Delivering healthcare services via WhatsApp – what’s possible today?

Topic:

Modern healthcare is increasingly being delivered remotely via telehealth services, with several benefits to both provider and patient: it’s cost effective, delivers value in managing long-term conditions, and is fast and easy for patients to access (source).

Dedicated telehealth services offer proven treatment paths for people suffering from hypertension, COPD, diabetes and renal disease, among others. But it may come as a surprise to learn that WhatsApp can also form a major part of these strategies for healthcare providers.

When we consider the fact that the average mobile phone user checks WhatsApp 23 times per day (source), and that over 2 billion people now have the app installed (source), WhatsApp certainly has the reach and the engagement levels that lend themselves to digital healthcare – particularly for patients in the 18-44 age group, of whom 78-84% are WhatsApp users (source). 

What are the benefits of using WhatsApp for digital healthcare?

  • WhatsApp is used by 70% of the UK’s population (Messenger People)
  • WhatsApp messages can be received at any/time place as long as the recipient has access to WiFi / mobile data 
  • Messages are received almost instantaneously
  • Healthcare providers can check if a message has been delivered/opened
  • Messages don’t get lost in inboxes like email
  • Messages are sent to the place where patients are already communicating with friends and family, meaning increased engagement
  • Two-way messaging can be used where required
  • Bots can be utilised to automate responses so you can manage patients’ needs at scale.

How can healthcare providers deploy WhatsApp?

API
WhatsApp can be directly implemented into healthcare providers’ existing systems, meaning little to no staff training is required to send messages to patients. Message templates can also be used to standardise messages for large scale communications.

Online Portals
Secure online platforms provide many of the same benefits as an API implementation (I.e. personalised comms, message templates etc) but also offer the ability to access WhatsApp functionality remotely. This is especially useful in for homeworkers or if facilities have to close for any reason.

How can healthcare providers use WhatsApp?

Delivering healthcare advice
If there is an outbreak of the flu or other infectious diseases, advice can be sent to all opted-in patients which can be text only, or can include photos / video content or links to online material for further information.

Recipients can reply with questions or to make appointments, and you can choose to respond to these individually, or deploy a chatbot to automate responses to simple, repetitive questions.

If you choose to answer each message individually, it’s not as laborious as fielding telephone calls or replying to emails; pre-configured message templates can be deployed for faster and more consistent messaging. 

The benefit of delivering medical advice in this way is to reduce visits to healthcare facilities – which may help to stop the spread of an illness – and to increase the speed at which a patient can receive help.

Emergency notifications
If you have to reach patients in an emergency, making telephone calls is not always practical; they’re time-consuming and infrequently answered. Letters are even worse, taking days to be received and with no way to know if they’ve been read. Neither situation is ideal when patients’ health is at stake and time is of the essence.

WhatsApp is great in these types of situations, with almost instantaneous delivery and secure, traceable messages.

Messages aren’t just limited to text either. Healthcare providers can link to other sources of information (like medical advice web pages) and also appointment booking platforms. Images and video support is also available.

Communications with staff/arranging extra workforce
One of the great features of messaging apps like WhatsApp is that group chats are supported, meaning teams can receive the same information and react more quickly – particularly useful for last-minute shift scheduling. Messages are also 2-way, meaning that it’s easy for staff to quickly relay their availability back to the healthcare provider.

In a modern age with futuristic technologies, it’s also worth noting that 80% of hospitals still use pagers to call staff to emergency situations. WhatsApp provides almost limitless advantages here. Extra context, communicate with multiple staff members at once, and the ability to reply to name just a few (Source).

Managing long-term health conditions
It’s a major challenge for healthcare providers to ensure that discharged patients manage their conditions effectively. WhatsApp can help patients manage their own conditions with scheduled reminders to take medication, and to receive data back such as heart rate and blood pressure. 

Utilising bots, WhatsApp can even suggest courses of action based on these medical inputs; effectively providing an automated telehealth system through a messaging app that the customer is already familiar with.

Every healthcare provider is different and as such, we’d really like to speak to you to better understand your challenges and exactly how we think WhatsApp could help.

To find out how, please get in contact with our team today by calling 0345 356 5758 or emailing sales@esendex.com.

Author Avatar
Warren Delay

Hi, I'm Warren, and I'm the Product Marketing Manager here at Esendex, specialising in product positioning / requirement. I also have an extensive knowledge of product management, and love working at the cutting edge of new tech!