Creating and implementing a consent process that aligns with legal requirements with patient satisfaction in mind requires some strategic planning. The first thing to consider is what kind of messages you can send without obtaining your patients’ consent.
Healthcare Treatment Purpose Exemption: These are the types of text, emails, and phone call messages that are possible for a medical practice to send without prior express consent, written or otherwise.
- Appointments and exams
- Confirmations and reminders
- Wellness checkups
- Hospital pre-registration instructions
- Pre-operative instructions
- Lab results
- Post-discharge follow-up intended to prevent readmission
- Prescription notifications
- Home health care instructions
Please see this reference which does a great job of describing healthcare and the FCC – https://www.bassberry.com/news/tcpa-exemptions-for-healthcare-companies/
When it comes to messaging that requires consent it is crucial to be mindful of keeping messages within regulations however there are still ways to curate your messaging with patient satisfaction in mind.
Both the FCC and HHS require you to provide a method for patients to opt out of automated messages – this includes text, email, and recorded voice calls. Planning on how you will allow this to happen and train staff to make this happen is an important component of any process. We have seen organizations use a variety of languages, lettering, scripts, and so on as part of the process. In general, the stronger and scarier the language the fewer people choose to opt in to it. We understand there must be a balance between legal protection, patient care, and operational efficiencies and ultimately the agencies must decide.
Amount of Contact Methods
In general, it’s obvious that the more contact methods (home phone, cell phone, work phone, email) and ways you can contact (text, email, phone calls, letters, and so on…) the better success you have in reaching people for specific goals such as no show reduction. Yet, there is risk and or patient unhappiness in contacting people at work, calling spouses phones and so on, therefore an agency must balance getting and using as many contact methods as possible with regulatory issues and patient satisfaction.
Number of Attempts
The more attempts and reminders you provide to a patient the more likely they are to remember their appointment or complete whatever task you are asking of them. At the same time, too many attempts can upset patients and potentially cause issues with new regulatory interpretations. Recent regulatory recommendations suggest no more than 3 messages per week to cell phones and 1 per day to cell phones.
Confirmation Messages versus Reminder Messages
Confirmation is a message where we are asking a patient to confirm or cancel their appointment by asking for a specific action by the patient.
A reminder message is a simple reminder where it helps a patient to keep from forgetting their appointment.
Vital Interaction normally recommends a combination of reminders and confirmation messages in order to most effectively engage with patients.
We recommend keeping messages as short as possible but including as much information that is relevant to a patient making or keeping an appointment. For example, an address can be super helpful in ensuring a patient shows up to the correct location. Messages are short (160 characterss, less than 1 minute).
Okay to ID
Recently we have seen behavioral health organizations utilize a field to allow them to still send messages to all or most patients, but not include many details about the appointment other than the time and date. This may be a solution to allow a behavioral health organization to get reminders out to most patients without revealing any information which might be considered private in certain scenarios.
Guardians, Guarantors, Care Givers
It is very important to be clear on who needs to get reminders in cases of minors or patients who need help. Documenting how and where that information is entered and kept is critically important to ensure the right people are reminded.
With all of this to consider, think about your current messaging process and content. How is your patient engagement currently and how could it improve through further developing your outreach strategies? For a deeper dive into curating and implementing a developed and automated messaging strategy, reach out to us today at firstname.lastname@example.org!