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POSTS BY TAG | Messaging with Patients



Chat with Patients: A Case for Secure Patient Text Messaging


Chat with Patients? A Case for Secure Patient Text Messaging

Recently, I was talking with a physician who is a new pMD customer. We were having a great conversation as she sought to satisfy her curiosity with how to get the most from the pMD software. Then I mentioned our new Chat with Patients feature, and she turned away from me, her previous openness instantly gone. She made a half turn away and laughed dryly, “Oh God. No.”

This was not surprising. The idea of patients having unfettered access to a doctor’s phone can seem like the loss of a last vestige of privacy, unfiltered patient needs adding to the cacophony of the many already trying to reach them.

So I shared a different story, one not filled with an endless interruption and immediate need. This type of communication can be better for both the medical provider and the patient receiving care. Surgery offers one compelling example.

Patient Text Messaging Before & After Surgery

Surgery represents a great opportunity to connect with patients via secure text for the following reasons: there is a clear episode of care, which includes a scheduled procedure, preceded by an instruction-filled pre-operative visit and followed by a post-operative period where concerns over pain, discomfort, new medications, and other follow up issues often emerge.

There are problems with other types of communication. Phone calls can offer endless rounds of telephone tag and voicemails, and email messages often are lost, misunderstood, or don’t have immediacy. Further, for patients who work, calls to workplaces and messages left can create privacy concerns. So, having a way to securely text and communicate in an asynchronous and timely way - texts don’t pile up the way emails do - can offer both better clinical outcomes and higher patient satisfaction.

Using Chat with Patients App Feature: The Process & Results

Below is the process for how a current pMD user is using the new Chat tools for text messaging with patients:

The scheduling coordinator invites patients who have a capable smartphone as part of their pre-operative process. She lets the patients know that pMD is a tool for them to have a direct contact as they go through their procedure.

She has found that younger patients have no issues with loading and using pMD and neither, to her surprise, did older patients. As long as they have a supported iPhone or Android, they have been able to easily download the app and get started.

Patient Text Messaging Helps Avoid Surgery Rescheduling

Prior to their procedure, patients commonly reach out to her with questions about the timing of the surgery, medications, and location of the facility where the procedure will take place. So far, at least one patient was saved from missing their surgery as they asked about a medication which, had they taken it, would have caused their surgery to be rescheduled.

Chatting with Patients After Surgery

The types of messages the coordinator receives after surgery often include those of the “what is normal?” variety, as well as questions about pain, medications, and the timing and location of follow up appointments. Having an easy way for patients to ask these questions helps avoid readmissions and missed appointments and allows the practice to stay on top of patient outcomes!

Secure Patient Messaging with pMD a “Real Life Saver”
The scheduling coordinator reports the following on using pMD as a tool to connect with patients:

"This has made such a huge difference in my contact with patients. They work, and texting them is so much simpler and more convenient than calling or email. I also love that it's not invasive. They don’t get my private info. This has been a real life-saver for me."

I also had the opportunity to connect with a patient using the platform, who reported more satisfaction with the care they received and a closer bond to the practice providing the care:

“Using the pMD app was a real anxiety reducer. If you have a question and something’s not right, you can get an answer through the pMD app. It’s immediate. You feel closer to the doctor and staff. It’s more personal. The app was very easy to download and use. I would recommend this to everyone! Doctor’s offices could really cut down on the number of phone calls. I would prefer practices that use this type of technology!”

I shared this story with the physician, and her demeanor quickly changed. Her practice is in the process of hiring a nurse to contact all their procedural patients, and pMD’s Chat with Patients would be a more effective way of connecting. With the right plan, secure patient text messaging offers unique and compelling benefits. Contact us and we will help you put a winning plan together!

Find out more about pMD's suite of products, which includes our MIPS registry, charge capture, secure messaging, clinical communication, and care navigation software and services, please contact pMD.
Related Articles:
Health Care Communication: Electronic Vs. Paper Follow Up for Millennials
Beyond Secure Messaging: Rich Communication Via Video Chat
What’s the Right HIPAA-Compliant Communication Platform For You?


