Imagine that your medical practice is a swimmer, and every day, week, month, and year you’re trying to swim a certain distance—which means to treat a full patient load in an effective and timely manner. For most doctor’s offices, the main drag on the efficiency of their “swimming” is their no-show rate: the percentage of patients who miss their scheduled appointments or cancel with too little notice to be able to reschedule them with someone else.
According to one industry group, no-show rates for family practice doctors average 5 to 7 percent, though particular clinics see much higher rates than that, and certain subspecialties have rates of 20 percent or more. Imagine paying a 7 percent tax that you didn’t have to pay. It’s like swimming with a small—or not so small—weight tied around your ankle, making you work that much harder to achieve your goal.
In this blog post, we’ll look at how automated appointment reminders can quickly reduce missed appointments at your healthcare practice. With an affordable service like Reminderly, your patients can start receiving upcoming appointment notifications via text message, email, and/or phone call in a matter of days, which will improve their quality of care and result in three key benefits for your medical office.
Missed appointments are estimated to cost the healthcare industry some $150 billion annually.
Although simply forgetting (or getting mixed up on the date or time) is likely the largest single reason for no-shows, there are lots of other factors that come into play. Patients miss their appointments for all manner of emotional, psychological, relational, logistical, and financial reasons. But the upshot is always the same for your practice: lost revenue, as well as staff time needed to connect with the missing patient, collect the no-show fee (if your office charges one), and reschedule them (if they’re willing—no-shows are more likely than other patients to stop coming to your office altogether).
So, it’s clear that the causes of missed appointments are not going anywhere, and the costs are obvious. Let’s look at three key benefits of using automated appointment reminders to address this issue.
This benefit of using an automated appointment reminder service is the simplest to understand.
Good appointment reminder software will reduce your no-show rate by as much as 90%, increasing your revenue in a matter of weeks. Many of the would-be no-shows will simply come to their appointments, while others will be prompted to give enough notice that you can fill their slots with folks from your waitlist. (Reminderly also makes that part of the job easier—our waitlist manager can automatically notify the folks on the waitlist of an opening, confirm with the first person to respond, and let the others know that the slot has been filled.)
Aside from the obvious benefit of having paying patients instead of no-shows, there are less obvious ways that you’ll see better revenue through automated reminders. For instance, you’ll see improved patient retention, as reminders will lower the number of missed appointments, and missed appointments have been shown to lead to further lapses in care. There’s also saving the cost of staff time in terms of assessing and collecting no-show fees.
Lastly, using an effective reminder service like Reminderly can improve your practice management in other revenue-boosting ways. For instance, you can contact your whole patient list, or segments of it, to notify them of changes to pricing or staff. Such basic forms of communication can go a long way toward improving patient experience, thereby maintaining a healthy base to your practice. That brings us to the second key benefit of using automated reminder messages...
Anxiety and confusion are major reasons for patient no-shows. Whether it’s common things like fearing a bad diagnosis or being concerned about cost, or something unpredictable like becoming confused about which appointment type is at which office, these issues can easily lead to patients feeling uncertain or fearful about coming to their appointment.
For this reason, a simple sms appointment reminder, email reminder, or phone call does much more than simply remind the patient of their appointment. By providing them with connection, information, and a means to respond, a good reminder system offers your patients multiple avenues to assuage their anxieties and get any answers they need.
Let’s look at a simple email reminder template as an example:
Subject line: Please confirm your upcoming appointment
Dear <patient name>,
We look forward to seeing you at <practice name> for your appointment with <doctor name> on <day, date> at <appointment time>. Please confirm by hitting the button below, and remember to bring your ID and insurance card. If you have questions or need to reschedule, reply to this email or call us at <office phone number>.
<manager or practice name>
<link to driving directions>
<link to cancellation policy>
Notice how much this short email does in terms of conveying information, soliciting patient engagement, and anticipating potential issues such as questions or the need to reschedule. And by offering two channels for two-way communication (replying to the email or calling the office phone), it supports patients who prefer one channel or the other.
Although there’s less space available in a text message appointment reminder, texts can achieve all of these same ends. Here’s a simple sms reminder template as an example:
Your appointment at <practice name> is on <day, date> at <time>. Please reply Confirm or Cancel. To reschedule, reply to this text or call us at <office phone number>. See you soon!
Nothing is a bigger drag on morale than for the front office staff or individual providers to have to spend time tracking down missing patients. Such follow-up is incredibly important: after all, no one wants patients who need care to miss out on it, and every patient your office loses needs to be replaced by someone else. But it’s infinitely more efficient to prevent the need for most follow-up than to have to track people down case-by-case.
By using Reminderly’s customizable templates, you can create automated appointment reminders that provide your patients with the information they need, and you can also solicit confirmations via text, email, or the press of a button on their phone. By removing the hassle of this type of routine communication from your staff, you’ll have happier staff and better employee retention—no small feat given the competition for quality workers in the healthcare industry.
Reminderly’s system offers the best of both worlds in terms of customization and automation. You can tweak your templates or create new reminder messages as often as you want, but you can also “set it and forget it” for weeks, months, or even years at a time.