2nd February 2024.

In healthcare, effective communication plays a pivotal role in delivering quality services and ensuring positive patient outcomes. As the NHS continues its pursuit of innovation, Rich Communication Services (RCS) has the potential to be a game-changer in transforming patient-provider interactions. Implementation within the NHS can offer a dynamic and secure platform without the hinderance of having to download an app, to create superior two-way interactions.

Late last year, Apple announced that it will finally support RCS for iPhones to work alongside the company’s iMessage system in 2024. This will offer a better interoperability experience when compared to SMS or MMS and improve the compatibility between Android and iPhone messaging. The update signifies a new chapter where this exciting technology can become accessible for the vast majority of smartphone users in the UK, connecting patients and healthcare professionals in innovative and meaningful ways.

Rich app-like experiences delivered direct to patient smartphones

RCS establishes a creative shift ‘from type to tap’, with suggested replies and actions, enabling patients to send their responses quickly at the tap of a button instead of writing keywords. Responses appear as buttons or ‘chips’ beneath a message intended to guide the interaction.

Alongside this, RCS offers even more advanced messaging features that go beyond traditional SMS, enabling organisations to engage patients with imagery, videos, live location maps and more. You can also share scrollable carousels of up to 10 rich messaging cards that combine image, video, text and links. These dynamic cards can be used in a number of imaginative ways for healthcare, such as options for appointment dates and times, or consultation types, in order to create a more visually appealing and engaging interaction.

Efficient appointment management

Through RCS, patients can receive appointment reminders, pre-attendance prep and medication instructions, self-care advice, and much more, in a visually engaging and interactive format, fostering better understanding and engagement.

Integrating RCS into NHS systems can streamline appointment management, removing most or all of the manual workload for admin staff and put more power in the patients’ hands. They can receive real-time updates regarding available slots, confirmations, and rescheduling options, ensuring smoother coordination, reducing DNAs, and optimising clinic or hospital resources whilst reducing the strain on admin staff. Patients can respond around the clock and reschedule their appointments outside of hospital switchboard opening times within a few taps.

Secure and confidential communication

RCS employs end-to-end encryption, ensuring the security and confidentiality of sensitive healthcare information exchanged between patients and healthcare organisations. Compliance with stringent data protection regulations is crucial in the healthcare sector, and RCS provides a secure platform for sharing personal health data without compromising on privacy.

This security also lends itself to patient trust, and the verified sender feature alongside branded messaging removes the fear and risk of fraud, and eradicates spam to create much-needed reliability in health communications.

Empowering remote monitoring

RCS enables care teams to send prompts for data collection, medication reminders, and symptom tracking directly to patients’ smartphones. Integrated chatbots can also help to solve problems instantly and allow both patients and the virtual assistant to share photos or videos to communicate more effectively. Patients can also respond to clinician messages with vital health information, enabling clinicians to remotely monitor and intervene when necessary, improving self-management for chronic conditions whilst freeing up staff time and helping to tackle the backlog plaguing the sector.

Providing an effortless patient experience

Offering patients the latest health tech demonstrates a commitment to providing the best care journey possible. For example, when it is clinically appropriate, post-surgery is an ideal situation for patients to be placed on a Patient Initiated Follow Ups (PIFU) pathway, allowing them to manage their own recovery without having to attend routine check-ups unless needed.

If the patient does need to access support, they can easily initiate contact via an RCS message, avoiding annoying app downloads or long call wait times, and respond to pre-set questions with a few taps on a phone as well as the ability to include a real time image of their wound. Their answers are then instantly returned to the hospital for review, making it a quick and hassle-free experience for both the patient and their clinicians.

No RCS activated, no problem!

As RCS operates through native messaging apps already present on smartphones, there’s no need for patients to download additional applications. This approach enhances accessibility, ensuring that a wider demographic of patients, including those with limited access to technology or resources, can benefit from improved communication channels. As an extra intelligent precaution, RCS can automatically fallback to SMS and send traditional text messages to customers who do not have RCS activated.

The next-gen communication platform

RCS offers an opportunity to modernise communication strategies, improve patient engagement, and optimise operational efficiency. By leveraging this exciting next-gen technology, the NHS can elevate the standard of care delivery, promoting proactive patient communication and facilitating improved health outcomes.

It also presents a transformative opportunity to revolutionise patient-provider communication within the wider healthcare ecosystem. By harnessing the power of RCS-enabled messaging, the NHS can enhance patient engagement, streamline communication workflows, and strengthen the foundation for delivering accessible, secure, and efficient healthcare services to patients across the UK. The introduction of RCS stands as a pivotal step toward a more connected, patient-centric future.

A new study from Juniper Research, has found that the global number of active RCS users will reach 1.1 billion in 2024; rising from 930 million in 2023, and anticipates that increasing adoption of platforms such as our CPaaS (Communications Platform-as-a-Service) solution will be the primary driver of this.