Three Ways Text Messages Can Improve Healthcare Marketing

Marianne Aiello, February 10, 2010

Text messages get a bad rap. To be fair, this reputation is at least partially to blame on the California teenager who sent 14,528 texts in one month, landing her dad a 440-page cell phone bill. But the hugely successful text-message fundraising campaigns to aid Haitian earthquake victims have shed new light on how organizations can harness the power of the SMS for good. Lately, I've been noticing an uptick in articles and press releases detailing text-message campaigns in healthcare—and each effort has a unique strategy that will help you further your marketing goals.

Fundraising Campaigns
Perhaps the simplest text-message campaigns are used for fundraising. Not only is it ideal from a donor's perspective (it's much easier to give money when you don't have to enter your credit card number), but it can be immediately attributed to the campaign ROI.

Children's Hospital Boston launched a text-message fundraising campaign in November and though they haven't raised a significant amount—just a few thousand dollars—organizers see tremendous potential.

"Prior to Haiti a lot of people were interested in this but they weren't sure it would really work," says Chris Troyanos, associate director of corporate initiatives for the 396-bed hospital. "Charities are going to see this not as a luxury, but as a necessity. As we're doing sponsorships or cause programs or annual fund appeals or planned giving, this is going to be a tool that each of us needs to incorporate because it allows ease of use."

To increase donations in the future, Children's is teaming with local celebrities and sports teams and plans to run several public service announcements. Much like the American Red Cross and Wyclef Jean's Yele efforts, cell phone users are asked to text a short number to donate $5, which will be added to their next phone bill.

Community Education
Text campaigns may also prove to be an effective way to promote healthy behavior in your hospital's community and encourage preventative care. The White House recently launched text4baby, a program that will text tips to expectant mothers in an attempt to curb premature births and infant health problems. The text messages will be free, correspond with the woman's due date, and include information about birth defects, immunizations, mental health, and nutrition. (And it is not, as my colleague Elyas Bakhtiari suggested on Twitter, a program that delivers free babies.)

Similarly, Mobile Health Interventions recently launched Health Txts, a program designed to help users reach specific health goals by texting them encouraging and helpful messages.

"The mobile phone is transforming how health services are delivered," said Dr. Frederick Muench, clinical psychologist and founder of Mobile Health Interventions, in a release. "There is now substantial evidence that text messaging programs are effective adjunctive and standalone interventions for a range of problem behaviors."

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