Medical practices lose thousands of dollars daily due to patient no-shows, no matter the location, specialty, or practice model. 

When a patient fails to show up or is late for a scheduled appointment, doctors and staff lose more than just the potential revenue -  productivity goes down, other patients have to wait, and the schedule becomes backed-up, resulting in a negative patient experience. 

Not to mention that the patient who misses the appointment does not receive the care they need.

The impact of patients’ missed appointments affects the downstream revenue of most practices costing the healthcare industry $150 billion a year. 

In this post we’ll show you how using text appointment reminders can effectively eliminate the problem.

Why Email, Phone, and Postcard Reminders Don't Work

Each of these methods of reminding your busy patients of their appointments is ineffective and problematic in their own way.

Making phone calls is just not a productive use of your staff’s time, and no patient likes to play phone tag. Telephone reminders have been proven to have only a 30% to 60% successful contact rate, on average.

Such a low contact rate isn’t the best use of your staff’s time, with each call often taking up valuable time that can be used doing other value-add tasks.

Email reminders are equally ineffective since patients tend to ignore them or treat them as spam and delete them. It’s not good when a good email open rate is just 20%. Compare that to text messages, which get read 98% of the time according to recent studies.

Postcard reminders, like any other mail that looks like junk mail at first glance, can be easily set aside and forgotten--or worse--thrown away.

Why Texting Provides Better Appointment Reminders for Doctors' Offices

Patients rely on their mobile phones for nearly everything these days, so why not take advantage of the technology that is already in their hands? 

Your practice can benefit from the efficiencies of sending SMS reminders to patients in the following ways:

  • Reducing the number of no-shows, which is especially important if your practice offers value-based care and is only reimbursed when your patients make it to their appointments.
  • Freeing up staff members so they can provide patient care instead of having them spend valuable time calling patients.
  • Boosting patient engagement by enabling a two-way connection with them that allows them to rapidly respond when sending appointment confirmations.
  • Personalizing messages for your patients also increases engagement by helping them keep their appointments.
  • Automating messages so that reminders of upcoming appointments reach all of the patients on your contact list just in time.

How to Send HIPAA-Compliant Appointment Reminders Via Text to Eliminate No-Shows

So now you want to move forward and start using text messages, but before you have your staff start sending messages there’s one more thing to consider:

The 800-pound gorilla in the room known as HIPAA compliance. 

These regulations protecting patient privacy prohibit staff members in a medical practice from using their smartphones to text patients because the messages sent from them are not HIPAA-secure.

So, while the FCC allows you to send an appointment reminder to a patient once he or she has provided you or your staff with a phone number, your messages must be secure according to HIPAA guidelines. HIPAA compliant texting is essential when you are considering a text reminder solution.

Text Appointment Reminder Best Practices

Ensuring that messages are secure is only one part of sending effective reminders. 

These best practices can help your practice reduce its no-show rate and keep patients engaged:

  1. Send personalized reminders. These messages should be customized with each patient’s first name as well as appointment information. They can also reflect the style and brand of your practice. You can use Curogram’s templates to streamline this process.
  2. Choose appropriate times for automating your messages. The optimal time window for sending a confirmation message is between 24 and 72 hours before the appointment to give busy patients sufficient notice. This makes sure there is adequate time for rescheduling if necessary. You may need to experiment to see what works best. 
  3. Decide on your message frequency. How often you contact a patient about an appointment is just as crucial as timing. Frequency depends on the type of appointment and how far in advance the patient scheduled it. For example, an office visit is scheduled for four weeks from now,  you may want to send a message 4-5 days prior as well as 24 hours prior.
  4. Create your messages to sound like you are speaking to the patient in person. Be friendly, polite and, most importantly, human. Patients can tell when a provider’s message is scripted and robotic.
  5. Provide patients value in your messages.  With Curogram, you can customize your one-day reminder to provide driving directions, pre-visit instructions or links to your patient forms.
  6. Include instructions for rescheduling or canceling. Besides having a confirmation option, your messages should inform patients on how to change their appointments when necessary. If you make it easy for patients to take action, you will ultimately have less no-shows and higher visit rates which means more revenue every month.
  7. Give patients the option to opt out. Even though text messages make it easy for patients to be reminded of their appointments, some prefer to keep track on their own or would rather not be distracted by text messages. Either way, adding a snippet of text that asks them to “Reply STOP to opt out” allows them to make that choice.

Choose the Right HIPAA-Compliant Texting Platform

In order to use SMS reminders successfully, however, you need to have the right solution for your medical practice. 

The solution should be web-based, easy to use, and HIPAA-compliant, like Curogram, an all-in-one texting and HIPAA-secure messaging platform for independent practices, physician groups, and health systems.

Curogram also includes other essential features for any medical practice such as text messaging survey and review campaigns to boost your 5-star reviews and help with SEO, electronic patient forms, online appointment booking, online payment collection, and secure staff messaging.

Schedule a free demo today.