If you use a patient CRM you can set-up automated communication with your patients via Email, SMS, Push or automated Call.

But which should you choose in which situations? Each channel is appropriate in different circumstances, so a blended approach often works best.

SMS : Fast and Reliable

Mobile coverage today is excellent (there are more mobiles on the planet than people!), so you can be sure a very large proportion of your patients will have one.

And crucially, text messages have a very high and fast response rate

9 out of 10 text messages are opened within three minutes of being sent.

This makes SMS the ideal communication channel where immediacy is important:

  • Appointment reminders
  • Last minute availability alerts
  • Service running late alerts
  • Short-term promotional offers
  • Two factor authentication
  • Check-in codes

But SMS leave little trace: they are frequently deleted and not easy to search for.  So they’re not so good as a channel of reference.

As a rule of thumb, if you think your patient will need to refer to your message later, it’s best to email it too.

Tips when texting

  • Programme your messages to arrive during daytime hours
  • Texting is a personal space, so target carefully: segment campaign messages to ensure they reach an appropriate audience

Email: The Reference Channel

Emails are typically retained by patients. They can easily be searched for later. So e-mail is a good channel for reference documents:

  • Appointment confirmations
  • Directions and appointment pre-requirements
  • Billing notices

They also work well in situations when you know that the recipient is online already: for example authentication of an e-mail address when a patient is signing up to your website portal.

Email is less good for immediacy.

The average time between receipt and opening of an email is 6 and a half hours!

99% of e-mails reach their destination, but some users have filters on their mail box which wrongly send your messages to the spam box.

So if reception is critically important – for example informing a patient of an appointment cancellation – SMS is preferable.

Tips when e-mailing

  • Include your clinic name near the beginning of the email subject line, so patients can quickly identify your message as a welcome one

Push: Fostering Loyalty

Push Notifications provide a mix between the immediacy of SMS and the permanency of Email.

For example, you can use Push Notifications to inform patients when test results are available in your Smartphone App.

It is also an ideal method for alerting patients about last minute availabilities.

But to receive notifications, patients need to have downloaded your App, so typically this channel will be less widely available than texting.

So Push Notifications are typically used as a complementary channel for long term patients, or when you offer a membership scheme or loyalty program.

Tips when sending Push Notifications

  • Use a segmented opt-in list to target your messages
  • Use with moderation: patients may de-activate notifications on your app if they get too many messages, completely closing down the channel for that person

Telephone : Reach out to everyone

Text-to-speech technology lets you type a text message which will be transformed into a synthesised voice message. You can then programme your CRM to telephone patients after a given trigger and “read” the message to them.

The call can be interactive: for example, inviting patients to type 1 on their telephone touchpad to confirm an appointment, or 0 to cancel.

The quality of text-to-speech is much higher than one might fear! The computerised voices are very realistic.

However in practice, this channel has been largely superseded as mobile phones have replaced landlines.

Automated voice messaging remains a valuable option when it is important to reach 100% of your patients (including those without mobile or internet). For this reason, it is still frequently used in the public sector.

Tips when sending automated telephone messages

  • Programme your messages to arrive during daytime hours
  • Use telephone messages as a fallback channel that’s only triggered if the patient doesn’t have a mobile