6 Steps for increasing engagement, retention, product sales and more following HIPAA text messaging policy
Chiropractic practices thrive on patient engagement, and perhaps the best way to engage patients today, or at least the best way to get their attention, is to text them. Approximately 99% of texts are read, and that’s great news for your practice. From experience, I’m certain that strategic texting campaigns lead to more successful chiropractic practices — I’ve seen it over and over again. But, when texting, it’s imperative to stay compliant with HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and HIPAA text messaging policy. Put simply, this means you need to be communicating securely, with consent and with authorized access. It’s easy to text compliantly –– all it takes is keeping a few key rules in mind.
Doctors are already texting
Chiropractors and other doctors are already texting patients to do things like:
- Bring in new patients by adding a text chat to their website, so prospective clients can get their questions answered ASAP and schedule a time.
- Send out promotions and special offers to drive more patients to come in.
- Confirm appointments and scheduling to remind patients of upcoming care.
- Advertise products, such as in-house supplements, creams, foam back rollers, etc.
- Get more online reviews by texting patients a direct link to their review page.
- Motivate and remind patients of their care so that they stay on top of their exercises and stretches.
Avoid texting patients from a personal device, such as your own smartphone or tablet, as they lack the security and encryption required by HIPAA text messaging policy. PHI, or Protected Health Information, can be intercepted and your chiropractic practice can’t risk that.
You need compliant software for encrypted messaging, which will enable you to keep your communications centralized with administrative oversight. And it’s easier and more secure for your communications to stay within one platform where all patient conversations can be monitored by authorized employees within a secure system.
The sender and receiver need to be clearly identified as well, so that you know who’s been communicating with your patients. A compliant software should be able to handle this for you.
Give authorized employees access to patient conversations
From patient exams to performing adjustments and more — not to mention running a business — you aren’t always going to have time to communicate with all of your patients. That’s why you need to make sure that you’re giving authorized access to your employees so that they can handle your patient communications for you.
There isn’t any need for other departments or locations (if applicable) to have access to sensitive information, especially if it doesn’t pertain to them. PHI is at risk when the wrong people have access to it. For instance, there shouldn’t be any reason for your accountant to be accessing messages between the front desk and a patient. Limit the exposure of PHI to only the people who are authorized to view it. This way, you can protect your practice all around.
Start by assigning different numbers and message dashboards to each authorized employee. What does this mean? Within a secure texting platform, you’ll have the option to create a separate dashboard for each authorized employee. The dashboard will have its own number, and multiple dashboards can be monitored at the same time.
Employees shouldn’t be sharing numbers, even if they are authorized to view patient conversations. Keep conversations separate, and you’ll be good to go.
HIPAA text messaging policy: obtain consent from patients
Patients need to opt-in to receive text messages from your practice. This holds true for all communications, but anything related to HIPAA receives extra scrutiny. Texting a patient who isn’t opted-in can be a violation of HIPAA text messaging policy.
How can you get patients to opt in to messages? When filling out new patient paperwork, you can ask patients on your form if they want to receive texts from your practice about their care. That way, you can have documented proof of their consent. This is also why we recommend that your practice encourage inbound communication. If they text you first, that means they’ve already opted in to receiving text messages from you.
Another option, as needed, is that you can text a patient for the first time, tell them what you’ll be texting them about, and also tell them how to opt out (e.g. reply STOP to opt out).
Share PHI with patient permission only
Sharing PHI ties back to getting consent from your patients. They want to be able to text you about their care, and you need to check with them before you choose whether or not to share their PHI and talk about it.
Texting about non-PHI issues has different (and less) scrutiny than texting about PHI. So, if you’re going to text about patient info and care, it’s best to get express permission. How do you ensure this happens? You need to check in with patients before you text about their care. You need to do this with every patient, but not each time you talk with them within the same conversation. You can opt for them to fill out a form, or to verbally confirm that they want their PHI to be shared.
Example: “Hey, [Patient]! We have your results. Would you rather us text them to you, or you come to the office?”
Keep contact information up to date
You’ve got to keep your contact records clean and patient data up to date. That applies just as much to texting. Texting the wrong person can result in serious HIPAA violations, and expose your patient’s PHI to the wrong people.
Confirm patient contact information every time they come into your office. And when you text them, make sure to ask them to confirm their identity by simply asking for their date of birth. This is a strong way to ensure you are contacting the right person every time.
Confirming info is also a great excuse to re-engage past patients if you haven’t seen them in six months or a year and want to touch base.
Keep patient records indefinitely
The problem with using a personal device or an unsecured platform to communicate with patients is that it allows for conversations to be deleted, altered or misrepresented. And if an employee leaves, they take all of that info with them on their personal cellphone.
It’s important to retain all patient conversations. A personal device can be traded, lost, broken, or the number might have changed. To protect yourself, always keep a record of your conversations with patients.
Conversations between your practice and your patients should only be related to their care and they should be kept indefinitely. As mentioned earlier, you need to choose texting software that doesn’t allow for patient messages to be deleted. This feature is required by HIPAA text messaging policy and is an absolute must for your practice.
Build a subscriber list of patients
Patients typically come once or for the duration of their treatment, so you need to find a way for them to keep coming back. There are many opportunities to engage with your patients, even without PHI.
You can start by building a list of patients who want to receive advice on how to live a healthier life. A good way to engage and educate your patients is to text them infographics or tips to maintaining a healthy back. Or you can even encourage your patients to follow you on social media if you’re active on there.
After a patient completes their appointment, you can text and offer them to opt in to your subscriber list with a keyword. For example:
“Hey [Patient]! Thanks for coming in. If you’d like to receive notifications about how you can build healthier habits, text HEALTH back to this number.”
When your patients can engage with you outside of their regular appointments, it will show them that your practice cares and wants to look out for their well-being even when they don’t have an appointment. Patients are your most valuable asset and engaging them is a key factor in getting them to return.
Text your way to better patient communication
Texting for your chiropractic practice is a great way to navigate your internal and external communications. Things can get busy around the office between performing adjustments and diagnosing pain, and you need a quick way to relay information between your staff and your patients.
With a HIPAA-compliant text messaging platform, you’ll be able to give the quick care your patients need while also taking a load off of your own back. Texting compliantly is really quite simple — all you need to do is follow a few good practices.
JESSICA AYRE is a content marketing specialist at Text Request, a HIPAA-compliant business texting solution. If your practice wants to start texting customers, Text Request can give you all the tools and resources you need to create a safe and successful text messaging strategy. Learn more at TextRequest.com.