Healthcare providers are looking to introduce more convenient and secure communication channels to their clinics. Texting has become one of the most in-demand telemedicine features among patients and physicians alike. SMS messaging has been called the health tool of the century because of its simplicity of use and the benefits it offers to healthcare providers and patients.
Despite this growing need for texting solutions, few clinics have enabled patients to reach their doctors via SMS. The main obstacle for implementing SMS is a lack of texting platforms that meet the security standards prescribed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
There are strict rules for communicating with patients that healthcare providers must follow. Any protected information shared between patients and their healthcare providers must remain confidential.
Texting isn’t HIPAA compliant by default, as other people might have access to a patient’s phone and messages. This is the main reason why only a handful of telemedicine solutions can offer texting features.
Curogram adds additional layers of security to ensure full compliance to HIPAA rules and regulations. When sending messages through our texting platform, patient data is encrypted in transit and remains secure once it reaches the patient’s phone. Rather than sending PHI in an SMS, patients receive a secure link, ensuring only the intended recipient can access the sensitive health information.
Why Is Secure Healthcare Texting Important for Medical Practices?
Texting has the potential to revolutionize communication between patients and healthcare providers.
Patients prefer to text their physicians rather than call them multiple times to schedule appointments or ask questions. Sending a text is much more convenient than waiting 30 minutes on hold while a staff member talks to another patient.
While there are plenty of upsides to texting for patients, it’s healthcare providers that get the most out of implementing texting solutions.
Using texts, healthcare providers can streamline day-to-day tasks, such as:
- Scheduling appointments
- Sending visit summaries
- Answering patient inquiries
- Sending appointment reminders
An integrated texting solution can help reduce the workload in a clinic, freeing up more time to admit and provide care to patients. By increasing the number of patients you can admit, you’ll also increase your clinic’s revenue.
The Challenge of Implementing Texting in Healthcare
Healthcare providers must be careful when introducing new communication solutions for patients. They have a responsibility to keep patient protected health information (PHI) safe and secure. PHI refers to any document that could be tied to the patient, including:
- Lab test results
- Insurance documents
- Healthcare bills
Sending patient PHI using a communication method that doesn’t comply with HIPAA privacy rules might lead to fines or criminal charges for healthcare providers.
There are numerous legal and financial ramifications for violating HIPAA regulations.
Fines can range from as little as a hundred dollars to over $50,000, with a maximum of $1.5 million per year. Multiple infractions could lead to even higher fines. Multiple instances of willful neglect can result in criminal charges for healthcare personnel.
The severity of the punishment depends on the number of patients involved and the amount of neglect a healthcare provider shows when handling PHI. Knowingly using an unsecured communication method to transfer patient information could constitute neglect, which is one of the many reasons healthcare providers hesitate to introduce texting solutions.
The good news is that telemedicine platforms can enable texting that keeps patient PHI secure. Integrate Curogram, and you won’t have to worry about violating HIPAA rules and regulations.
What Are the Benefits of Using Secure Texting for Healthcare?
What makes texting so appealing to healthcare providers? There are numerous statistics that show the benefits of using texting over other communication methods, such as email or phone calls.
Did you know that people read over 90% of the texts they receive within three minutes? When you compare this to phone calls—which people only answer half the time—it’s easy to see why texting is seen as a more reliable option. Phone calls take time and require synchronous communication. When texting, patients and physicians can reply to messages when it’s most convenient for them.
Integrating a texting platform can provide the following benefits to healthcare providers:
- Improved scheduling
- Less work for staff
- Improved preventative care
- Reduced number of patient no-shows
Schedule Appointments With Ease
Scheduling appointments can be a major hassle, especially for healthcare providers who admit hundreds of patients daily. When a patient tries to set up a visit, physicians have to check their schedule, suggest time slots, wait for the patient to choose a time that suits them, and only then set a date.
