Marketing Text Messaging: Are You Compliant?
It’s no secret, we are addicted to our phones. We are constantly engaging with new apps, text messages, and social media outlets. According to the New York Post, Americans check their phones every 12 minutes!
Consequently, being on our phones has increased the amount of advertisement we are exposed to. So, how do you get in touch with your patients to remind them of their appointments or notify them of new enrolling studies? Well, the answer is text!
The average person will read a text message within three minutes of receiving it. Texting will allow your site to deliver personalized communication to your patients in a matter of seconds! What better way to build a strong and lasting rapport? Additionally, TEXT reminders are proven to reduce no-show percentages and improve patient retention rates.
Incorporating text into your marketing and communication strategy seems like a no-brainer, right? Although we do recommend your site to adopt a TEXT outreach strategy as soon as possible, we also would like to emphasize that there are certain regulations and procedures you have to follow before sending that first TEXT.
All marketing efforts are regulated, and TEXT messaging is no different. The Federal Communications Commission or (FCC) has established several guidelines that all organization utilizing TEXT messaging as a marketing avenue need to follow.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Short Codes vs Long Codes: Short codes are 5 or 6-digit numbers assigned and administered by the US Common Short Code Administration (CSCA). The short code can be used across multiple wireless operators within the borders of the country. Once a short code is established, your site will be able to send mass marketing texts, direct texts and picture messages to opted-in patients; additionally, the code will be able to receive replies from patients.
Long codes, on the other hand, are “virtual phone numbers” composed of 10 digits and have similar capabilities to a landline or mobile phone numbers such as voice, SMS, and fax. Long codes should only be used for appointment reminders and information related to the study the patient is currently enrolled in such as diary entry reminders.
What does this mean for your site?
You are only allowed to send mass TEXT messaging and marketing to your patients if they’ve opted-in to your marketing efforts through written consent or if they responded to other marketing efforts (i.e., automated Keyword opt-in) by texting the short code directly. Your marketing efforts can only be sent through the short code the patient agreed to receive text messaging from and all texts should offer the recipient a way to opt out.
Ex: Thank you for your interest in our study. Please reply with the best time to call or call us 222-222-2222. Text STOP to opt out.
On the other hand, you can send any appointment reminders through a long code and you will need verbal or written consent from the patient. One consent will not cover both long code and short codes. If you are including a consent in your forms, be sure to specify the type of texts that patients will be receiving.
- Keywords: Consider establishing a unique marketing keyword to promote on various marketing channels. For instance, your site could post flyers around the waiting area with instructions to text your keyword to receive study alerts from your site. Keywords can help build your database and open up new channels for engagement and recruitment.
Ex: Text “STUDY” to 74-121 and receive TEXT notifications of our upcoming research studies.
- HIPAA compliance: All your marketing efforts should be HIPAA compliant. For more information, visit the FAQ section on HHS.gov that covers HIPAA guidelines related to marketing outreach.
- Marketing Strategy: Text marketing should complement your overall marketing strategy and should be one of many ways you engage with your patients. Send your patients text messages when it is relevant to their interests and be sure to include a call-to-action on all marketing efforts. There is a fine line between building a rapport with your patient and intruding. You want to respect their privacy and show them that you care about the safety of their information.
- Cost: Different carriers have varying costs when it comes to mass texting. Research the costs involved with leasing a short code and sending mass texting. If some costs will be charged to the patient, include the relevant information in your consent form. Consequently, if you are hiring a third-party platform, make sure you are aware of all hidden costs and their capabilities. Will they charge you for each individual text message? Do they have a shared short code? Are the platforms HIPAA and FCC complaint?
Text messaging can be a great asset to your site! It may help you build a long-lasting relationship with your patients and keep them informed of your upcoming studies. However, being compliant and following the established guidelines is a must! Luckily, RealTime has done all the research for you! If you are thinking about adopting text messaging, call us at (210) 852-4310 or text PAPERLESS to 74-121 to learn more about how to be compliant and how we might be able to help with your marketing efforts!