Text Reminders for Appointments
No matter what kind of appointment-based business you run, no-shows are a problem. In fact, according to some studies, a whopping 18% of medical appointments are missed. For people who aren’t in the medical field, this is probably a surprise. After all, most of us make our appointments, at least, most of the time. However, as medical professionals, we know that missed appointments are a major problem. This is true even in the era of appointment reminders, such as calls and texts. In this article, we’ll look at the why and how of text message reminders.
What is an Appointment Reminder Text?
An appointment reminder text is, simply put, a text message sent to a patient or client’s mobile phone that reminds them of an upcoming appointment. For children, the text message reminders can be sent to a parent or guardian, within the limits of HIPAA. You can send these to almost any kind of cell phone, from old-fashioned flip phones to the latest iPhone or Galaxy.
Of course, the message doesn’t have to be complicated. At their most basic these SMS messages give the who, where, and when of each medical appointment. However, the contents need to be somewhat discrete, since there’s always a chance someone other than the intended recipient will see the phone. When you think of text-based patient appointment reminders, they have essentially the same contents as reminders you’re already sending by phone.
Does My Business Need to Set Up SMS Appointment Reminders?
Well, it does if you want to reduce your no-show rate. According to some estimates, text message reminders reduce overall no-shows to 5% or less of your appointments. One reason for this is that people almost always open a text message, unlike an email that can go into spam. Text messages are one of the best ways to reach people.In addition, cell phones and text messages are no longer a tool that is mostly confined to younger generations. These days, almost all American adults, some 95%, own a cellphone. For that reason, sending patient appointment reminders are one of the most effective tools to ensure that people make their appointment.
How Appointment Text Reminders Help Your Bottom Line
There are a couple of ways that text message reminders help your bottom line. First, some estimates show that no-shows cost over $150,000, per provider, per year. That’s because if someone doesn’t show up for their appointment, you don’t get insurance reimbursement for the visit.In addition, you still have to pay your staff and overhead. While you can make up for a few no-shows with work-ins, this won’t come close to the overall revenue loss. No-show fees don’t make up for it, either.
Think about this for a minute: if you can reduce your no-show rate, each additional patient you see earns money. And, you’ll do it without cramming more scheduled appointments into your day. No more stressing about whether or not you’re going to get paid, either. Now all you need is to be on time.
Being on time leads to our second impact of patient appointment reminders: better connections with your patients. When patients miss appointments, they have to reschedule them. And in the meantime, they might not get an issue addressed as soon. In addition, getting that text message reminds patients that you care about them.
Which provider would you go to? The one that treats you like a number, or the one that builds a relationship?
How Do You Write An Appointment Reminder Text Message?
Unlike a text message you’d send to a friend, text message reminders are a new version of a form letter. In addition, you have to be somewhat discrete because of HIPAA regulations and other privacy rules. In other words, you can’t say, “Hey John, your blood pressure check is Monday.” Instead, you need to say, “Hey John, we have an appointment at (time and date).”
In addition, you need to be mindful of length. Traditionally, the limit for text messages is 160 characters. However, for an SMS appointment reminder, that could be too short. Thankfully, long text message services allow you to send up to 1,600 characters. This is a great way to add appointment instructions to your appointment reminder message.
With that said, don’t be afraid to show some personality if it’s on-brand. Some medical facilities these days have themed advertising, or the medical professional in charge might be known for having a sense of humor. If you can let this shine through in the text messages, go for it.
Finally, you should let patients respond to the text if needed. For instance, patient appointment reminder services let the recipient confirm the appointment. This way, you have a record that the patient still intends to come. If you have an office policy of charging a missed appointment fee, this record helps document the patient’s knowledge of the appointment.
Appointment Reminder Text Templates
Now that we’ve talked about the basics of sending text message reminders, let’s look at some templates. You’ll find that some of these are appropriate in different contexts
New appointment-put it on your calendar
Hey (name), You have an appointment with (provider) on (date) at (time). Please add this to your calendar ASAP so we don’t miss you!
Reminder to make a new appointment
Hi (name), Just a reminder to call (provider) at (number) for your follow-up appointment.
Appointment reminder for next week
Good morning (name)! Your appointment with (provider) is next week at (day, time). If you need to reschedule your appointment, call (number).
Final appointment reminder
Hi (name), You have an appointment with (provider) on (date) at (time). Please respond “yes” to confirm. Call (number) to reschedule.
Final appointment reminder (website)
Hey (name), Just to confirm your appointment with (provider) is on (date, at time). Respond “yes” to confirm. Click here (website) to reschedule.
How to Send Text Appointment Reminders to Clients
You might be tempted to send appointment reminders manually to patients’ text messages. For example, you’d have a clinical staff member sit and spend significant time texting your clients. Then, this person would record answers manually. Not only is this cost prohibitive because of the time involved, it is risky, because mobile devices such as a cell phone are notoriously stolen which can lead to a HIPAA breach. Furthermore, inputting phone numbers into a device manually leads to an increased possibility of sending the appointment reminders to the wrong recipient. An automated appointment reminder service, such as ReminderCall, removes these issues by getting the information directly from your HR, which eliminates the possibility of human error.
Fully automated, patient appointment reminders go out with the correct information. The software extracts the relevant fields, such as name, date, and time. And, it keeps going even when your staff is away.
Yes, it really is that easy.
Automate SMS reminders and replies
Here’s the thing. If you use an automatic service for text appointment reminders, then you can just about set it and forget it. Although Sometimes, you may want to continue the discussion with your patient. At ReminderCall, we have got that covered with two-way texting.
What’s two-way texting?
It’s the ability for the recipient of your SMS to respond back. So, your patient can reply to your text to confirm the appointment. Then, you’ll be just as sure that they’ll make your appointment as if you’d made a voice call. Barring something coming up suddenly, they’ll make it.
Tailor your text messages to make them personal
Although text messages are a highly effective form of communication, there’s a way to make them better: personalization. For patient appointment reminders, it’s essential that you include the provider, date, and time of the appointment. After all, part of the point is to make sure patients know when and where to show up.
But there’s more. You can also personalize these text messages with the patient’s name. Not only are people more receptive to text messages that have their names on them, but if you have a pediatric patient it helps clarify who has the appointment. Or even, for that matter, if cellphone numbers are shared between partners. This is another win-win that the right reminder software can easily set up for you.
How do you send HIPAA-compliant SMS text messages?
One thing that bothers many medical offices about text message reminders is that there’s the potential for someone other than the proper recipient to get the message. And, in the wrong situation, you can run afoul of HIPAA regulations by sending these text messages. Luckily, as we explain in a more in-depth blog post, it’s relatively easy to avoid these pitfalls.
First, make sure you get consent from the patient. Many health information disclosures are allowed with patient consent, and it’s one of the easiest ways to cover your bases.
Second, choose a HIPAA-compliant partner that has secure servers and stores your information in the US. By preventing cross-border data transfer, you’ll take the chance of a leak much smaller. Either way, there’s much less to worry about.
The easiest way to send engaging messages to your customers
As you can see, the days of having a staff member manually send out appointment reminders are gone. Unless your office needs to speak to a patient, such as with anesthesia and procedure appointments, you can easily send automated patient appointment reminders.
With ReminderCall, the process is easy. We have many different software integrations, and we’ll also build you one if needed. This way, you can ensure that the job is done automatically. Especially if you request a response, it’s easy to engage your patients through SMS. Best of all, you’ll keep the lines of communication open while strengthening your relationship.
Just what the doctor ordered.