Texting solutions can simplify the process drastically. Physicians don’t have to check their schedules or inform patients of available time slots. All they have to do is send a text. The patient can check their schedule and reply with a set date when it suits them.
Curogram can streamline the process further by allowing patients to choose time slots and updating the physician’s schedule automatically. Doctors would no longer have to spend hours on the phone with patients to set up appointments.
Cut Back on Administrative Work
A secure messaging system can cut down on the amount of administrative work in a clinic environment.
Front desk staff normally has to spend a significant chunk of their day on:
- Answering phone call queries
- Reminding patients of their scheduled appointments
An integrated texting platform can simplify these tasks and automate much of the work. Instead of calling patients to remind them of their appointments, you can send text reminders at set intervals.
With Curogram, you can even set up automated responses to common patient queries so that staff doesn’t have to answer them manually.
Cutting back on time-consuming administrative work allows clinic staff to admit more patients, resulting in higher revenue for the clinic.
Provide Better Preventative Care
An automated messaging system can help patients keep their health in check. You can configure texts to send reminders so that patients know when their routine exams are due.
Some procedures might require additional patient preparation. With the help of text reminders, you can tell patients to fast or avoid particular foods before a procedure. Better patient preparation leads to better procedure outcomes and, subsequently, more effective care.
Avoid Patient No-Shows
Patients forgetting about their scheduled visits is not a rare occurrence. In the U.S., studies have shown that patients miss anywhere between 5% and 50% of scheduled appointments, depending on location. Patient no-shows cost practices time and money, which is why minimizing them should be a top priority.
Text reminders have proven to be more effective than phone calls or emails. Patients are more likely to read them on time, and you can send multiple reminders to make sure that the patient doesn’t forget.
Curogram’s text appointment reminders reduce the number of patient no-shows by as much as 75%!
Common Issues With Non-Secure Healthcare Texting
Many healthcare providers use non-secure texting features to communicate with their patients. Texting patients with apps that don’t integrate with your EHR comes with more downsides than benefits in the long run. Here are a few of the most common issues that can arise from using texting without a secure platform:
- Workload increases
- Audit difficulties
- Human error
Texting Without Integration With Telemedicine Solutions Increases the Workload
The data you receive via text has to end up in your clinic’s EHR or practice management system. Without an integrated texting platform, there’s no way to upload the data automatically. It’s up to the clinic staff to transcribe texts manually and enter information into your EHR.
Instead of reducing the overall workload in your clinic, the texting solution would only produce additional administrative work.
HIPAA Audits Can Get Complicated
One of the many HIPAA rules states that you must keep backups of patient data to be able to recover it if necessary. When it comes to texts, keeping track of every message can be challenging, especially if you don’t use a texting platform that integrates with your EHR.
To comply with the rule, you must create a database of every text between patients and their physicians that includes crucial medical info. It’s extra work that could be avoided by integrating a solution such as Curogram.
Mistakes Are Common
There’s enormous potential for human error when using regular texting to communicate with patients. Without a dedicated telemedicine platform, clinic staff must handle texting on their own and spend time on the phone non-stop.
Sooner or later, they might send a message to the wrong number by accident. Mistakes like this can have disastrous effects. A patient could receive the wrong medication prescription or visit summary, which could affect their care.
Curogram Enables Secure and HIPAA-Compliant Two-Way Texting
Curogram is the ideal all-in-one communication platform that lets you text patients securely and use texting to complete a variety of tasks. We rely on the latest encryption methods and utilize an additional layer of security to keep our texts HIPAA compliant.
For starters, we make sure that the message is sent to the correct number that the patient gave their healthcare provider. Instead of sending sensitive health information through text directly, we send patients links to documents that only they can access. This way, information such as visit summaries and prescriptions remains secure.
When preparing for a virtual appointment, the patient will receive SMS link that contains the necessary information, such as the time of the appointment and instructions to prepare for it.
Healthcare providers can set up automated text reminders before an appointment. These reminders are sent at set intervals, and you can set up as many as you deem necessary.
