Reminders are a great way to ensure that your patients are well informed about their upcoming appointments.If you run your own healthcare practice you probably detest no-shows and cancellations, as you know how much loss of revenue they generate.
So, it is only smart that you take precautions to avoid these no-shows and the best way to do so is by investing in appointment reminders. The next step in figuring out the reminder journey is deciding on the best mode of communication for the reminders.
A lot of studies have supported that Text communication is the best way to get in touch with your patients.
Why text appointment reminders?
One of the studies that has demonstrated the benefits of text messaging for healthcare providers, is the one conducted by MGMA (Medical Group Management Association). They found that the top reason for patients missing their appointments were –
- Patients forgetting about the appointments or forgetting to cancel them ( 52.4%)
- Patients noting the wrong date and time of the appointment (28.6%)
- Other commitments or unforeseen events such as traffic or bad weather. (23.8%)
While you cannot control the unforeseen events you can easily tackle the other 80% cases for missed appointments. These can be solved by sending the patients a reminder about their upcoming appointments.
In the same study conducted by the MGMA the patients were asked if they would prefer to be reminded about their appointments and if so what mode of communication would they prefer. Around 40% of the respondents said they would prefer getting reminders over text,as opposed to other modes of communication such as phone, voicemail or email.
This solidifies SMS reminders as the reigning mode of communication.
Benefits of SMS Reminders
- High Read-Rate ; As has been discussed over our many blogs,SMS has an open rate of 98%. Text messages are also typically read within 3 minutes. These statistics help you ensure that your reminders to the patient would be read.
- Easy accessibility ; There is no need to install any apps on the phone for SMS.It works on every phone and one does not need an internet connection to access text messages. It’s easy accessibility makes it a great choice for communication. So almost all of your patients can be contacted through SMS.
- Instant communication ; Sending mails on the day of the appointment or even days before it, does not guarantee that the recipient will read them. It could take the patient 2-3 days to read an email. As opposed to the mail , a SMS is usually read instantly, thus ensuring a confirmation from the patient.
- Better patient experience ; With text reminders, you are making it easy for your patients to communicate with you. It helps both you and the patient be informed about the appointment status.With things flowing smoothly on both ends, it will make up for good patient experience even before your patients enter your healthcare practice.
- Reduce customer requests to call center ; As communicating with you becomes easier for the patients as well, customer requests to call centers will also decrease.
What is the best time to send appointment reminders?
Now that we’ve discussed some of the reasons for using SMS reminders, let us look at what the best time for sending these reminders would be.
Figuring out the best time to reach your patients may be a little tricky. Each patient prefers a different time that suits them. But if one has to generalize, the timing between 8am and 12pm is considered the best for sending reminders.
If you have enough data about the patient, you can also figure out the best time to connect with them. You can look at how the patients have responded previously and what time has been suitable for them before.
You can also ask the patient in prior,their preferred time for communication and use that data to send the reminders. A pre-agreed arrangement would also help increase the effectiveness of communication.
A common understanding would be to not send the reminders at times when the patient most definitely would be busy. For example, sending reminders at the middle of the night or times when the patient couldn’t look at their phones while travelling to and from work.
Why use automated text reminders?
The benefits of using text reminders are many, but why should you prefer automated ones over manual ones?
- Reduces No-shows and last minute cancellations – By allowing your patients to schedule and confirm appointments, you are reducing the possibility of no-shows in your healthcare practice.Sending gentle reminders prior to their appointments allows the patients time to cancel or reschedule the appointment if need be.
- Saves time and resources – Rescheduling appointments, confirming appointments and following up with patients about their appointments, all take a lot of time out of your staff’s hands. With the help of an automated reminder system, one can set up the entire process just once and leave it be. It will keep sending the reminders and responding to them according to your initial set up.Very less intervention would be required from your side after the initial set up.
- Easily integrates with PMS – There isn’t any need for an extra hassle in terms of operation as most of the automated reminders out there can easily integrate with your existing Patient Management Software.
- Customizable Reminders – Automated reminders have a lot of capabilities. You can decide when to send the reminders, what to send and how to allow the patients to respond to these reminders
Decide at what intervals you wish to send reminders to your patients.
For eg – You can send an initial reminder 1 week prior to the appointment and if the patient doesn’t reply to that , you can set up reminders to be sent 2 days after the initial reminder and then again after 2 days if the patient hasn’t replied still.
Customize the reminder message to your patients if you need to add a personal touch. Personalized messages tend to elicit more replies.
What workflow can you set up with an automated reminder?
A workflow allows you to execute certain actions based on a set of triggers and conditions.
For eg – What do you want to do when a patient doesn’t reply to your reminder? Or what do you do when they in fact do reply.
These processes are set up in a workflow and you can easily do so when you use an automated appointment reminder.
Some actionables can include –
- When a patient confirms his/her appointment you can set up a follow up text that contains the address to your practice or the directions.
- When a patient cancels an appointment, an auto response asking the next suitable date for the appointment can be set up.
- After the appointment you can send a text message asking the patient to fill a survey
Using automated text reminders for your healthcare practice is simple and efficient. With the many benefits of text messaging and the freedom automation provides in the decision making process, automated text reminders become the most obvious and sensible choice for your healthcare practice.