Justin Goforth, Whitman-Walker Clinic
There's no doubt that the Obama administration is looking to embrace technology to better the healthcare system, mobile technologies included. The AIDS.gov site has continued their ongoing four part series on using text messaging for appointment and medication reminders: This week's post focuses on cost. (Previous posts focused on the why and how of text message reminders).
"In tight economic times," the post reads, the costs of text message reminders "is a significant concern for many organizations. Can the cost of text messaging reminders ultimately save your organization time and money?" While the site never gives a firm answer to the question, it's all but encouraging hospitals and other caregivers to conduct pilots.
Whitman-Walker Clinic's Director of Medical Adherence, Justin Goforth noted that if you are encouraging patients to use free web portal-based text appointment reminders, the only cost is the time it takes to teach your staff to set the system up, but more secure and privacy-sensitive solutions that may integrate with patients' medical records can cost varying amounts. Some companies provide the service to non-profits for free or at reduced costs. Patient Prompts calculate cost per reminder at about 20 cents if the program is going to be ROI positive, depending on the number of users. Dr. Txt has a system that costs $199-a-month. That said, some patients may be charged extra for the text message they receive or send, depending on their current text messaging plan and mobile carrier, but unlimited text plans can start at $5-a-month from some mobile service providers. For this reason, it's good to include a caveat that regular text message prices will apply to the reminders, just to be sure the users know.
At the TEPR show earlier this month we heard other best practices for text message reminders--including sending "Happy Birthday" texts to patients to increase loyalty to the practice or instituting an automatic "How are you feeling?" text to patients after their visit.