All of the information you receive via text is uploaded to your clinic’s EHR and backed up automatically, eliminating the need for double data entry. Clinic staff can rest easy knowing that Curogram automates most of the work.
With Curogram, you can start using two-way HIPAA-compliant texting features immediately and avoid unnecessary setup or administrative work.
What Else Can Curogram Do?
Secure two-way texting is one of the many features Curogram offers to healthcare providers. Our telemedicine solution can integrate with your EHR and improve clinic efficiency dramatically.
Here are a few of our most notable features:
- Virtual waiting rooms
- Smart reminders for different appointment types
- Convenient staff messaging
- Electronic patient intake forms
Set Up a Virtual Waiting Room
Curogram helps you streamline admitting patients to a virtual waiting room. It can be challenging to assign a large number of patients to the correct staff member before virtual appointments, but a virtual waiting room can help simplify the process.
You can configure the waiting room view so that only the designated staff members can view patients at any given time. If the patient is supposed to provide their info, they are only visible to front desk staff who can check them in. Once the patient has provided the necessary info, their physician can view them in the waiting room and invite them to start a virtual visit.
The feature prevents clinic staff from starting virtual appointments with the wrong patient at the wrong time and helps emulate the experience of working with patients in a clinic environment.
Send Smart Reminders
It’s crucial that patients get adequate reminders before the start of an appointment. Curogram differentiates between virtual and in-person appointments and makes it easier to set up appropriate reminders.
You can set how frequently you want to send reminders to patients and include instructions for appointment preparation if necessary. Our automated text appointment reminders reduce the workload for staff and increase patient attendance.
Enable Secure Communication Between Staff Members
It’s crucial for staff members to be able to communicate with one another with ease. Providing patients with proper healthcare is a joint effort, meaning that staff must stay in sync when admitting and treating patients.
Your internal team normally has to run from one wing to another or try calling front desk staff to communicate with their colleagues. There’s no reason to hold up the phone or force staff to search for their colleagues when texting is an option.
Curogram features a simple dashboard for internal communication where staff can discuss various topics in real-time, collaborate on projects, and help each other solve problems in the clinic. Using the group chat feature, staff can ask questions and get answers from their colleagues in a matter of minutes. This lightning-fast communication channel can help clinic staff provide proper care to patients.
Collect Patient Data With Ease
Getting patients’ health information is an essential first step in providing them with adequate care. Healthcare providers normally collect patient data through paper intake forms, but this process takes time and effort. These downsides are the reason why digital solutions are poised to replace paper forms in many clinics.
Curogram’s electronic patient intake forms make collecting patient data much easier to handle. You can send the intake forms to patients, which they can fill out from their phones or desktop computers. The data they submit is uploaded to your EHR automatically, and you don’t have to worry about manual data entry. Clinic staff can spend more time admitting patients and providing them with care instead of dealing with tons of paperwork.
Curogram Can Integrate With Any EHR or Practice Management System
Our software uses the latest integration technology to link up with any EHR, which covers most of the systems used by U.S. clinics. Curogram can integrate with app-based, cloud-based, server-based, and web browser-based EHRs and provide you with the latest telemedicine features.
If you want to know more about our EHR integrations, check out our blog:
Curogram EHR Integrations
Integrate Curogram To Implement Secure Two-Way Texting Features
If you want to have a simple and straightforward start with telemedicine, Curogram is your best bet. Our software can introduce secure and HIPAA-compliant two-way texting while also providing a host of other useful features. Integrate with Curogram to streamline day-to-day clinic tasks and increase your revenue.
Using telemedicine solutions is a hot-button topic in many U.S. states, which is why it helps to be informed of local laws and regulations.
Check out our blog to see how different states handle telemedicine:
Telemedicine by State in the U.S.
There’s no simpler way to introduce secure two-way texting than with Curogram. If you’re interested in the latest and most effective telemedicine solution, you can schedule a free demo with Curogram!