5 Ways to Retain Patients Through Text Messaging

by Vaughn Anthony

Retention is the cornerstone of successful clinical trial completion; therefore, it is essential that subjects comply with study requirements, including visit schedules. Communication is key, and the easier the mode of communication, the better. That’s why text messaging has emerged as a convenient high-tech alternative to laborious reminder phone calls and old-school postcard mailings. This system automatically generates pre-defined SMS messages and sends them to subjects’ cell phones according to their respective time zones. Recent data show 85 percent of patients polled prefer text messages over email, voicemail or phone calls. And with text messages registering an average 98 percent open rate, the benefits for subjects and sites alike are evident. Here are 5 things to consider when using text messaging to retain patients in your clinical trial:

1. Needs: It’s important to identify the needs of patients participating in your trial to determine what is most important to communicate. Examples include visit reminders, study alerts and compliance tips.

2. Awareness: Create a marketing plan to inform patients about your text messaging program. Keep it clear and make sure your call-to-action is simple to understand, speaks to your patient population, and has a clear path to sign up.

3. Choice: Create a clear and concise system for patients to opt-in to your text messaging program by granting you written permission to send them correspondence.

4. Repetition: After a text is read, it can get lost in the user’s stream of messages. Send reminders a few days before, and the day before, appointments to keep them top-of-mind for the patient.

5. Limitations: Keep in mind that not everyone has an unlimited text messaging plan, so be judicious in the number of texts you send and keep the content relevant.

Text messaging has come of age as a primary communication channel, with December 2013 marking its 21st birthday. From reminding subjects of upcoming appointments and keeping them engaged throughout the trial, to helping site staff manage visits schedules, texting is instant, easy and accessible no matter where you are.

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