When it Comes to Text Messaging with Patients, How Much is Too Much?

April 2, 2021
Christine Blank

Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare systems and a variety of other healthcare entities have been sending lots of text messages to patients. Reminders about appointment, prompts to take medications, health information updates — they are part of healthcare’s new enthusiasm for all things digital and remote.

Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare systems and a variety of other healthcare entities have been sending lots of text messages to patients. Reminders about appointment, prompts to take medications, health information updates — they are part of healthcare’s new enthusiasm for all things digital and remote.

For example, customer communication and payments platform Podium recently partnered with Sharp HealthCare, a large healthcare system in southern California, which will use Podium’s tools to automatically invite patients to leave a review via text or the messaging app of their choice.

“Research shows that fast and easy to complete review requests are ideal, and result in more accurate feedback. This integration will save caregivers’ time as well as increase the number and quality of their online reviews on Google, Facebook, Healthgrades and other key sites,” Podium said in a press release.

While text messaging can be effective in communicating with patients, is there such a thing as text message fatigue?

Yes is the short message.

According to new research published in JAMA Network Open, patients who receive multiple text and interactive voice response (IVR) telephone messages from healthcare systems are more likely to opt out of future messages.

Researchers at Kaiser Permanente Colorado conducted a retrospective study of members who received 1 or more automated text or IVR message between October 2018 and September 2019.

In the cohort study of more than 428,000 patients, 84.1% received 1 or more text messages while the median was 4 messages and 67.8% received 1 or more IVR messages (a median of 3 messages).

Nearly 3% (2.5%) of members opted out of future text messages and 1.5% opted out of interactive voice response messages. Individuals who received 10 to 20 text messages per year or 2 or more IVR phone calls were significantly more likely to opt out.

Individuals opting out of text messages were also more likely to opt out of IVR messages and vice versa, the researchers found.

“The findings suggest that a high volume of automated health care messages may be associated with a greater likelihood of patients opting out of future messages and that health care systems should use these messages judiciously to minimize message fatigue,” the researchers wrote.