As of this July, about 188 million people in the U.S. have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As more states reach their targeted vaccination thresholds, pandemic-related restrictions like mask mandates are rescinding and life is beginning to return to what it was.
Well, not everything: the pandemic kicked off a dramatic spike in texting being used by healthcare providers, and we don’t see it going away in the future.
We surveyed over 500 consumers to learn what kind of role texting played in vaccinations across the country and how they’ve used texting in other healthcare scenarios.
Most vaccinated Americans coordinated getting the COVID shot by text
It turns out that texting has played a huge role in vaccinating Americans: 63% of people who got the COVID vaccine used texting during the process. Of those, 96% said it was helpful.
As for the 33% who didn’t use texting to coordinate getting the COVID vaccine, the majority (67%) said it would have been helpful to them. That could be due to the fact that many people faced logistical nightmares while scheduling vaccinations.
During vaccine rollouts, call centers were flooded with inquiries and healthcare providers struggled to keep up with the volume. It took 4 hours of waiting on hold in some cases to schedule an appointment, and one nurse reported the line of people waiting on hold at their call center climbed to over 7,000.
Some were required to request an appointment by calling a designated number, then wait for a call-back from the provider with their appointment time. Those call-backs started getting flagged by cell phone providers as “Spam,” “Unknown” or “Private” – which most of us are used to ignoring.
In other circumstances, necessary consent forms for the vaccine were emailed by providers and wound up in patients’ spam folders.
These issues with phone calls and emails point to why so many Americans who coordinated their appointments through texting found it helpful.
Texting programs were rolled out to help people locate vaccines and accelerate distribution
Private healthcare providers and government agencies alike have used texting to resolve these issues and get people vaccinated faster. In April, the Biden administration, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Department of Health and Human Services, launched a COVID text-line to help connect individuals with appointments in their area. Just text your zip code to GETVAX (438829) and you’ll receive contact information of three nearby locations with vaccines available.
The CDC also offers free text alert systems to providers that sends reminders to patients to get their second shots. You can sign up for reminders by texting ENROLL to 1-833-VaxText (1-833-829-8398).
And in order to prevent wasted vaccines – which must be discarded if they’re not used within six hours of being opened – people can sign up on Dr. B, a waitlist website for the COVID vaccine, and get a text when extra doses are near and in jeopardy of being tossed due to no-shows.
Real-time, two-way text messaging adds a new dimension to patient engagement
Mental health professionals had to adapt to a virtual setting almost overnight during an isolation period when their services were needed more than ever. And, as a result, one of the most surprising innovations came about: text therapy. Though it may seem counterintuitive to use texting as a channel for conducting therapy, 26% of consumers said they’ve used text-based counseling, therapy or health services and nearly all of them (95%) found it to be helpful.
This shows not only that treatment can be provided effectively via texting, but that there’s potential to make therapy more accessible and convenient. Teletherapy increases the number of therapists a patient has access to, and texting allows sessions to take place wherever the patient prefers.
Patients want providers to continue offering texting after the pandemic ends
As we look to the future after COVID, our research indicates that texting will continue to be consumers’ preferred way to communicate with healthcare providers.
When asked how they’d prefer to receive medical appointment confirmations, alerts, reminders, payments, etc., most consumers (61%) chose texting over emails or phone calls.
When asked specifically about coordinating or confirming appointments, the overwhelming majority (87%) agreed texting should be offered.
This preference for texting is consistent with earlier research showing that 96% of people reject phone calls from businesses and unknown numbers, and almost 40% of people have 100+ unread emails at any given time.
If you’re ready to offer the type of communication your patients prefer, download a free copy of The Ultimate Guide to Texting Your Customers. In it, we provide texting etiquette best practices, text templates to get you started and much more.