Design Thinking: An Empathetic Approach to Innovation article


Design Thinking: An Empathetic Approach to Innovation

The original Apple computer mouse. A children’s toothbrush with a fat, grippy handle. pMD’s secure chat with patients. What do they have in common? They are all prime examples of products born from a thorough design thinking process.

What is Design Thinking?

At its core, design thinking can be defined as a human-centered approach to problem-solving. The process of design thinking is often simplified into five steps: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.

Design Thinking Model

(source: Stanford d.school)

In my discussion, I’ll take a deeper dive into the first two steps (and arguably most important): empathizing with the human and defining the problem.

Empathy and Definition in Design Thinking

What do empathy and problem definition look like in practice?

In 1966, designers were approached to reimagine a children's toothbrush. At the time, all children’s toothbrushes were fairly similar: shorter versions of adult brushes, which were skinny sticks with a brush head. The designers spent a large amount of time simply watching children and adults brush their teeth. What they discovered was revolutionary -- children, unlike adults, gripped the brush with a clenched fist. In contrast, adults displayed increased dexterity and balanced the brush between their fingers. To tackle this difference, the design team created a new toothbrush featuring a thicker handle lined with squishy gel. An adult might not care for the design, but to a child, the thick handle and colorful, grippy gel made all the difference. That model quickly became the best-selling toothbrush worldwide...for the next 18 months. Needless to say, the rest of the market caught on, and now all children’s toothbrushes still feature the same original design elements: a fat handle with grippy gel.

The reason for the success of the children’s toothbrush is that the design team first empathized with the human (“Why is brushing my teeth no fun?!”) before defining the problem they were actually solving (“Why is my toothbrush difficult to use and hold?”). Connecting with the customer is arguably the most important part of design thinking, because without the human connection, designs often miss the mark for real-life use cases.

Design Thinking at pMD: Empathy is #1

Empathy forms the basis of all pMD interactions with customers. In meetings and on support calls, before diving right into what might be wrong or how customers might need our help, we first make sure to check in and ask how their day is going or what exciting plans they have made for the weekend. Talking with customers about their daily life not only shows that we see them as real people with real lives, but these seemingly trivial conversations can also yield intriguing insights into how we can improve our products. For example, when talking with some of our users, we found their day was less than ideal due to an increased amount of time spent playing phone tag with patients. This led to an internal discussion about improving provider communication with patients and ultimately resulted in a new Chat with Patients feature available soon for all users of pMD. Through constant refinement and testing, we eventually created a solution that both providers and patients love. This positive response stems from a deeply-rooted passion for the most important steps of design thinking: empathizing with people and hearing their real problems. At pMD, we wear many hats, but the one that we wear first and most proudly is the hat of empathy. When empathy and design connect, wonderful solutions abound:

Customer Reviews of pMD Chat with Patients

I urge you to challenge convention and speak to your customers on a more personal level. Instead of viewing customers as numbers on a spreadsheet, see them as people that you can help in ways you haven’t yet discovered.

Find out more about pMD's suite of products, which includes our MIPS registry, charge capture, secure messaging, clinical communication, and care navigation software and services, please contact pMD.





250,000. That is the number of deaths from medical error calculated in a study by patient safety researchers at Johns Hopkins. That would make medical error the third leading cause of death in the United States, outnumbered only by heart disease and cancer. Medical error is a problem that can affect anyone. Unfortunately, this doesn’t get the same amount of attention as other issues facing health care. Comparing medical error to the current drug epidemic in the United States, the Johns Hopkins report would put the death toll from medical error at 3.5 times the number of individuals killed by drug overdoses in 2016. However, thanks to great work being done by groups like IHI and AHRQ, as well as patient safety researchers, there are steps the health care industry can take to reduce medical error.

It is worth saying that Johns Hopkins’ estimate of 250,000 isn’t without criticism. Health care systems in the United States differ dramatically by location and finding a reliable estimate of the number of patients severely affected by medical error is no easy task. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not register medical errors as a formal cause of death and that the causes of medical error are hard to solve. Studies have found that common causes of medical error include fatigue, inadequate supervision, inadequate experience, and faulty communication. These causes are often institutional failures and can't be addressed by simply flipping a switch. So, what can be done in the face of a problem with such a broad scope and no single solution? And what can an individual practice do to start addressing medical errors in their own backyard?

