Why Interactivity Matters when sending text messages to patients

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The healthcare industry has been marketing directly to patients for decades, however, traditionally patients have always been “talked to”, meaning the communication is being pushed on to them, and they don’t necessarily have any control over what information they are getting and when. Interactive text messaging gives the patient the ability to take control of that experience by deciding how and when they want to receive information and/or support services.

  1. First, the patient can initiate sign up to a text messaging program, and therefore has control over whether or not they receive the communication.
  2. Second, the patient can get information "on-demand", meaning only when they desire it by texting a keyword to the texting program number.
  3. And thirdly, in a well-designed program, the patient can be given the option of what communication components to turn on and off.

In a program with coronary heart disease patients, we saw that patients who signed up for program components that had an "interactivity" component (e.g. consumer is asked to text back), reported higher scores on two questions:

  • "Liked Health SMS" 73% (interactive) vs. 63% (one-directional)
  • "Felt Someone Cared" 70% (interactive) vs. 57% (one-directional)

So, when designing a texting program give patients the option to control what components they want and make it more interactive. Patients will find your program more useful and personalized than those they may have experienced elsewhere.

How many messages are too many?

We often get asked by our clients "How many messages are too many?" and "Aren't patients going to get tired if we message them too much?"

The answer is - it's all about meaningful utility. Utility means different things to different patients. If a patient is on a complex multi-therapy regimen, then simply receiving medication reminders provides utility. In a patient program for Hepatitis C, we had patients receiving up to 3 medication reminders per day plus educational content throughout the week, and we have 92% of them stay in the program over the full 12 to 24-week period, with over 90% top 2 box patient satisfaction scores.

If a patient is on a drug that has significant side effects, and the program provides educational information about those side effects in a timely manner so that the patient's expectations are managed appropriately, then that's "utility" for that patient.

The messages have to be contextually relevant and timed appropriately, and to achieve that the program designer has to (a) understand the patient journey, and (b) have the appropriate technology features available to support that.

One of the greatest compliments we have received at OptimizeRx is for a breast cancer support program where physicians reported back to the program sponsor that their patients were saying how well-timed many of the messages were based on what they were experiencing in therapy.

So, if you are looking to design a patient engagement program that delivers better patient outcomes and high satisfaction scores make sure your messaging is interactive, customizable, timely and relevant to the patient’s journey. If you do this, you are sure to keep patients more adherent and persistent far longer than they otherwise would be.