Missed appointments cost U.S. health care providers $150 billion each year. They also have serious negative consequences for patient health.
Missing a single visit can start a patient on a downward spiral. It can lead to lapses in care and missing future visits. It may disconnect patients from their care teams.
Often, providers struggle to help their patients remember and attend appointments. Keep reading to learn how game-changing doctor appointment reminder texts are empowering patients and helping providers achieve better outcomes.
Why Do Patients Miss Appointments?
A surprising number of factors need to come together in order for patients to make their scheduled appointments. Even seemingly small things can derail patients’ best intentions and prevent them from making it to the doctor’s office. Among the most common reasons patients cite include:
- Lack of transportation
- Lack of childcare
- Scheduling conflicts
The final most commonly cited reason is related to communication. Patients may simply forget that they have appointments coming up. This is often compounded by failed attempts at communication with their providers.
Patients may miss reminder calls or emails, or not receive them until it is too late for them to arrange their schedules, commitments, and transportation to attend.
How Can Healthcare Providers Prevent Missed Appointments?
One of the most powerful things that providers can do to assist patients in making their appointments is to provide timely and effective appointment reminders.
Reminders should be provided far enough in advance to allow patients time to make the necessary schedule and travel arrangements. They should also be delivered in a format that is easy to receive and access.
Traditionally, offices have made reminder phone calls or sent emails. Evidence suggests, however, that this is ineffective. Both options are:
- Time-consuming for office staff
- Difficult or expensive to schedule during the best times for reaching patients
- Easy for patients to miss entirely
How Can Doctor Appointment Reminder Texts Affect Your Practice’s Bottom Line?
Compared to phone calls and other inefficient or uneffective methods, doctors appointment text messages are:
- Stress-reducing for both patients and providers
Using a medical appointment reminder service saves practices money in several ways. First, it reduces or eliminates the number of staff hours dedicated to patient appointment reminders. This can cut labor costs substantially.
Effective text-based doctor appointment reminders also dramatically reduce the number of missed patient appointments. Each time a patient makes an appointment they otherwise would have missed, your practice will save an average of $200.
Most providers also find that text reminders:
- Promote stronger patient-physician relationships
- Promote better patient compliance with care plans and better health outcomes
- Help patients remember key paperwork and other supporting materials necessary for their visits
Why Are Doctor Appointment Reminders Effective?
Text reminders are effective for many reasons. Chief among them are patients’:
- Constant exposure to their phones
- Ability to access and respond to texts even when they can’t talk on the phone
- Ability to confirm, cancel, or reschedule appointments with a single click
- Ability to confirm, cancel, or reschedule appointments outside of standard office hours
- Ability to integrate text messages with other lifestyle and support apps such as digital calendars and maps
Text messages can also place other necessary or helpful information at patients’ fingertips. For example, this may include directions to the appointment address or to a specific office within a medical complex. Delivered in text form, this information is guaranteed to be accurate and not mistranscribed, misspelled, lost, or forgotten.
All of these features make it easier, more convenient, and more comfortable for your patients to attend their appointments on time and with little or no stress.
Is Text Messaging HIPAA Compliant?
With so many companies being hit hard in recent years for HIPAA violations, some providers worry about the legality of using text reminders. HIPAA compliant text message appointment reminders are possible, however.
Providers simply need to ensure that patients “opt-in” to text reminders rather than sending them out to everyone without asking. Automated medical text marketing systems can make this quick and easy. They can even auto-remove certain categories of patients, such as those who are in the hospital, from text mailing lists to prevent unwanted texts.
Providers must also use a “secure text” system which encrypts patient data. This ensures that all information remains secure and compliant with HIPAA rules.
Can a Doctor Text a Patient?
Can doctors send non-automated texts to patients without violating HIPAA? Yes. As long as the patient has opted in and secure texting is used, doctors can text patients directly.
Tips for How to Write Text Message Appointment Reminders
Effective doctor appointment reminder texts can come in many forms. In all cases, however, they should:
- Be as short and concise as possible
- Be easy to understand
- Specify the provider
- Specify the appointment time and location
- Provide patients with the opportunity to confirm or cancel with one click or a single letter reply
- Remind patients of anything they need to do in advance or bring with them to the appointment
- Be sent during a time of day that is appropriate to your patient population
Ideally, texts will also give patients the opportunity to easily reschedule if needed.
Doctor Reminder Text Examples
Here are a few examples of what well-constructed reminder texts might look like.
- You have an appointment with Dr. Smith on Friday, Jan 20, 2021 at 3 p.m. at DownTown Clinic. Reply Y to confirm this appointment now or N to cancel it. Please arrive 5 minutes early to review your insurance paperwork.
- Dear [Patient Name], your appointment with Dr. Smith at DownTown Clinic is coming up at 3 p.m. on 1/20/21. Confirm your appointment by clicking here [link]. To reschedule click here [link]. Please remember to bring your insurance card.
Other Uses of Medical Texting
Secure text systems can also be used within health practices for transactional messaging and promotional messaging. Examples include:
- Conducting patient surveys
- Reminding practice staff of shifts, meetings, and other important news
- Sharing general health tips or seasonal reminders with patients
- Alerting patients to new services, or changes in hours, locations, or policies
Reduce Your Missed Patient Visits Today
A medical appointment reminder service can revolutionize your practice. It can make your office run more smoothly and cost-efficiently, and help you deliver the best possible care to your patients. Create an account and find out how easy it is to get started with doctor appointment reminder texts today.
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