May 17, 2020

Why doctors like healthy mass text messaging

hospital technology
3 min
One of the easiest and most effective ways to remind patients of appointments is to send them text messages.
Missed appointments are a common problem in the health care industry, and they can result in a significant waste of resources.

As such, many health car...

Missed appointments are a common problem in the health care industry, and they can result in a significant waste of resources.

As such, many health care providers are trying to develop effective systems to minimize missed appointments.

One of the easiest and most effective ways to remind patients of appointments is to send them text messages.

Here is a look at how doctors in the United States are using text messaging to keep missed appointments to a minimum.

How Missed Appointments Can Hurt Health Care Providers

According to an article entitled "Why Medical Offices Should Use SMS," 21 to 32 percent of the appointments that are scheduled by most health care providers turn out to be no-shows. Missed appointments can be detrimental to health care providers in a number of ways.

First of all, it can lead to substantial financial losses. Depending on their medical specialties and locations, doctors can lose $100 to $900 as a result of one missed appointment.

[READ MORE] Six Texting Mistakes Hospitals are Making Today

If they have an average of one or two missed appointments a day, it can cost them $20,000 to $180,000 annually. In the pediatric field alone, missed appointments are causing health care providers to lose about $1.3 billion annually.

Other than eating into the profits of health care providers, missed appointments can reduce the manpower available in medical facilities.

Doctors will not be able to attend to other patients while they are waiting for scheduled patients to show up, and they will end up wasting time if those patients miss their appointments.

Missed appointments take up time slots that can be otherwise used by other patients, and they usually lead to rescheduled appointments, which reduce the number of future appointment slots available for other patients.

Additionally, missed appointments can also undermine the effectiveness of medical treatments, which can have a negative impact on the track records of doctors.

Use Text Messaging to Reduce Missed Appointments

Reducing missed appointments can help health care providers improve their efficiency and productivity, and boost their profits.

As mentioned in an article entitled "How Mass Text Messaging Helps Doctors Cut Down on Missed Appointments", data released by NHS England revealed that almost half of patients cited forgetfulness as the reason why they missed their appointments. Text messaging is a great way to remind patients of their appointments because of its high open rate.

[READ MORE] Can Secure Text Messaging Services Save NHS Scotland in 2015?

According to a study commissioned by SinglePoint, SMS messages have an open rate of 99 percent, and 90 percent of all SMS messages are viewed within three minutes of delivery.

Additionally, sending SMS appointment reminders is much easier, less time-consuming and cheaper than making phone calls, which is the traditional way of reminding patients.

Some examples of health care providers that are using text messaging to reduce missed appointments include Kaiser Permanente, Arkansas Children's Hospital, Spectrum Health Services Center, Summa Health System and others.

The advancement of technology has changed the way health care providers communicate with their patients. 

As more and more people are using SMS as an everyday communication tool, doctors can take advantage of this trend to minimize missed appointments and other communication-related problems.

About the author: John McMalcolm is a freelance writer who writes on a wide range of subjects, from social media marketing to cloud computing.

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Jun 13, 2021

How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats

Jonathan Miles
6 min
Jonathan Miles, Head of Strategic Intelligence and Security Research at Mimecast, tells us how the healthcare sector can protect itself from attacks

One of the most fundamental lessons from the COVID crisis is that health should always be a priority.  In a similar fashion to the human body that frequently fights off viruses and foreign invaders that intend to cause it harm, the sector itself is now a prime target for another type of external threat: cyberattacks.

The figures speak for themselves: between December and January this year, hospitals in the UK were at 89% capacity, with 7,000 fewer available beds than there usually are. As the pandemic increased pressure on hospitals, clinics, and research facilities to create a treatment for patients globally, it has left the sector exposed to hackers who, like a virus, have been targeting it relentlessly and evolving their tactics. 

From patient records being held ransom, to fake emails claiming to originate from the UN WHO, the NHS, or vaccine centres, through to attacks on the cold supply chain to find out the secret formula of the COVID vaccine, the healthcare industry is facing constant cyberattacks and struggling to cope. This threat is unlikely to go away anytime soon – and as such, the industry needs to take a proactive, preventative stance to stay safe in a dynamic digital world. 

Going digital 

The responsive nature of healthcare – particularly of hospitals – means that efficiency is crucial to the industry’s standard operations. To support this, the sector has been embracing technological advancements that can improve the quality of work, enabling staff to meet pressing deadlines, and enhancing patient care. For example, the industry has been digitising records and improving its ways of working through digital means over the past few years. 

