an effective method of increasing patient compliance with guidelines. As a secondary benefit, these programs can also help drive patient and case volume to a practice and its affiliated surgery/endoscopy center.

While traditional recall programs that use one or a combination of letters and phone calls served organizations well, these communication methods now often leave a lot to be desired. Mailing letters is slow and expensive, and there's no way of verifying that the letter reached its destination or was even opened and read.

Phone calls are no longer a reliable means of reaching people. A Consumer Reports national survey found that 70% percent of Americans will not answer their phones when they don't recognize the incoming number. Voicemails can linger unheard for days our may be deleted without a listen if the recipient believes the message to be spam.

For practices and centers looking to drive up patient compliance and give their screening program a volume boost, there is a communication method strongly worth considering: HIPAA-compliant text messaging.

Consider the following sample text message:

MAINSTREETGI: Hi Susan. Our records show that it is time to schedule your screening appointment. Please call 877-555-1234 so we can set up an appointment for you.

Now let's look at 10 reasons why texting should be the communication method driving today's recall programs.

1. Familiarity. People are generally accustomed to receiving and interacting with such text messages. More and more businesses are leveraging text reminders and alerts, from financial institutions to airlines to various service providers. Thus, patients will likely not find it surprising to receive such a message from you. In fact, many will appreciate it.

2. Embraced by targeted patients. Most patients who undergo screenings fall in the age range of 50-75. Most of these patients own a cell phone and a majority own a smartphone (a figure that is only rising). AARP has found that among those ages 50-69, text messaging is the technology tool most used to stay connected. In short: age is no barrier to texting.

3. You will answer patient calls. While patients may ignore calls from you if they do not recognize your number, you are not likely to ignore any inbound calls. On a cell phone, initiating such an inbound call only requires patients to click your number included in the text. As we like to say, "If you want someone to call you, send them a text."

4. High engagement rate. Data has shown that texting can deliver a 70-80% successful reach rate when contacting patients who qualify for a recall.[1] Since patients' mobile numbers rarely change, those numbers already in your system or captured going forward are likely to remain the same for years.

5. Verification. Almost instantaneously, texting solutions can determine whether a text message was successfully delivered.

6. Automation. Providers can schedule text messages to go out to patients in advance, whether that be days, weeks or months before upcoming appointments. And when texting is automated, there's no risk of falling behind and developing a backlog of outreach efforts.

7. Cost savings. The cost of sending a stuffed envelope, taking into consideration staff time and materials, typically runs around $1.20 to $2.00. Phone calls (with most outreach efforts requiring multiple calls) occupy precious, expensive staff time. The cost of a text? Pennies.

8. Improve staff productivity. How much time are staff spending on assembling and mailing recall letters or making recall phone calls? What if that time was reduced by 25% or higher? Texting can free up staff to focus on other work critical to the success of your organization or may allow you to reduce expenses associated with overtime or part-time work.

9. Easily track and evaluate program performance. Since texting is powered through a technology platform, you should be able to run analytics and track performance metrics such as the following:

• How many patients are subscribed to your recall program.
• How many patients you have mobile numbers for and can actually reach (which you can work to update and increase).
• How many patients received a text.
• How many scheduled an appointment as a result.

10. Link to a scheduling platform. If your organization has a platform or portal patients can use to schedule their own appointment, you can include a little more language at the end of a text message that says, "You can also schedule directly online at www.schedule.com."

You can include different hyperlinks in text messages to drive patients to your website for a variety of other purposes associated with your recall program, including preparation education, directions to your facility and online bill pay.

Power of a reminder text message
If patients come to your facility for an initial screening, they likely already appreciate the importance of the service. Getting them back in again may not require much convincing. Rather, all they may need is a simple, streamlined method to schedule future appointments. Simple reminder text messages could be all that's required for successful recalls that help keep your patients complying with their screening schedule and your volume growing.

Brandon Daniell is president and co-founder of Dialog Health, a cloud-based, two-way texting platform that enables vital information to be pushed to and pulled from patients and caregivers.

[1] Dialog Health 2019 data

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