In an ideal world, healthcare organizations think solely about the well-being of their patients. But in reality, managing a medical practice involves other functions and tasks. If you’re running a clinic, for instance, you need to oversee your employees, deal with insurance providers, and take care of forms, among other things. On top of these tasks, you also need to set appointments and make sure that your patients won’t miss their scheduled visits.
Speaking of setting up medical appointments, did you know that it’s one of the most time-consuming tasks in medical practice? At first glance, the whole process may look easy. You start with scheduling patient consultations and matching them with a practitioner’s timetable. But complications can appear when patients fail or forget to attend their appointments.
No-show patients can have repercussions that are bigger than the apparent empty clinic chair or examination table. Missed appointments can affect a healthcare organization’s bottom line and productivity. It’s a big issue that has compelled some practitioners to outsource their medical appointment scheduling. Fortunately, you don’t have to hire costly outsourcing companies to improve your patient attendance. Of course, there are far more efficient ways to minimize the number of no-show patients in your clinic or hospital.
For instance, by following the best practices for text appointment reminder, you gain an effective and innovative way to help reduce no-shows. There’s no shortcut when it comes to making sure that your patients come for their scheduled appointments. Good old-fashioned reminders are proven to work, especially for older patients who may forget their consultation dates.
Present-day technology can help fill in the gaps. If reminder alerts work for patients, then adding the efficiency of digital solutions will improve their engagement with their healthcare providers. After all, various applications are now being used for patient monitoring and data gathering.
Scheduling, rescheduling, canceling, and reminding patients of their appointments are all in line with digital transformation in medical practices. The best part is organizations don’t need to outsource their appointment scheduling tasks. Having their own doctor appointment reminder system allows medical practices to score high on the trust rating scale. This is because patients will be more confident that their personal information will be handled by the practitioners they deal with and not some third-party offices.
Why Patient No-Shows Are Bad For Healthcare Industry
As mentioned, when patients fail to attend their medical appointments, it’s not just an issue of people missing their opportunities to address their health conditions better. It’s not even about the frustration that doctors feel when patients fail to show up to their appointments. Missed appointments can create ripples that can undermine the medical industry, not just patients and doctors.
So, just how bad can no-show patients affect medical practices? For one thing, failing to show up for medical appointments can disrupt the efficient use of resources. When a patient doesn’t show up for a medical appointment, the timeslot and healthcare services reserved for that patient should go to other patients. But no one can recover lost time and effort.
A no-show makes sure all the resources intended for an appointment go down the drain. Needless to say, the revenues that medical organizations can potentially earn also shrink when patients fail to attend scheduled checkups and consultations. When time and effort are poorly utilized, the bottom line ultimately suffers.
The Advantages Of Text Appointment Reminder
Minimizing the effects of patient no-shows requires a proactive approach. It’s all about reminding people that they have an appointment with their healthcare provider. Often, people only need to be prompted to act on something.
Reminders aren’t a new thing; medical practitioners have been using them for decades. Healthcare providers reminded their patients about appointments using different tools and formats, like the following:
- Phone calls
- Mobile phone appointment apps
- Reminder postcards and letters
But one tool has become the preferred method for both patient and medical organizations: text messaging. Automated text appointment reminder works best for older patients and those who aren’t adept with high-tech tools, like smartphone apps.
Here are some of the advantages of using text messaging as a reminder solution:
- Works For Both Old And Young Patients
Text messaging provides the middle ground between the effectiveness of old-world solutions, like postcards or phone calls, and the convenience of newer digital tools, like email or apps. Additionally, mobile phone use is prevalent among young and older demographics. At the very least, everyone knows how to open and read text messages. The same cannot be said with email and phone apps.
Hence, with an automated text messaging system, appointment alerts are sure to reach their intended recipients across all age brackets.
- Automatic Message Delivery
Using phone calls, emails, and letters used to be the go-to solutions for appointment reminders. They worked, too. But the problem was these methods are time-consuming and labor-intensive. For one, you need people to handle the phones or create email messages and letters.
Meanwhile, text messaging offers a more seamless approach to delivering alerts. With a text appointment reminder, a medical practitioner chooses a template for the message, link the recipient’s name and number in the required fields, and press send (or the equivalent).
If you imagine that you or your staff will manually add the recipient number and details, you would be mistaken. You can automate everything via text appointment reminder software. It even allows users to set the time and frequency of alerts sent to patients.
- Received By More People And Devices
Letters can get lost in the mail, email messages can get filtered, apps have a steep learning curve for some people, and phone calls can go directly to voicemail or be ignored. But in the case of text messages, they get read by people most of the time. This is because everyone checks on their mobile phones several times a day.
Plus, all mobile phones can receive texts, whether they’re the latest smartphones or a non-smart alternative from 10 years ago. By using text messaging technology for your appointment reminder, you have a better chance of actually reminding your patient about their schedule, which means fewer no-shows for you.
