If your healthcare practice or other appointment-based business doesn’t yet send appointment reminders, consider this statistic:
85% of customers say they want to receive appointment reminders.
Which is to say—your patients or customers already want reminders. And since reminders can reduce no-shows by 90% or more and eliminate hassle for you and your staff, it’s a win-win solution.
That said, people have quite different needs and preferences when it comes to how those reminders arrive. In this blog post, we’ll look at a few main tendencies in this regard, with a focus on to which patients or clients your business ought to be sending phone reminders rather than relying solely on sms messages or email reminders.
Surveys show that about two-thirds of people would prefer to correspond with a business via text message than to receive business phone calls. For people who text regularly, which is the large majority of those under age 50 (over 90%) , text message reminders and notifications are incredibly convenient. Most texts are read within just a few minutes, and they make it easy for the receiver to respond quickly or to process the message later when they have time.
Importantly, patients and customers want their business texts to be actionable—that is, about 75% of people report frustration if they can’t text back the business that texted them. They might, for instance, want to ask a question about pricing or another aspect of their appointment, or check if they can reschedule for a different time. This is why two-way communication functionality, like that offered by Reminderly, is a critical part of any effective appointment reminder system.
With the growing popularity of business texting, it’s clearly necessary to have reminder text messages as part of your business’s appointment reminder strategy. But it’s not sufficient, and here’s why: the percentage of people who text regularly drops from over 90% in the 18-49 age range to about 66% in the 50-64 age range and, most importantly, to about 25% for those 65 and up.
While the percentage of people 65+ who are comfortable with texting is growing over time, for now it’s clear that healthcare practices with a lot of older patients, as well as any business wanting to reach that demographic, need to have other components to their reminder service. Before we analyze email reminders and phone call reminders as options in this regard, let’s take a look at no-show rates for older patients.
In this large-scale study on patient no-shows for scheduled primary care appointments, the researchers found that while no-show rates tend to be lower for the 65+ demographic than for any other age group, they remain in the 10% to 15% range—a significant cost and workflow burden on healthcare practices. And, importantly, the rate begins to climb for patients who are 75 and older.
What are the reasons for no-shows among older patients? They include:
Regardless the reason that older people miss their scheduled appointments, any medical practice that wants to minimize that 10% to 15% of no-shows among their 65+ patients (a number that rises for certain types of specialty care) needs to have an effective method for reaching out to them in advance. That way, their questions can be answered, their fears can be addressed, and any cancellations that need to happen can occur in time to fill the appointments with other patients.
Those in the 65+ demographic use email at a far higher rate than they use text messaging. A 2021 survey found that 85.5% of those 65 and up use email—only a small drop from the 91% to 95% usage for those in younger age categories.
This data suggests that email reminders may be an effective way to reach older patients or clients. With Reminderly, you can use simple, customizable email templates to remind your clientele of their upcoming appointments.
Given the high adoption of email among those 65 and up, the main drawback of email reminders is not unique to that group. Rather, it’s that open rates and click-through rates for emails are low across the board.
In this 2022 data set, for instance, Mailchimp reports these numbers for email in the medical, dental, and healthcare industry:
While these numbers include marketing emails, as opposed to only reminder emails, email open rates are notoriously low across the board. For this reason, Reminderly offers the capacity to send a combination of text, email, and/or phone call reminders to your patients or customers. That way, if your reminder email slips through the cracks of their inbox, there is a built-in redundancy to ensure that they still receive a reminder.
As we’ve seen, age is an important factor in terms of people’s preferences for communication. But being 65 or older is not the only reason why someone might prefer to receive phone call reminders in addition to, or instead of, text and email reminders. Here are other reasons to keep in mind:
With Reminderly, you can customize your approach to best fit your clientele, whether based on your own observations or by asking your customers for their communication preferences. You can segment your customer base into different categories who are contacted in different ways. For instance, you might create a subset of people to receive email and phone call reminders instead of text message reminders. That list might include:
When customizing the template for your appointment reminder calls, here are a few elements it ought to include:
Your business name. Make sure to clearly state your company's name at the beginning of your message. If you decide to use a Text-to-Speech program, you’ll want to phonetically spell your company's name to enable the computer to pronounce it correctly.
The date and time of the appointment. Put this information right at the start of your automated voice message. Even with something as important as patient reminders, many people will not listen to the whole message or voicemail, and so you want the key info to come right off the bat.
Instructions on how to change or cancel the appointment. For those who need to cancel or reschedule their appointment, make it as easy as possible for them. You want simple, easy-to-follow instructions like:
Although it’s important to get the key info up front, automated voice reminders also allow you to include other information your patients might want or need. These could include: