3 ways hospital HR departments benefit from texting

The annual ritual of open enrollment will soon begin for many hospitals' human resources (HR) departments across the country.

For most employers, communication with employees is an ongoing challenge. Traditional communication methods can be expensive and time-consuming and are becoming less effective every day. An employee might open and read information sent in the mail, might open and read the email sitting in their inbox, or might read the poster hanging up in the breakroom. That's a lot of mights.

Since hospital HR departments must ensure critical messages are reaching all employees, they are increasingly embracing a communication channel that is proven to be fast, convenient and inexpensive, and one that is likely to reach and be read by employees. That channel is texting — more specifically, two-way texting.

When it comes to texting in America, I previously shared some eye-opening statistics in a Becker's Hospital Review column on patient texting. These include the following:

  • Ninety percent of text messages are read within three minutes of being sent.
  • Responses to texts take an average of just 90 seconds.
  • Text messages have an open rate of 97%.

Text messaging is also a communication method embraced by people of all ages, as I noted in a recent blog.

Now that texting has essentially become a universal platform, it can be an invaluable communication asset for a hospital's HR department. Here are three of the most significant ways HR can leverage two-way texting.

1. Critical initiatives
Throughout the year, there are numerous HR initiatives that would immediately benefit from adding two-way texting to the communication mix. Examples include the following:
Onboarding new employees: Hospital HR departments spend significant time overseeing the nearly constant hiring of employees. The ability to automate onboarding-related messages via two-way texting can streamline the process by providing relevant information to the employee and steering them to additional resources, such as employee portals and time-sensitive emails and documents.
Benefits enrollment: Automating a series of texts to go out before open enrollment starts and throughout the enrollment period is a simple and effective way to increase engagement during open enrollment.
Health and wellness programs: Once open enrollment is completed, many employers realize that automated text campaigns are a great way to drive engagement with company-sponsored health and wellness initiatives.

2. Important notifications
The ability to send key notifications to all staff — and do so fast and with much greater certainty that those notifications will be read — is very important in a hospital setting. Communications often concern urgent matters and issues that pertain to an entire staff.

Here are examples of important notifications that hospitals we work with have communicated via text:
The Joint Commission is on site: Earlier this year, a Texas hospital sent a text to all of its employees at 7:30 a.m. informing them that surveyors had arrived.
Drills/alerts are going to be run: A Tennessee hospital uses texting to inform employees that a drill or practice alert will be run and then sends a second text when the drill or alert is over.
Weather-related updates: Several hospital clients leverage two-way texting to provide employees with weather-related schedule and work updates. It's a simple way to manage communication leading up to, after, and even during a weather disaster, such as a winter storm or hurricane.
General facility updates: A Texas hospital leverages texting to distribute a monthly video update recorded by its CEO. Texting is an easy way to steer people via a hyperlink to the video, which is hosted on the facility's website.
Shelter-in-place alerts: The speed and ubiquity of text communication is an ideal way to communicate shelter-in-place alerts for emergency situations. Universities and local governments already use texting for this purpose, and several of our clients are prepared to do so, if necessary.

3. Timely reminders
If you think about why many people prefer texting to other communication methods, one reason that will likely come to mind is the convenient delivery of timely reminders. People do not want to miss out on matters of potential importance.

A hospital's staff may want to know about the upcoming scrub sale, the cash bonus for a new employee referral, or a volunteer opportunity. Throughout the year, there are extensive opportunities to use two-way texting to communicate such timely reminders.

Add texting to your communication repertoire
For communication with hospital employees, two-way texting is a channel that should be a part of any HR department's strategy. Texting requires no behavior change from the employee: the employee needs to provide a mobile number and must know how to read. If you have staff that prefer to receive communications in different languages, many two-way texting platforms make it easy to assign languages to specific numbers. There is no app to download; no new device to purchase and use. Every mobile phone in your facility right now can send and receive text messages. The channel is there every day. Now is the time to start using it to more effectively engage your employees.

Brandon Daniell is president and co-founder of Dialog Health, a cloud-based, two-way texting platform that enables vital information to be pushed to and pulled from patients and caregivers.

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