- Faster Open Rates
Few people would check their emails more than a couple of times a day unless your patient gave you their work email address, which is unlikely since healthcare is a personal matter, and no one would want other people to come prying into their health condition.
Text messages have a different story. As mentioned, since people check on their mobile phones several times a day, the likelihood of text messages getting read is high. Also, since text messages are short–they’re formally referred to as Short Message Service (SMS)–recipients can quickly read and understand the reminder message. Thus, text messaging is hassle-free.
- Accurate And Straightforward Message
Suppose you have unlimited resources to hire staff to manage phone call reminders even during a busy season. In that case, you think that phone calls would be a better option to set and remind your patients about their appointments. After all, you’re thinking, phone calls have a more personal touch that your patients will find engaging.
Well, not so fast. Phone calls, being voice conversations, are prone to misinterpretation or errors from both ends of the line. Your staff can also forget details or the recipient may have a poor signal, which can make the words sound garbled. In the end, a voice call can result in confusion.
However, this isn’t the case for a text appointment reminder. Assuming you reviewed the details on your message template, the information written on the text will serve as a record of the time, frequency, and other details of the medical appointment. The best part is a text message will stay on the phone unless the recipient deletes it. This means your patient can easily refer to the message for crucial instructions.
Calling your patient to remind them of their medical appointment is as easy as dialing their number. But what if your patient is in a meeting or driving a car? Directly calling patients to confirm their appointment may not always be a welcome distraction.
In contrast, a text appointment reminder gets the message across to your patient without intruding into what they’re doing. After all, as mentioned above, your text reminders or alerts have a high chance of being opened and read within the day you sent them.
Text Appointment Reminder: Best Practices
Minimizing patient no-shows is vital in preventive healthcare. That said, reminding patients about their medical appointments can directly affect patient health and satisfaction. For text messaging to be an effective tool, you need to adopt the best practices for a text appointment reminder.
Here are some top tips:
- Use Automated Text Appointed Reminder
If you have less than 20 patients, you can safely stick to manual text messaging. But if you have 30, 50, or a hundred patients, then manually creating and sending reminder texts can take up a lot of your time, which you can best spend helping your patients. As a solution, make things easier by investing in an automated texting system to send out your reminders.
- Be Clear With Your Message
An appointment reminder isn’t an advertising message for your new services. Its purpose is to remind your patients about their checkups or consultation. There should be no confusion about that. Make it a point to create a short and accurate message detailing the appointment schedule, things to bring on the day, and any action that your patient needs to take should they decide to cancel the appointment ahead of time.
- Do Not Spam Your Patients
While text messages are relatively easier to create than email and they’re also cheaper than phone calls or postage costs, they don’t give you the right to send multiple messages to your patients in a day. Everybody hates to be bombarded with messages, whether about new shopping deals or appointments with their doctors. So, it would be best to refrain from going overboard with your appointment reminder.
A fully functional automated text system should allow you to program the time and frequency that your SMS messages are sent.
- Ask For A Reply
To ensure that you’re not sending your messages into the wind, you can ask your patients to reply to your texts. By doing so, you’ll have an idea about how many of your patients will make it to their appointments, and you can make the necessary preparations for the day. The responses will also allow you to determine if the reminders you send out are reaching intended recipients.
Patient replies don’t have to be lengthy. A simple yes or no should be enough to keep you posted on who will show up for their appointments.
- Make Sure Your Appointments Match Your Schedule
Nothing can be more embarrassing than having multiple patients scheduled to have their consultations simultaneously. This can affect your reputation as a medical organization or practitioner. Thus, even if you’re using an automated text messaging system, make sure that your schedule corresponds to the patient appointments that you have for the day.
When planning your available hours, you must also allow enough time for each patient. You never know if the patient will have questions that require more time to discuss.
- Work With Your Budget
One of the main points of investing in an automated text appointment reminder is to improve your bottom line by minimizing patient no-shows. So, it makes no point if you get a system or provider that’s too costly for you to maintain.
Does your provider charge you for each message sent? How much overhead costs do you incur per patient? Always work within the budget of your medical organization or practice. Choose an SMS system that’s both reliable and affordable.
Patient no-shows can bear down on a medical organization’s resources and service quality. When patients don’t make it to their appointments, the time and effort it takes to render healthcare services are disrupted. This is the reason why medical practices need to minimize, whenever possible, the number of patient no-shows.
The most direct approach to ensure patients show up for their checkups is to remind them about their appointments. Fortunately, there are many ways to make people remember their scheduled day at the hospital or doctor’s clinic. The most effective right now is via text appointment reminder. It’s a system that uses short message service technology, which can be sent to and received by all mobile phone models, even tablets. Text reminders can also help medical practices deliver better patient engagement at more affordable costs and with improved results.