How Interactive Text Messaging is Enhancing Health and Human Service Outcomes
How can something as simple as a text message help people change their behavior for the better, or unlock access to new benefits?
Health and Human Service programs face many challenges, from enrolling new participants, to delivering program content, to reducing attrition and measuring outcomes. To help tackle these challenges, healthcare organizations around the country are using text messaging to inform, remind and connect with the public in ways that lead to healthier lives.
Why text? Ninety-two percent of Americans own a cell phone, and text messaging is the most widely-used feature. The average text is read in under five seconds and has an average response rate of 45 percent – that’s nearly eight times the engagement opportunity of email, which has a six percent response rate.
The ubiquity and power of text presents great opportunities for health and human service organizations. GovDelivery has worked with state, local, and federal organizations to implement text messaging across the service spectrum, from program promotion to outcome tracking.
Promotion and Pre-Qualification
For many programs, getting people to discover the program and sign up is vital to getting results. What if a bored bus passenger could send a quick text message, and instantly be pre-qualified or even enrolled for a program? Harnessing the actionability and ease of text messaging is a great way to increase enrollment, as well as streamline the qualification and signup process.
Proactive outreach is also a great way to engage an audience – the Stand Up and Get Care program at the New Orleans Department of Public Health used text messaging to reach out to people who are eligible for free doctor’s appointments and let them know how to schedule a clinic visit.
Some preventative health programs, like the Center for Disease Control’s CDC Knowit, are even able to achieve outcomes through this promotional approach. The Knowit text tool, which lets anyone text in their ZIP code and receive a tailored list of HIV testing sites near their location, offers an easy way for the public to be proactive in their sexual health.
Execution and Delivery
In addition to promoting services, interactive text messaging can be used to improve service delivery, and can even become a central component of a service.
Missed appointments can be costly – appointment reminders by text message have proven to be a highly effective way to reduce missed appointments and unnecessary re-enrollments. Such reminders are simple to set up and have a high return on investment. For example, Philadelphia RISE used text reminders for life skills classes to increase attendance by 40 percent.
What about when someone has received service, but needs to return for a follow-up appointment? Using automated message flows in GovDelivery Interactive Text, Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) reaches out to parents whose newborns have recently received hearing screenings. If a child did not pass his/her screening, parents are notified of how and where to get their child re-screened. IDPH agents can even text parents individually if they need personalized guidance.
In addition to reminders, some agencies use text messaging for service delivery. Sending bite-sized pieces of information via text message is a great way to educate your audience and drive greater healthcare outcomes. New York City Literacy Inc., a nonprofit focused on expanding children’s literacy, uses interactive text to send tips to parents with exercises and inspiration to build their child’s vocabulary.
Ninety-two percent of parents enrolled in the program said their children were learning new words as a result of the tips.
Follow Up and Track Outcomes
Following up with participants and tracking program outcomes is also critical for most health and human service agencies. In addition to demonstrating results, agencies can increase future utilization and encourage repeat visits by seizing the opportunity to reengage whenever possible.
Benefit expiration for food or welfare-to-work programs can also pose a significant challenge: making sure that benefit recipients re-enroll in time to ensure uninterrupted service. Benefit expiration reminders via text help reduce related costs and delays. The health departments in Ventura and Contra Costa counties in California adopted GovDelivery Interactive Text, and now send automated reminders to people before their benefits expire, cutting down on paper mail and costly games of phone tag.
GovDelivery also offers managed services, and can integrate with almost any workflow or back-end system. It’s easy to get going with interactive text messaging support at GovDelivery.
Looking for more info on how your organization can benefit from text messaging? Register for the upcoming webinar “10 Tips for Text Messaging in the Public Sector” to hear more detail on how government organizations around the country are using text messaging to connect with their audience.