How to use WhatsApp in the Healthcare SectorTopic: WhatsApp
23 June 2022
Modern healthcare is increasingly being delivered remotely via telehealth services. This offers 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. Dedicated telehealth services offer proven treatment paths for people suffering from hypertension, COPD, diabetes and renal disease, among others. Did you know that WhatsApp can also form a major part of these strategies?
What are the benefits of using WhatsApp for digital healthcare?
The average mobile phone user checks WhatsApp 23 times per day, and over 2 billion people globally now have the app installed. In the UK, it’s used by 70% of the population. WhatsApp certainly has the reach and the engagement levels that lend themselves to digital healthcare – particularly for patients aged between 18-44, 84% of whom are WhatsApp users.
Here are some other benefits of using WhatsApp.
- 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?
Business platform – API
WhatsApp can be directly implemented into healthcare providers’ existing systems, meaning minimal staff training is required to conversate with patients. Message templates can also be used to standardise messages for large scale communications.
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 for those working remotely 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 request appointments. You can 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.
A major benefit of delivering medical advice in this way is that it can reduce visits to healthcare facilities. Not only will this help prevent the spread of an illness, but it can also increase the speed at which a patient can receive help.
If you have to reach patients in an emergency, making telephone calls is not always practical; they’re time-consuming and infrequently answered. Letters can be 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.
The same can be said for appointment reminders, with the rising cost of missed patient appointments continuing to place unwanted burdens on providers looking to provide better service to patients.
WhatsApp Business Platform is great in these types of situations, thanks to 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 appointment booking platforms. Images and video support is also available.
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 two-way, making it easier for staff to quickly relay their availability back to the healthcare provider.
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.