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Updated Feb 28, 2024

The Benefits of Patient Reminders

Appointment reminders reduce no-shows, increase patient satisfaction and aid your front-office staff.

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Max Freedman, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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Appointment cancellations pose a challenge for most practices, and no-shows are even worse. But what if you could minimize both? Enter patient reminders: These automated texts, emails and phone calls remind your patients of appointments they might otherwise miss, thereby encouraging attendance or, if necessary, postponements. They also save your front-office staff time. Read on to learn all about how and why to use patient reminders.

What is a patient reminder?

A patient reminder is an automated text, email or phone notification that informs patients of upcoming appointments. Patient reminders also may ask patients to confirm appointments they’ve previously scheduled. These reminders are increasingly popular substitutes for having your front-office staff call patients to confirm their attendance as appointments approach. 

TipTip
Looking for other ways to streamline the patient experience? Consider these tips for patient scheduling to help your healthcare organization’s workflow run smoothly.

How do automated patient reminders work?

The process begins when your front-office staff adds a patient to your calendar in your practice management system (PMS). For your employees, the process ends there; the PMS handles everything else. Adding a new appointment to your PMS triggers the automatic sending of a patient reminder a preset number of days before the appointment.

Key TakeawayKey takeaway
With most practice management systems, adding a patient appointment sets up automated patient reminders without requiring your front-office staff to take extra steps.

Benefits of patient reminders

Here are a few of the many reasons practices of all sizes and specialties have implemented patient reminders:

  • They free up resources. When your front-office staff isn’t busy calling customers to confirm appointments, your phone lines are open for incoming calls from patients. That’s important because, across industries, about one-third of patients prefer to schedule appointments via phone, according to a report by GetApp. It also means your front-office staff won’t have to wait for co-workers to finish reminder calls with patients before making calls of their own.
  • They increase patient satisfaction and loyalty. Reminder phone calls can be inconvenient for patients, too, since they may be disruptive. [Read related article: Best Medical Office Phone Systems] Patient text reminders circumvent this issue. With texts, your patients aren’t disturbed as they go about their days, and they can respond at their convenience. The result is more satisfied patients who become more loyal to your practice.
  • They minimize your no-show rate. As a healthcare provider, you know how busy life can be. In fact, your patients might be just as busy as you are, making them likely to accidentally forget about their appointments. Patient reminders can refresh your patients’ memory at just the right time, thereby increasing the likelihood that they’ll show up.
  • They help clear your waitlist. When someone misses an appointment, what does that mean for the patients who could have had that appointment? When you identify appointments that won’t actually happen, you give someone from your waitlist a chance to get scheduled. In the process, your bottom line remains intact, and you make another patient much happier with your practice.
  • They reduce strain on front-office staff. A key goal of your front-office staff is to provide a positive experience to patients at your practice. This goal is much harder to achieve when your receptionists lose hours per day by calling patients to confirm their appointments. Automated patient reminders take over this task, thus freeing your front-office staff to interact with patients in the office. 
Key TakeawayKey takeaway
Patient reminders couple convenience for your front-office staff with increased satisfaction and loyalty among your patients.

What are some best practices for texting patient reminders?

The power of patient text reminders is clear, but there are a few ways you might accidentally limit that power. Follow these best practices for texting patient reminders to ensure your text reminders are effective:

  • Keep it brief. There’s no need to go deep into appointment details or to share private medical information. The patient reminder text should be brief. Simply state the name of your practice or the doctor the patient is seeing, the appointment date and time, and a way for the patient to cancel or reschedule. Ensure that this information is straightforward and unambiguous.
  • Personalize your messages. Patient reminder texts are more effective when they start with the recipient’s name and include their doctor’s name. “Hi, Max, your appointment with Dr. Freedman is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 13, 2024, at 3 p.m.” is more effective than, “Hi, you have an upcoming appointment.” The former text immediately shows why the patient should care and makes them feel catered to, whereas the latter is unlikely to inspire interest or action.
  • Know how many messages to send. Don’t overload your patients with messages — that’s a fast route to annoying them enough to cancel. A confirmation request one week before the appointment and a simple reminder 24 to 72 hours beforehand should do the trick. A third message isn’t a bad idea — but two is enough, and four is absolutely too many.
  • Know when to send your patient reminders. According to CareCloud, which ranks among our picks for the best medical software and best medical billing services, 4 p.m. is the best time to send patient reminders. CareCloud studies have indicated that response rates are the highest at this time. Response rates are also high at 9 a.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Lunch-break reminders received the fewest responses.
  • Include a response request. It’s one thing to say, “Hi, your appointment is this date and time; see you then.” It’s another to request that the patient send a one-word response to confirm, reschedule or cancel their appointment. The latter approach engages the patient, encourages postponements instead of no-shows or cancellations, and makes rescheduling convenient. 
Did You Know?Did you know
Response requests engage your patients and reduce no-shows and cancellations.

The best medical software with patient reminder tools

Among our top medical software picks, we recommend these electronic health record (EHR) systems for sending patient reminders:

  • CareCloud: Via the patient portal that your practice operates through CareCloud, your patients can set up their own appointment reminders. You can automatically send patient reminders via text or email as well. Read our CareCloud medical software review to learn more about this platform’s robust patient reminder features.
  • DrChrono: With whatever DrChrono pricing package you choose, you can send several hundred email or text patient reminders each month. You can also send unlimited email reminders with any of DrChrono’s packages. Check out our DrChrono medical software review for more details on this EHR system’s state-of-the-art features.
  • athenahealth: Through athenahealth’s medical software, you can use A/B testing to determine whether phone, email or text reminders are best for engaging your patients. You can also manually send appointment reminders via the athenahealth patient portal. Learn more in our athenahealth medical software review.
  • AdvancedMD: The patient reminders that AdvancedMD automatically sends on your practice’s behalf are available in English and Spanish. These reminders also include links to intake forms so patients can complete the check-in process before they arrive at your practice. Read our AdvancedMD medical software review to learn about the other features that come with this platform.

Patient reminder FAQs

Yes, as long as you use HIPAA-compliant medical software to send patient reminders, then they are HIPAA-compliant as well. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has declared that all phone, email and text patient reminders must be as HIPAA-compliant as medical records. That said, it’s still best practice to exclude private patient information from reminders.
There’s no one way to write a reminder notice. However, personalized, concise text is best. A text script that works well to request an appointment confirmation may prove imperfect for alerting a waitlist patient to an opening. Patient reminder templates provide solid starting points for all kinds of reminders, but make sure to personalize them. Don’t be afraid to rewrite them to fit your desired tone of voice.
Patient reminders fare best when sent at 4 p.m. Other high-response times are 9 a.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Reminders sent during lunchtime have the lowest response rates. This statistic, of course, excludes times when nobody wants to receive phone calls or texts. In other words, don’t message patients at 4 a.m. or on weekends; satisfying patients means respecting their schedules. In turn, they’ll respect yours.
Some medical practice management experts divide reminders into three categories: weekly, daily and hourly. Weekly reminders are those sent between seven and 30 days before an appointment, daily reminders are those that go out between one and seven days before the appointment and hourly reminders are those you send within one day of the appointment. You may want to send only one weekly and one daily reminder, with an optional hourly reminder.

Patient reminders are simple yet important

It’s easy to overlook the power of a text or email, but in reality, quick communications reminding patients of appointments create a win-win situation: Your practice minimizes missed appointments, and your patients don’t miss important medical check-ins. Plus, with medical software, patient reminders are usually automatic. Put your software to work, and watch your patients show up on time. 

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Max Freedman, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
Max Freedman has spent nearly a decade providing entrepreneurs and business operators with actionable advice they can use to launch and grow their businesses. Max has direct experience helping run a small business, performs hands-on reviews and has real-world experience with the categories he covers, such as accounting software and digital payroll solutions, as well as leading small business lenders and employee retirement providers. Max has written hundreds of articles for Business News Daily on a range of valuable topics, including small business funding, time and attendance, marketing and human resources.
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