Many patients want more streamlined texting experience with their providers, survey finds

Nearly half of patients have missed or forgotten to pay a bill because of difficulties communicating with their providers’ offices, a recent survey found.

The survey was conducted in December by Artera—which makes and sells software for patient communications—and reached more than 2,000 patients. The poll aimed to assess provider communication methods and their effectiveness. 

The survey found 43% of those surveyed reported that communication challenges with providers negatively impacted their health. Nearly 60% of patients said they’d be willing to switch doctors if they faced a broken communications experience.

More than three-quarters of respondents said they want providers to improve their healthcare experience by enabling them to initiate a text-based conversation on any topic. About three-quarters of patients said most of their provider text message experiences are simplistic exchanges that only allow for one-word responses. Nearly 70% reported being frustrated by an inability to engage in conversational text exchanges. 

Two-thirds reported instances in which their text messaging experience was incomplete. And nearly a third reported that, when texting with their providers, they didn’t get what they wanted at least half the time. Of that group, 81% had to call to complete the conversation.

About 62% of those surveyed reported issues like error messages, invalid responses or never hearing back half the time or more when texting with providers. Nearly a quarter reported these issues happened all the time. Nearly 70% also reported receiving repetitive messages from their doctors through various communication channels, and many got messages of order.

From its research, Artera knows many providers use a number of different vendors to deliver communications to their patients with limited awareness of competing workflows, executives told Fierce Healthcare. That could be a reason for errors like jumbled messages.

“Generally organizations lack a governance structure to rationalize texting communication,” Meg Aranow, Artera SVP and platform evangelist, told Fierce Healthcare in an emailed response. “It can be challenging to fix something you can’t see. So a good place for the first focus of a newly established governance committee would be to document who is delivering communication to your patients and when.”  

Taking such a data-driven approach can help assess the impact of existing digital patient engagement strategies, Aranow added. Some questions to look out for include: is the language or content of certain outreach efforts driving more engagement than others? Does one time of day get higher responses than another? Does wording work better with one age group or another? “The data will tell you where to go next,” Aranow said.

Additionally, employing real conversational messaging is important, per Aranow. The survey’s findings highlight that patients want interactions that are not limited and robotic, but rather simulate a friendly, familiar type of messaging experience. 

Finally, Aranow recommends organizations remain “people-forward” in their communications strategy and remember to prioritize value over volume.

“There are so many tools and technology integrations across a provider's tech stack. It can be daunting and easy to lose the human touch,” Aranow said. “But don’t be afraid to have a human voice in your digital patient communications—digital and compassionate are not mutually exclusive.”