Medical practices rely on complex scheduling systems to keep track of their many patients, often by making appointments several months in advance. But just because a calendar is full and well-organized doesn’t mean every patient will show up to their appointment. According to a National Institute of Health study, between 23 and 34 percent of outpatient appointments are missed each year. And a study published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Disease Prevention found that over one-third of those who missed their doctors appointments had simply forgotten they had an appointment scheduled altogether.
No-shows are a major cause of lost revenue for medical practices – rather than cancellations, no-shows affect the practice’s bottom line as schedulers are unable to fill the patient’s spot with someone else. But the number of no-shows has been found to significantly decrease when offices use automated appointment reminders. An appointment reminder service can do just that, and the results are beneficial to everyone involved.
A report published in Healthcare Finance found that missed appointments cost the healthcare industry $150 billion a year. That lost revenue impacts everywhere from major hospitals to smaller private practices. But in the healthcare industry, missed appointments represent more than lost opportunities for revenue.
Patients schedule appointments for a reason: to manage their health. That means missed doctors appointments can have a ripple effect. Even if a patient isn’t seriously ill, a missed appointment could cause them to fall behind on prescription refills, or miss an important check-up. Often, certain services must be booked in order for a patient to qualify for other medical services later, and one missed appointment can cause a chain reaction that, given wait times for in-demand medical appointments, take months to rectify.
The pains of missing appointments have another effect as well: lowered patient satisfaction. No patient wants to miss their own appointment, as they made that appointment for a reason, and patients largely regret missing important healthcare appointments, which can be cumbersome to reschedule. But when they forget about their appointment, that means they may also be forgetting about other things that could have increased their engagement with their healthcare providers. They may be forgetting other important steps in their healthcare routine, and that can have a negative impact on their health.
Appointment reminders ensure not only that patients remember their appointments, but also that their level of engagement with the appointment provider is high. This can make for a stronger doctor-to-patient relationship, or simply keep the patient’s important healthcare concerns more front-of-mind.
Patient engagement is key even in the era of telemedicine, which has increasingly become a preferred option for patients who just need a quick check-in, or are looking for more convenient ways to work healthcare appointments into their busy lives. Automated appointment reminders can keep a patient feeling connected to their healthcare provider even if they never step foot inside the medical practice’s doors.
Meanwhile, another benefit of integrating an appointment reminder service into a medical practice’s scheduling software is the ease with which it makes patient communication more straightforward.
The NIH study found that patients who had missed their appointments would have liked to receive a reminder beforehand, preferably less than two week prior to the missed appointment. These patients indicated that they were open to appointment reminders in a variety of formats: phone calls, text messages or email reminders. All of these methods are ways that an appointment reminder service can easily automate.
When appointment reminders go out, notifying patients of their upcoming appointments, they can be formatted to look any number of different ways, whether they are phone calls, text messages or email reminders.
When it comes to medical appointment reminders, healthcare providers can format the reminder to share important information relative to a patient’s needs. That may mean simply reminding the patient of their scheduled service, but it can also mean including preparation steps for specific medical procedures. Healthcare providers can choose to provide information about their facility’s parking options, or handicap access instructions. Some may wish to include their masking or COVID-screening policies, so that patients are prepared. All of this information can be included in an easy-to-use template, which can be customized to a healthcare provider’s needs. Ultimately, healthcare providers can use these as set-it-and-forget-it message templates.
These reminders can be formatted to include all sorts of important information. But they can also gather information from patients. Scheduled messages can ask for a confirmation from a patient that they are still able to attend (particularly useful for appointments scheduled long in advance). In addition, the appointment reminder service can continue to be utilized after the appointment has concluded, via an optional scheduled follow-up, which for example can ask the patient for feedback. These follow-ups can appear as simple notifications in whichever way the reminders were set up, whether that’s sms or email.
Because an appointment reminder service can be integrated into a medical practice’s existing scheduling software, it can significantly improve workflow for employees who manage the practice’s administrative tasks. Practice management for a healthcare provider can be incredibly complex, requiring many moving parts and dedicated employees to keep track of it all. In most practices, these administrative employees are already stretched thin. Utilizing an appointment reminder service can make their lives easier.
Previously, these administrative employees would give patients phone calls to remind them of their upcoming appointments – if they were to be reminded at all. But phone calls are time consuming, not to mention, many patients prefer other methods of communication, such as email and sms. By removing the need for so much calling, an appointment reminder software can free up a medical practice’s employees. Chances are, they have plenty else to do anyway. Ultimately, this improved workflow can contribute to increased revenue, as employees are used where they’re really needed.