Back in the day, patients were reminded about their medical appointments with postcards send through the mail. However, the postcard method was too slow, and the reminders often got trashed with the rest of the junk mail. After some decades, the use of phone calls become common. Unfortunately, phone calls are obstructive, usually untimely and, worse still, many people ignore unfamiliar numbers.
Eventually, some healthcare practitioners tried sending email alerts as appointment reminders. But they quickly realized that emails have a low open rate, pose security risks, and people usually filter them into a spam folder or choose to ignore.
So, is there a better way? Yes! Sending automated SMS to remind patients about their doctor appointments has proven to be a better way to reach patients than postcards, phone calls, and emails.
Importance of Appointment Reminders
The natural habit of humans to forget is the most common reason why patients fail to show up for medical appointments. Let that sink for a moment. If you run a medical facility, you know how much nonattendances can hurt your operations. For example, one review estimates that patient no-shows cost a single doctor as much as $150,000 per year in lost revenue and extra labor costs.
Missed appointments are a chronic condition for any medical facility, and can sour patient-doctor relationships. Besides the economic costs, they also lead to a huge loss of valuable staff time, underutilization of medical equipment, deterioration of patients’ health, and a reduction in patient satisfaction due to increased re-scheduling times.
Therefore, finding a reliable, cost-effective, and ubiquitous appointment reminder system is the best prescription for cases of chronic no-shows.
The Effectiveness of Automated Text Messaging Services
The medical industry can use the cloud to build mobile applications that can help with managing customer relationships. In using the group sending SMS feature, such applications can send multiple SMS cost-effectively to remind patients of their doctor’s appointment for the day.
Here are a few reasons why using automated SMS as medical appointment schedule reminders is important.
1. Reduction In No-Shows
Integrating SMS reminder capabilities in a mobile app is one of the most effective ways of reducing no-shows in medical facilities. One study found that SMS reminders lowered nonattendance by from 36.4 percent to 26.1 percent. Furthermore, because of the current proliferation in the use of mobile phones, sending SMS is a highly effective way of reminding patients to show up at the clinic.
While the open rate of emails is about 20 percent, and most of them are usually directed to the spam folder, text messaging boasts of high open rate of up to 98 percent– with most of them opened and read within the first three minutes. Therefore, using a mobile application to send texts to patients reminding them of their appointment can greatly reduce the problematic issue of missed appointments that’s estimated to cost the healthcare industry billions of dollars every year.
2. Reduction in Expenses
An automated text message service can greatly decrease your practice’s overall budget. Proper patient scheduling in a medical facility reduces chaos and improves organization. And, constantly mailing patients to remind them of their regular check-ups and follow-up visits is costly. Similarly, requiring staff members to manually contact every patient is time consuming and can hurt their productivity.
By using an automated text message service to remind patients of their appointments, the information will be delivered cost-effectively, accurately, and without straining the staff. In addition, using a mobile application to send SMS appointment reminders can assist in deploying resources effectively. A functionality can even be included in the app that allows patients to confirm or cancel an appointment. This way, you can know in advance the patients who have cancelled their appointments. Consequently, you can ensure optimal usage of resources by rebooking the vacant slots and reorganizing staff and equipment appropriately.
3. Improved Customer Relationships
SMS technology can assist doctors enhance their relationship with patients. Besides its effects on the operations of a medical facility, a missed appointment also influences a patient’s opinion about the practice. If a patient fails to show up for an appointment, he or she is likely to wait longer before trying to find another suitable time to see the doctor.
As a result, frustration and disappointment crop in, especially if the patient had a valid reason for not keeping the appointment date. A recent survey on 15 major markets in the U.S. revealed that patients experience physician appointment wait times of 14 days, or longer. Additionally, one survey on 1,000 Americans revealed that “difficulty to see a doctor when sick” ranked among the top things that patients hate about their physicians.
Therefore, since texts are friendly and unobstructive, you can use them to enhance patient-doctor communication, and reduce blame whenever an appointment is missed. Consequently, patient satisfaction will improve.
4. Improved Patient Support
Besides building a mobile application with SMS capabilities for reminding patients about doctor appointments, such an infrastructure can also be used for general patient support. Text reminders can be used for informing patients about health-related matters, sending prescription reminders, and remotely monitoring patients’ conditions.
SMS messaging also works as a two-way communication tool, enabling patients to conveniently share their concerns with doctors and minimize medical appointment schedules. So, it offers an essential support system that will improve patient satisfaction. For example, one medical facility implemented an SMS alert service and ended up freeing up more than 600 appointments every year.
Keep Your Patient Satisfied
Bring your practice into the 21st century and use the cloud to build a mobile app with automated SMS capabilities that will ensure your patients are satisfied, your staff is useful, and your revenues are blossoming.
If you’re ready to leverage the benefits of reminding patients about their doctor appointments, then Zang is ready to assist – from the ideation process until you have a fully functional application. Talk to us today!