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SMS Text Messaging

SMS (Short Message Service) text messaging is a low-barrier communication method to connect with patients and is available on all cell phones.

When to use it

  • Quick check-ins and follow up 
  • Appointment reminders
  • Educational information exchange 

Best use

  • 2-way exchange of text (SMS) and images (MMS) with patients/clients

Technical requirements

  • PHSA cell phone that can be used by the health care team
  • Turning off all ‘cloud’ functions to only use SMS text messaging


  • Easy to use if you have a PHSA cell phone – no account set up
  • Easy for patients to use if they have a cell phone 
  • Fast, convenient, accessible 

Privacy and Security 

  • Privacy Review completed by OVH 

Risk and limitation

  • Patient has health care team cell phone number – could make phone calls
  • No guarantee that patient is viewing/will respond to messages
  • No guarantee that message is received – SMS text message has a 98% delivery rate globally
  • Could be sent to the wrong patient 
  • No encryption/not secure
  • Difficult to document text message conversations in patient records (EMR)
  • Undefined period of time that patient’s cell phone number and text conversations stored on PHSA cell phone
  • No analytics 

Guideline and policy


Step 1

Introduce Virtual Health to patients
Introduce Virtual Health to patients by phone/email/text. Check the technical readiness of your patients. Obtain the patient’s personal email and send an initial email to validate their email address and provide notification of risks (see APPENDIX 1: Client Notification Form, and APPENDIX 2: sample validation script).

Step 2
Add patients cell phone number to your PHSA cell phone
Storing patient contact info can include: 
  • Patient’s name
  • PHN
  • Cell phone number
Step 3
Text the patient tips listed below 
Copy and paste these key points to patients: 
  • Do not email or text us if you have an emergency. If you have an emergency, call 9-1-1 or go to the closest emergency department
  • This phone is not continuously monitored
  • Connect with us for: Quick check-ins and follow up; appointment reminders; educational information 
Step 4
Text message with patient
  • Quick check-ins and follow up 
  • Appointment reminders
  • Educational information
Step 5
Log the result in Tracker
Document encounter in patient record as usual.
OVH will contact you regularly to understand your experience so far and provide support as needed. 

SOURCE: SMS Text Messaging ( )
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