There are many ways to let your patients know about an upcoming flu clinic. You can send letters, call patients, put up posters in your clinic, even mention it to patients at check out. And while these are all effective ways to notify patients, there is another way that has proved more effective than almost all methods combined. That being SMS.
The benefits of SMS broadcasts for flu clinics
There is no doubt about the effectiveness of SMS alerts. In a review of 1,609 clinical studies, it was found that 99% of received mobile text messages are opened and 90% of all mobile text messages are read within three minutes of being received.
For most, these alerts play a significant role in encouraging patients to be more proactive about their health.
In a study involving 1,187 pregnant women, 30% were more likely to be vaccinated after receiving an SMS encouraging them to come in for an influenza vaccination
As RACGP explains on their text messaging for general practice help page. “Using text messaging in your general practice can provide benefits to patients and improve your business outcomes”. Some of these benefits include: wide reach, low costs, quick and simple for clinics, highly visible to patients.
Despite all this, how do patients actually perceive these messages? It seems very well, studies suggest.
In a study, which involved telephone interviews with 175 women, 95.3% of respondents said they were satisfied to very satisfied with receiving the text messages, and 95.9% were somewhat to very likely to recommend them to other pregnant women
The risks of SMS broadcasts for flu clinics
Yet, despite all these benefits there are risks to be aware of before using SMS as a way to communicate with your patients. RACGP lists some of these on their help page, suggesting clinics:
- Routinely confirm the patient’s mobile number(s) in their health record
- Record clearly in the patient record consent or refusal to receive text messages
- For routine text messaging utilise a practice dedicated mobile phone or web subscription
- Recognise that text messaging by its nature may be perceived by some patients to be more informal than a phone call or letter from the practice
- Recognise that using a personal mobile number to send messages may interfere with or compromise your personal life and privacy
- Text messaging certain or select patients may result in disparities in health care delivery
In addition to these we have a few more tips to help you maximise the number of patients booking in for your flu clinic, while ensuring you are satisfying your legal obligations and keeping patients happy.
10 SMS broadcast tips to keep patients happy, while maximising your flu clinic bookings
1. Target patients by last appointment
Use a messaging system that allows you to select those patients you want to send an SMS to. We suggest you only choose patients who have visited your clinic in the last quarter. That way the message doesn’t appear out of the blue.
Other filters you may want to consider are age. For instance, you may not want to target patients over a certain age because they are less fond of SMS.
You can also set your own filters by putting together your own list of patients in an excel spreadsheet and uploading this as a CSV file. This way you have complete control over who receives the SMS and who doesn’t.
2. Add an opt out
To ensure patients have the ability to unsubscribe from your broadcast you will need to make sure you include an opt out disclaimer to all of your broadcasts. We suggest you use the phrase: ‘Reply STOP to opt out’.
3. Include your clinic name and phone number
The likelihood is that most patients haven’t saved your clinic phone number to their mobile. This means they will receive the text from an unfamiliar phone number, rather than the name of your clinic. This is why it is important that you include the name of your clinic in the message. We also suggest you add your phone number so patients can easily call you if they want to find out more.
4. Include a link to your booking button
Another recommendation is to add a link to your booking button within the message. This means patients can book in with your clinic in one flow, which saves your staff time taking calls and booking patients in manually, and also saves patients the hassle of having to call up.
To reduce the number of characters in your booking link, head to bitly.com and paste the booking url in the box. The website will then provide you with a shortened link that will take patients to your booking software.
5. Don’t use CAPS LOCK or exclamation marks
When constructing your message steer away from using uppercase lettering and exclamation marks. This makes it appear as though you are shouting at patients and is often interpreted as intrusive and salesy.
6. Send SMS in standard business hours (not 8pm on a Sunday)
Choosing the right time to send your message is also important as you want to make sure you don’t cause alarm with patients. This said, we suggest you send your messages during standard business hours.
People also tend to be a bit more responsive toward the beginning of the week. Later in the week they are often more focused on winding things down, whereas at the beginning of the week they are open to scheduling things in.
7. Send small batches
A good tip is to send your broadcast out in small batches. That way, if you make a mistake in the copy, include the wrong link or have a poor response, you can identify the problem with a small group rather than sending the mistake to everyone.
8. Send a test to your mobile prior to publishing
Following on from the above, we also suggest you send a test SMS to yourself and someone else prior to sending the broadcast to patients. This will further help prevent mistakes from being published.
9. Keep message under 160 characters
To make sure your SMS is delivered as one message and not two or three, be sure to keep your copy to less than 160 characters. Not only will this save your clinic money, because you have to send half the number of texts, but it also comes across less spammy than two messages.
HotDoc has a character counter inbuilt into our dashboard to ensure your message fits within one SMS.
10. Set up flu clinic availability in your online bookings
If you’re already using HotDoc Online Bookings, we also recommend you create availability in your booking schedule to allow patients to book directly into a flu clinic online. Talk to your Customer Success Manager to find out more.
How Inform Broadcast can help
To help with all of the above, we suggest you use one of our tried and tested templates with Inform Broadcast. We’ve compared copy sent across 500,000+ SMS broadcasts to help maximise your response rates, while ensuring you are satisfying your legal obligations.
Watch the video below to see how Inform Broadcast works.