This shift is critical to offer high quality patient care; yet, it also means the sector has become more dependent on IT, which can come with a risk if cybersecurity processes employed are deemed as inadequate. 

Without the correct security measures in place, the desired efficiency gains realised, can be easily lost in a heartbeat. Simply put, an elementary glitch in the system can have a tremendous ripple effect on many areas, from accessing patient records and conducting scans, to maintaining physical security and protecting the intellectual property of experimental treatment development.

To prevent this, healthcare organisations need to ensure they’re considering cybersecurity as part of their overall digital transformation strategy – and setting the right foundations to create a culture where safety goes hand in hand with patient care. 

Strengthening defences

Before implementing cybersecurity process, healthcare organisations need to assess the potential risks they face. Depending on how much confidential data the trust has, where it is stored, who has access to it and via which means, the cybersecurity strategy and associated solutions will change. 

It’s fair to say that a medical device start-up where all employees have a corporate-sanctioned laptop and access data via a VPN will have radically different needs to a large hospital with hundreds of frontline workers connecting to the hospital’s Wi-Fi using their personal device. 

These requirements will pale by comparison to a global pharmaceutical giant with offices in multiple locations, a large R&D department researching new treatments for complex diseases and a fully integrated supply chain. Considering the existing setup and what the organisations is looking to achieve with its digital transformation strategy will therefore have an immediate impact on the cybersecurity strategy.

Despite this, there are fundamentals that any organisation should implement: 
Review and test your back-up policy to ensure it is thorough and sufficient – By checking that the organisation’s back-up is running smoothly, IT teams can limit any risks of disruption in the midst of an incident and of losing data permanently.

In our recent State of Email Security report, we found that six out of ten organisations have been victims of ransomware in 2020. As a result, afflicted organisations have lost an average of six days to downtime. One third of organisations even admitted that they failed to get their data back, despite paying the ransom. In the healthcare industry, this could mean losing valuable patient records or data related to new treatments – two areas the sector cannot afford to be cavalier about.

Conduct due diligence across the organisation’s supply chain – Healthcare organisations should review their ways of working with partners, providers and regulatory institutions they work with in order to prevent any weak link in their cybersecurity chain. Without this due diligence, organisations leave themselves exposed to the risks of third party-led incidents. 

Roll out mandatory cybersecurity awareness training - Healthcare organisations shouldn’t neglect the training and awareness of their entire staff – including frontline workers who may not access the corporate network on a regular basis. According to our State of Email Security report, only one fifth of organisations carry out ongoing cyber awareness training.

This suggests it is not widely considered as a fundamental part of most organisations cyber-resilience strategy, despite the fact many employees rely on their organisation’s corporate network to work. By providing systematic training, healthcare organisations can help workers at all levels better understand the current cyberthreats they face, how they could impact their organisation, the role they play in defending the networks, and develop consistent, good cybersecurity hygiene habits to limit the risks of incidents. 
Consider a degree of separation – Information and Operational Technology (IT and OT) networks should be separated.

Although mutually supported and reliance on each other, employees shouldn’t be accessing one via the other. This should be complemented by a considered tried and tested contingency and resiliency plan that allows crucial services to function unabated should there be a compromise. Similarly, admin terminals should not have internet access to afford a degree of hardening and protection for these critical accounts.

As the sector becomes a common target for fraudulent and malicious activity, putting cybersecurity at the core of the organisation’s operations is critical. It will help limit the risks of disruption due to cyberattacks, reduce time spent by the cybersecurity team to resolve easily avoidable errors, and ensure that institutions can deliver patient care, safe in the knowledge that their networks are safe.  

Fighting future threats

With technology continuing to change the face of healthcare, the surface area and vectors available for attacks by malicious actors is constantly increasing. With the introduction of apps, networked monitoring devices, and a need for communication, the attack vector is ever expanding, a trend that needs to be monitored and secured against.

To prevent any damage to patients, staff, or the organisation they are responsible for, healthcare leaders must put security front and centre of their digital transformation strategy. Only then can the sector harness the full benefits of technology. Doing this should include implementing cybersecurity awareness training to challenge misconceptions around security, encourage conversation, and to ensure employee knowledge of the security basics and threats faced. 

This ultimately allows healthcare organisations to do what they do best: provide the highest standard of patient care, safe in the knowledge that their operations, patients, and data are safe.

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