There’s a lot of talk out there about text messaging not being appropriate for many healthcare uses. The usual excuses are that SMS is not secure to healthcare standards, that you can’t really prioritize delivery of text messages and that there is no way to “escalate” texts if earlier messages aren’t acted upon.
Those are all valid points. In particular, anything involving personally identifiable, protected health information (as defined by HIPAA) certainly is not appropriate for an unencrypted text message. But let’s not completely dismiss texting in healthcare settings.
As the Montreal Gazette reported last week, several walk-in clinics in that city have started sparing patients endless waits by sending a text or an automated voice message when it’s almost their turn to see the doctor.
“The patients gain back their freedom. They don’t have to wait for four or five hours in a waiting room full of sick people,” Sara Michaels, the manager of one clinic, told the newspaper. “Instead, they can take a number, and then they can go out and do their groceries or whatever, and the system will alert them to come back,” she added.
“In a sense, it’s like coming in and asking for an appointment later in the day, something we couldn’t do before.”
The problem of long waiting times is particularly acute in the Montreal area, where, according to the Gazette, 300,000 people do not have a regular family physician. Say what you want about the government-run Canadian healthcare system that is plagued with provider shortages, but we have quite an access problem in this country, too. Keep reading>>