Recently a practice manager expressed a frustration about her staff. They were using their personal phones to text message with patients about appointment scheduling. No matter how many times she told them to stop, they wouldn't listen. Meanwhile, she wasn't listening to the message her patients were giving: they wanted to be able to schedule their appointments via text messaging. The practice had not provided any way to do this, so the staff were going behind her back to make the patients happy. The good news is that this is solvable. The bad news is that it needs to be solved quickly for all of the obvious HIPAA and legal protection reasons, as well as the simple factor of providing one clear professional voice from the practice to the public.
A recent example from law enforcement provides a compelling image of why a medical practice needs to control their own communication:
When 30- year-old Ricky Lamb died, Clayton County Police Department detectives were unable to locate his mother. One detective eventually sent her a message on Facebook from his personal account to notify her of the death, as reported on Today. Because the detective had no relationship with the mother in Facebook, the message went to the infamous "other" folder.
When the mother did see the message she showed it to her daughter. The message came from account with an image of rapper TI as the profile picture, so they didn't think it could possibly be serious. It was only when Mr. Lamb continued to be missing that his mother called the phone number on the unprofessional Facebook profile.
Now there were some other problems here, like why the police could not find a woman who lived such a stable life that she had had the same job for more than a decade. But the Clayton County Police Department has learned some lessons. They have realized that they need to take control of how their staff communicates with the public and they are going to set up their own Facebook page and their own social media review policies.
Your staff is more likely to use their personal phone to text message a patient than their personal Facebook, so the medical application of this story is on text messaging.
A New York Times article from last year provides some great examples of pediatricians using texting and social media to connect with their patients. Several solutions exist to access text messaging via a computer workstation and logging text messages. Clinical Research Performance, Inc. can work with your practice or research program to assist in developing your texting solution. Give us a call at 919-890-5513.