When it comes to dental health, there is a lot that dental service organizations (DSO) have to do to properly engage their patients; whether to remind them of a six-month check-up or to simply help patients keep on top of their dental care. Everyone who has visited the dentist is familiar with the postcards, phone calls and emails reminding them to schedule (and attend!) their appointments.
But the days of postcards, phone calls, emails and even leaflets on proper care and hygiene are on their way out. Postcards and leaflets often meet the trash, phone calls are missed and emails end up in the ‘promotions’ section of the inbox. Today, at least 10% of all dentist appointments are no shows, significantly impacting revenue. So, what’s a DSO to do?
Dental Service Organizations and Text Messaging
The answer literally lies at the tip of our fingers—over 240 million people in North America use smartphones and many of them prefer text messaging over email or phone calls to communicate with businesses. A recent survey found that respondents read 82% of their text messages in less than five minutes and 47% said they’d react negatively to a business that didn’t offer text as a communication option. When it comes to engaging DSO patients, text messaging is clearly the way to go.
Appointment reminders via text messaging can reduce the number of no-shows and increase a dental service organization’s revenue – even as much as 20%. Text messaging has been shown to optimize appointment schedules, allowing offices with waitlists to text patients with sudden openings and reduces the amount of time the office staff spends on the phone making (often fruitless) phone calls. It also allows a dental service organizationto send patients regular reminders and information about preventative care, improving the dentist-patient relationship and increasing the likelihood that patients will schedule regular cleanings.
The Question of Time
But while native SMS texting sounds like a great solution for appointment no-shows, providing patients with information on preventative care and building relationships with patients can require PHI in order to be comprehensive. In addition, many dental service organizations may find that sending these texts manually is simply impossible. What is critical for dentist – patient communication in these cases is to find a way to secure and automate communications so that staff can continue to perform their jobs without being worried about privacy violations or becoming overwhelmed.
Adding HIPAA to the Equation
Communication with patients always brings up the question of HIPAA, which prohibits sharing patient PHI over non-secure, standard SMS text. This means that any information sent over SMS seriously limits the information that a DSO can include in any communications with the patient. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other tools out there thatdental service organizations can use to communicate with patients in a way that meets this need. Dentists are in fact turning to secure messaging platforms, such as Vaporstream, to protect patient information.
When considering a secure messaging platform, DSOs should look for the following features to ensure compliance, usability and patient engagement:
- Encryption in-transit and at rest
- The ability to schedule messages in advance
- Control over messages through message shredding and screenshot protection
- Archival abilities for full compliance
To learn how Vaporstream’s Secure Messaging Platform can help DSOs reduce patient no-shows and improve patient engagement through secure and automated messaging, view our video below, or contact us for more information.
Contributor: Kristi Perdue Hinkle