One example of something hospitals could do to begin addressing this issue is to implement common sense systems to catch errors before they affect a patient. For example, medication errors, a common source for medical error, can be dramatically reduced by implementing systems like Barcode Medication Administration (BCMA), where a doctor or nurse scans the medication before giving it to the patient. This simple step gives the computer a chance to check the provider’s work. But, it isn’t necessary to implement new systems that can cost a practice thousands of dollars a year. For smaller clinics, simply applying “Do not Disturb” rules whereby those administering medication are able to work in a quiet place, free from interruption, was shown to reduce the error rate of those administering medication by roughly the same amount. Another key focus of patient safety research is patient handoff. Because of the complexity and variety of patients’ conditions, patient handoffs must adjust to fit the patient's situation and do have the potential to be a large source of communication errors. However, one study looking at patient handoffs found that implementing a mnemonic device, called I-PASS, to guide physicians through patient handoffs reduced adverse events by almost a third. Simple changes like using the I-PASS method are inexpensive and are designed to ensure that all critical patient information is communicated effectively and in a timely manner. Implementing these changes doesn’t have to come at the cost of reducing the quality of patient care. The same study found that there was no increase in time spent conducting patient handoffs and there was no decrease in time spent with patients.

Humans are prone to making mistakes, and doctors are no exception. One report says that rather than blaming individuals for mistakes, institutions can create a culture of safety in the workplace and design their systems to protect patients, making patients safer while unburdening doctors with the stress of being one simple mistake away from being on the bad end of a tragic statistic. pMD is proud to work with health care teams to promote communication in the hopes of preventing medical error and improving patient care.

Find out more about pMD's suite of products, which includes our MIPS registry, charge capture, secure messaging, clinical communication, and care navigation software and services, please contact pMD.









pMD’s culture promotes the importance of customer feedback, which we’ve discussed in previous blog posts. Through conferences, implementations, and support, we’re always looking for the best way to enhance our product so that our customers can focus on improving patients’ lives. So, it’s no surprise that since its launch in 2014, pMD’s secure messaging product has been molded by the feedback and input of our customers.

Recently, the pMD team has consistently heard that providers would like to utilize pMD® Secure Messaging™ to communicate with their patients using the same platform they already use for internal communication. As emails go unanswered and phone calls are forwarded to voicemail, messaging becomes the most effective and efficient choice when deciding how to communicate with patients.

With the number of Americans that own smartphones continuing to rise to 77% in 2018 (Pew Research Center), more patients than ever before can connect with their health care providers, so we asked ourselves: how can we make the process of communicating from both sides - patient and provider - as seamless as possible?

When engineering pMD’s system for messaging with patients, we started with everything that makes pMD’s current secure messaging system an optimal solution for health care providers: an easy-to-use interface similar to your favorite text messaging app, an architecture built around security compliance, and a system of robust and reliable notifications to ensure that time sensitive information is delivered when it matters most. We spent time improving our sign up process to remove clunky steps and make sure that new patients can be on-boarded and start messaging in seconds.

On the provider side, we added clear delineations between internal and external messages, so providers, office staff, and administrators will always be reminded when their communication is being sent outside the organization. We know how important it is for providers to maintain control of the conversation threads, so we designed a system that allows caregivers to open and close conversations, while still allowing patients to initiate conversations. Providers’ personal information is hidden from patients’ view, and messages with patients can be shared among all members of the care team so that providers can collaborate and patients receive the highest quality care. pMD® Clinical Communication™ is already helping organizations deliver better care, and this additional feature set will allow those groups to reach their community on a whole new level.

pMD is currently working with innovative health care organizations to transform the way they interact with their patients. If you’re interested in learning how we can help improve your patient care through custom workflows and communication tools, contact us!

Find out more about pMD's suite of products, which includes our MIPS registry, charge capture, secure messaging, clinical communication, care navigation, and clinically integrated network software and services, please contact pMD.