My attention was recently drawn to an interesting study on whether sending text messages can improve patient compliance when wearing elastics to treat an orthodontic condition. The authors of the study concluded that they saw an improved result with the study group compared to a group of patients who did not receive text message reminders.

We are all probably familiar with receiving text message reminders from our practice a day or two before appointments and other reviews have shown that those practices sending text message reminders have fewer ‘no-shows’ for an appointment which is a benefit to the practice and ultimately the patient. Most text messages are generated through the appointment booking software with little intervention required from the practice staff so could this be used to influence other aspects of the behaviour of patients?

Looking back through my own treatment, I can think of several occasions when text messages may have been useful to provide advice or motivation and these include reminders about oral hygiene, adapting to wearing braces, wearing elastics and wearing retainers post-treatment. If I had been wearing aligners, reminders to change aligners or to wear them for the required number of hours would have also been useful.

Thinking slightly wider could text messages be used to warn of traffic delays around the practice and to remind me to set off ten minutes earlier or to let me know the team was running late so not to rush to my appointment? And what about to draw my attention to interesting blog posts on the practice website or new services or offers that may interest me, my family or friends?

With a lot of focus on improving the overall experience and outcome for patients, would it be worthwhile considering how text messages or app notifications could be used to benefit patients more in the future? I certainly think so.

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