Text Messaging

Can Text Messaging Improve Patient Engagement Outcomes?

Text messagesMedication non adherence is a significant problem, it always has been and it will continue to be so with an estimated cost to the NHS of £600m* a year! So what can be done to improve patient outcomes? Changing patient behaviour is key to this and there have been a number of clinically led studies conducted that demonstrate that apps can help to improve compliance.  But, when looking at patient engagement, perhaps there is another solution where a person-centric approach is more likely to improve the odds of success. A successful engagement programme needs healthcare providers to be able to reach their patients in familiar and effective ways and by doing this, patients are encouraged to take an active role in their treatment which will in turn lead to better healthcare outcomes.

This is where I think text messaging could be the answer.

It’s a cost effective way of providing a more personalised experience with a greater reach than just smartphone users. Last year over 145 billion* text messages were sent and despite the rise of instant messaging platforms among younger users, text messages remain device agnostic and one of the easiest ways reach anyone with a mobile phone.

The Personal Touch

Your health is a private matter and the more personalised the experience, the more likely patients are to respond and take an active role in managing their own treatment. Medication reminders, exercise reminders, appointment booking, pre-op instructions, post op advise can all be communicated ‘one-on-one’ and doing this on a personal level, knowing that a real person is supporting them, can be a real motivator to empowering them to make the necessary changes.

A GSMA study in 2012 showed that 54% of consumers wanted to improve their healthcare using their mobiles in more personalised ways, taking more control in their treatment.

Patient Preferences

Reach

In order for any patient engagement programme to be successful the number of patients you are able to reach is very important. Patients comes from a variety of backgrounds and demographics with a range of communication preferences. Combined with the fact that it’s not always possible to be connected to the internet, text messaging offers the lowest common denominator and most reliable way of contacting patients. Text messaging also is the quickest way to reach the most people. The average text message is read within the first 90 seconds, whereas the average email is opened within the first 90 minutes*.

Security

Clearly security and compliance are also considerations for any healthcare system that communicates patient information. The text messages can be stored securely inline with HIPAA compliance but because security depends on the cooperation of all parties involved in the transmission process there are bound to be challenges. However if the tool is used correctly, with guidelines in place to support patients with their treatment plans and not for discussing medical issues, many of these security concerns are negated.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that apps and smartphones will make communication easier, reduce costs and improve efficiencies throughout the NHS. But let’s not just assume that apps are the answer before considering all the technologies available to us and the way in which patients use them. Familiarity, reach and simplicity can play a big role in the success of an initiative like this and, used in the correct way, could see tangible benefits in terms of outcomes and cost savings.

*http://europe.newsweek.com/health-apps-created-surgeons-put-patients-control-313531
*http://www.hsj.co.uk/resource-centre/best-practice/qipp-resources/how-improved-medication-adherence-can-prevent-costly-medicine-waste/5041067.article#.VVXLXJNVhBc
*http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jan/13/number-text-messages-sent-britain-falls-first-time
*http://www.pewinternet.org/2012/11/30/the-best-and-worst-of-mobile-connectivity/
Image credit: Amancay Maahs (https://www.flickr.com/photos/amanky/3211478871/)
App store optimisation (ASO)

10 Tips for Launching a Health App

The buzz surrounding health apps is quickly becoming a deafening roar and that first comer window of opportunity is closing fast. While there is no doubt that health apps are the way of the future, as an avalanche of them become available, here are ten tips to help make your mHealth strategy and mobile app a success.

1. Originality – Present your app as offering something original that actually makes a useful contribution. Or if your app is in a category that already exists present your app in a unique new and attention getting way.

2. Strategy – Nothing is likely to be much of a success without the right amount of planning. Plan your strategy in a systematic way. Look at the app from the customer’s point of view. If you were they, would you buy it? Check that you are within compliance requirements and whether or not your app needs to be registered as a class 1 device.

3. Website – First A great website is half the battle of marketing your app. Make sure that yours is professional looking and up and running, without glitches, before you launch. Tell people how your mHealth app will benefit them and make your website a great marketing tool. Also don’t forget to optimise it for relevant key phrases so that people can find it on search engines like Google.

4. Social Media – Your mHealth app will stand the best chance if it is fully supported by social media. Twitter is an excellent platform that will supply you with endless attention free of charge. However with a 140-character limit make sure you choose your words wisely! Other social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook are also key networks that will give you a channel to get people talking about your app. Also don’t forget the much smaller, niche social networks that also exist within your sector, sometimes you will find that these can be more effective in terms of engaging and interacting with your target audience.

5. Sales Pitch – Make sure that you have honed your sales pitch to the best that it can be before you do anything else. Your sales pitch needs to convince people to take the next step. Creating app promo videos are often a great way to show people the key features and benefits of your app.

6. Blogs – are very popular and setting up a good one can be a great step towards your having a successful mHealth app. They are very much joined at the hip with social media and if you can get Tech sites or other relevant sites to feature you, then that will also be an invaluable l marketing tool. Also reach out to other influential bloggers and ask if they’d be interested in writing a post about it.

7. The Friendly Approach – Make your tweets, posts and blogs casual, and not too formal, but still professional. People respond better to a more friendly approach.

8. Tease! – Start the hype early and keep the customer guessing as you build up to the launch. Make the eventual reveal an event that people want to know about.

9. Media Hype – Creating a buzz or media hype around your mHealth app will certainly help it launch. Offer free downloadable press releases of your app with high-resolution images for potential users. Ask reputable, category specific blogs to feature any promos.

10. The Big Launch – All the hype and the work you have done towards launching your mHealth app will be wasted if your launch ends up as something of a damp squib. Ensuring that you have maximum app store visibility is key so you amy also want to consider an app store optimisation (ASO) campaign. Make sure that you send out newsletters and press invitations – do everything you can to make the launch go with a bang.

If you are considering developing a health or medical app then check out our app business planner and our free guides.