Appointment cancellations pose a challenge for most practices, and no-shows are the bane of every practitioner’s existence. 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 precious time. Learn all about how and why to use them below.
What is a patient reminder?
A patient reminder is an automated text, email or phone notification that informs patients of upcoming appointments. Patient reminders may also 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.
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 patient 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.
With most PMS systems, adding a patient appointment sets up automated patient reminders without your front-office staff needing 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 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 calling patients to confirm their appointments.
Automated patient reminders take over this task, freeing your front-office staff to interact with the people actually in their vicinity.
- They free up resources. When your front-office staff isn’t busy calling customers to confirm appointments, your phone lines are open for incoming patient calls. That’s important, since 88% of medical appointments are made over the phone. 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 as inconvenient for staff as for patients. Imagine being in the middle of a pressing task, only to have a phone call interrupt it. 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.
Patient reminders couple convenience for your front-office staff with increased satisfaction and loyalty among your patients.
- 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, 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’ve 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.
What are the 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 on appointment details or share private medical information. The patient reminder text should be no longer than a tweet. Simply state your practice name or the doctor the patient is seeing, the appointment date and time, and how the patient can cancel or reschedule. Ensure that this information is straightforward and unambiguous.
- 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. This approach engages the patient, encourages postponements instead of no-shows or cancellations, and makes rescheduling convenient.
Response requests engage your patients and reduce your number of no-shows or cancellations.
- Personalize your messages. Patient reminder texts are more effective when they start with the recipient’s name and include their doctor’s name too. “Hi, Max, your appointment with Dr. Freedman is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 13, 2021 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 either, but two is enough, and four is absolutely too much.
- Know when to send your patient reminders. According to CareCloud, which ranks among our medical software best picks and medical billing best picks, 4 p.m. is the best time to send patient reminders. CareCloud studies have indicated that response rates are 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. [See our CareCloud medical software review for more details on why it’s our best pick for workflow.]
Patient reminder FAQs
Are text appointment reminders HIPAA compliant?
Yes. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has declared 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.
How do you write a reminder notice?
There’s no one way to write a reminder notice. However, a personalized, concise text is best. Additionally, 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.
What is the best time to call or text patients?
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 lunch break experience the lowest response times. This statistic, of course, excludes times during which nobody wants to receive phone calls or texts. Don’t message patients at 4 a.m. or on weekends – satisfying patients means respecting their schedules. In turn, they’ll respect yours.