A healthcare professional uses SMS solutions for business to communicate with patients

How SMS Solutions for Business Democratize Health Services

Published June 13, 2018 by Glen Kunene

When it comes to technological innovations, no sector seems to lag for long. Even healthcare services have caught on to the type of SMS solutions for business that ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft use. And while most people assume they need a smartphone to take advantage of such solutions, the companies behind these apps realize that not everyone has access to advanced phone applications.

The healthcare industry has worked to democratize access to its services for those without iPhones, Android devices, or similar high-end wireless products through the nearly universal SMS text services available on even the most basic phones. Here are just a few ways they have made advances.

SMS Solutions for Business Ease Pickups for Healthcare Visits

Patients who are members of economically underdeveloped populations often do not have access to smartphones and mobile apps. For them, this technology gap means more than just doing without convenience. For those who need ongoing medical care, it can be the difference between seeing the doctor or going untreated—and all the consequences.

However, in a new pilot project, leading nonprofit healthcare systems like MedStar Health and Yale New Haven Health have begun using Uber Health, where a healthcare coordinator can book rides for future patient appointments. Leveraging a unified service or a system that integrates the Uber API, the patient is contacted by text or voice with their trip details when the ride is booked and again when a driver is en route to pick them up.

According to MedCityNews, the aim of this service is to help 3.6 million Americans with transportation problems who miss or delay care. So even without an app, SMS solutions for business can help all populations access healthcare services that some take for granted.

Healthcare organizations and patients also have a choice for app-free doctor’s appointments. For example, Lyft has been moving into the non-emergency patient transportation market since late 2017. Now, according to Engadget, it has started a partnership with Hitch Health to identify low-income, uninsured, and vulnerable patients who cannot drive, take a bus, or otherwise get a ride to the doctor’s office. Based on that research, Hitch will send a text message to the patient offering them Lyft rides to appointments. While providing a needed service to these underserved communities, SMS solutions for business help build share of mind with these patients and their professional-class healthcare providers.

The Developing World Leverages SMS Solutions for Healthcare

While developed nations have continued to adapt SMS messaging, chat applications, and social media for smartphone communication, other countries have not done as much. And when it comes to healthcare services, adaptation is also less intensive. However, the mobility revolution has reached critical mass even in the developing world.

For example, according to Healthcare Analytics News, researchers estimate that approximately 90 percent of families in rural India have access to a mobile phone. This lets them receive text alerts that encourage them to bring their children to the local health clinic for vaccinations—a tactic familiar to many in the US who have ever had a dentist’s or doctor’s appointment. This adaptation of SMS solutions has been encouraging, with results showing that the baseline for childhood immunization in that part of rural India has risen from 33 percent to over 50 percent during the course of a study there.

Other parts of the developing world have also been able to utilize traditional SMS solutions for business in nontraditional ways. One of these is improving women’s health in Malawi, which has one of the world’s highest infant mortality rates. The nonprofit VillageReach has focused on providing healthcare to low-income patients there.

Using automated text messages, VillageReach will send health tips to expectant mothers, tailored to the week of pregnancy each one is in. Even if she is a long way from medical help, she can stay updated about her pregnancy and be reassured about common symptoms that do not require medical attention—as well as possible danger signs that do need healthcare services. Thanks to a cloud SMS API, the text messaging function is integrated into a call center that’s staffed around the clock, so mothers-to-be with in-depth questions can talk in real time with trained health professionals who can provide medical advice.

Other SMS Use Cases for Underdeveloped Healthcare Scenarios

In the US, there are further innovative use cases for traditional SMS solutions where underdeveloped populations likely do not have access to high-end mobile phones. Consider that the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System has just launched its VA text message system for veterans. According to the Muskogee Phoenix, each year more than 9 million VA healthcare appointments were missed nationwide.

As a result, the Veterans Health Administration felt an enterprise-wide solution for reminding veterans of appointments by text message would help. Any veteran with a cell phone number on file now receives an appointment reminder text one week and again one day before their next appointment, in addition to an automated voice call reminder.

According to the Upper Michigan Source, a similar system in Michigan went into use at the same time, and the healthcare coordinator there says that veterans are already using the system to make and change appointments. The timely and easy rescheduling of appointments means that other veterans can now be scheduled into open slots, allowing more patients to receive treatment.

SMS integration works inside hospitals as well. According to Computerworld, calls to nurses from bedridden patients at hospitals were going unanswered. To increase nurse responsiveness to patient calls, mobile devices carried by clinicians can be integrated with the hospital paging system using a cloud-based SMS API, so now the nurses can receive their pages the moment the patient hits the call button.

Overall, proprietary healthcare messaging applications are being replaced by SMS solutions to reduce costs, improve patient outcomes, and increase staff and patient satisfaction. Whatever the future holds, the value of SMS in delivering healthcare services is having a noticeable impact now, and it stands to revolutionize not only healthcare services but also overall communications for underdeveloped populations.

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