Radiology departments tend to have some of the most advanced and effective technology in a hospital. Yet, when it comes to communication with patients, most radiology departments lack a crucial, yet inexpensive technology: two-way texting.
Before we discuss this technology, it's helpful to gain a better understanding about why patient communication is so important for radiology departments. Consider that according to research published in Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology, radiology loses more uncaptured revenue per patient visit than primary care or other practices due to patients failing to keep appointments. This research estimated that uncaptured radiology revenue due to no-shows likely reaches $1 million annually at a typical U.S. academic medical center.
To communicate with patients about appointments, radiology departments have historically relied upon staff phone calls or mailed letters, such as mammogram reminders. While these communication methods may have once served radiology departments well, they are likely no longer effective for achieving their objectives.
A Harris Poll survey found that 29 percent of consumers do not listen to their voicemails. A Consumer Reports national survey found that 70 percent of Americans will not answer their phones when they don't recognize the incoming number. This will likely include calls made by healthcare organizations and radiology departments. Voicemails can linger unheard for days or may be deleted without ever being listened to if the message is believed to be spam.
Letters sent via the Postal Service take at least a few days and there is no means of determining whether a letter reached its intended location and recipient. Furthermore, there is no way of knowing whether the recipient will read, let alone, act on the contents of the letter.
Finally, both of these more traditional communication methods are expensive. The cost of sending a stuffed envelope, factoring in staff time and materials, typically runs around $1.20 to $2.00. Phone calls — with most outreach efforts requiring multiple calls — occupy expensive staff time.
The (Radiology) Case for Two-Way Texting
Now let's assess why texting — specifically two-way texting — is a communication platform that radiology departments should strongly consider. Two-way texting, when used in healthcare, enables information to be pushed to and pulled from patients, caregivers and facility staff.
What makes texting such an effective method of communication? The American adult, irrespective of age, has made texting a fundamental part of the communication in their lives. Texting is how Americans choose to communicate with their family, their friends, their colleagues and select businesses.
Nearly all U.S. adults now own cell phones, with smartphone ownership exceeding 80 percent, notes the Pew Research Center. This extends to older individuals, with 91 percent of adults 65 and over owning cell phones and a majority owning smartphones. Many adults now prefer to receive and send a text instead of receiving/making a phone call, according to a Chicago Tribune article. This preference is apparent when considering that 95 percent of text messages are read within just three minutes of being sent, according to a Forbes article, and 98 percent of all text messages are read, Mobile Marketing Watch reports.