17 September 2018

5 ways to reduce costs in health services with business messaging

Cutting unnecessary costs is vital for healthcare and allied health services such as dentistry, optometry, veterinary, physiotherapy and many others.

There are five ways you can reduce your costs simply and effectively with messaging in healthcare:

  • Cut missed appointments or bookings
  • Have the right staff when you need them
  • Reduce the cost of chasing payments
  • Reduce marketing costs to reach a targeted audience
  • Decrease inbound calls for unresolved issues or questions

In this blog, we discuss each of these in more detail.

Cut missed appointment and bookings

As we all get busier, it’s easy to forget or miss an appointment, but ‘no-shows’ cost your business in lost revenue and productivity.

Missed health appointments around the globe add up to millions or, in the case of the US, billions of dollars wasted per year.

It’s easy to see how this cost adds up so quickly. If your health clinic has six therapists, charging $80 per appointment and seeing 10 patients each a day, the business treats a maximum of 60 people every day. If the average no-show rate is a conservative 15 per cent, that’s nine people a day. For a business operating six days a week, this quickly becomes $133,200 per year, even before considering the cost of re-scheduling, filling last minute empty slots and turning away new patients when the schedule looks full at the start of the day.

The most common reason patients or customers miss an appointment is simply forgetting, so businesses can reduce this behaviour with proactive reminders via SMS messaging. A simple, unobtrusive text messages reminds the customer of their appointment and lets them cancel in time for you to backfill the vacant slot.

Studies show that customers read and react faster to text messages than many other mediums. Mobile phones are never far from reach and 90 per cent of SMS messages are checked within 90 seconds of receipt.

Research shows that no-shows in the health industry are significantly reduced using this simple solution. One of the first trials in the world, at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, confirmed that SMS was a very effective approach for improving patient attendances, as well as bringing increased patient revenue.

Rachel Emmons, practice manager at physiotherapy practice Motion Health says, “Not only has it [SMS messaging] improved attendance, but it also allows us to have really effective diary management. Should they get their text message, realise they can’t come, they normally call straight away, and that way we are able to fill their spot quite quickly”.

Timely reminders that make it easy to remember appointments are a helpful service to provide to your customers and can promote loyalty for your business.

2. Have the right staff when you need them

To provide the best service for your customer or patient, you need the right staff on hand. It can cost your business in several ways if you cannot quickly fill gaps in your workforce because staff call in sick or are unable to attend work.

A clinic cannot recoup the revenue of a day’s missed appointments if a specialist is away and cannot be replaced. An aged care facility or dental surgery cannot offer the best possible care with low staff numbers. Indirect loss of revenue occurs when poor service discourages clients from returning.

Organising a staff roster takes time and effort. While managing no-shows and appointment availability is often cited as the biggest pain point in healthcare, this is closely followed closely by communicating the roster to workers, managing staff engagement and handling shift swaps effectively.

With 41 percent of the workforce in part-time or shift work, complex rostering is becoming increasingly common. A complicated rostering system adds costs in terms of lost productivity, especially if team members must ring around filling last minute slots.

Business messaging for rostering provides a simple yet powerful tool to reach staff immediately, ensuring your business has the personnel required to continue running successfully with minimal fuss.

Automated upcoming shift reminders reduce the likelihood of absenteeism, vacant shifts and increase worker accountability.

When cancellations occur, simply offer open shifts to either selected employees or the entire workforce with one tap. Empower your employees to swap shifts themselves using text messages.

3. Cut the cost of chasing payments

No one likes to pay a bill early, and many of us are guilty of payment days after the due date. While many charges are paid for on the spot, such as physiotherapists, dentists and others, others rely on issuing invoices after the appointment, particularly specialists and hospitals.

One study shows a third of survey participants admitted to paying a bill late, with the top reasons being ‘I forgot when it was due’ and ‘I misplaced or deleted the bill’. Generation X customers were the worst offenders, accounting for almost half of all late fees.

Bills get lost in piles of other letters and overflowing inboxes and people get caught out by infrequent bills, such as annual car registration.

A lack of cashflow can damage the finances of healthcare clinics, as well as incurring the cost of chasing payments and issuing reminders.

Business messaging provides a reliable method for ensuring payment on time by sending an automated reminder before the due date. Studies show that SMS reminders increase the likelihood of on-time payments by between seven to nine per cent, while average days late dropped by two days per month.

Of course, SMS is less unobtrusive and cost-effective compared to hiring an expensive debt collector!

The ideal window for the SMS is 24 hours before payment is due, and the greater the amount of customisation – name of sender, amount due and exact due date – the better the result. Customers also appreciate the opportunity to pay bills on time and avoid late payment penalties.

Business messaging to remind late paying customers removes the administration, printing and postage cost of reminder letters.

4. Reduce marketing costs to reach a targeted audience

The constant challenge with marketing is reaching the right person with minimal outlay. The process and technology required for sending and receiving a text message is incredibly simple, affordable and highly targeted.

The main benefit of SMS marketing compared to more traditional channels is its ability to cut through the clutter of today’s consumer environment. Our rapid response to text messages outstrips emails and other methods.

Business messaging can create multiple subscriber lists based on any number of characteristics. For example, a dental clinic might target a campaign to customers who have not attended for over a year. An optometrist could send a special offer for customers who buy certain products or notify customers of a sale.

Your message is received in an instant, with a detailed report of real-time delivery. Automation can even send your message to a selected subscriber list at a pre-determined time and date.

SMS technology is not only cost-effective but significantly less complex than social media and other forms of digital marketing. No additional software or systems are necessary, removing the need for application development or updates.

Marketing via business messaging gets read – and quickly.

5. Decrease inbound calls for unresolved issues or questions

The cost of answering customer queries over the phone is high and distracts staff from core tasks. Your customer will lose patience if put on hold for too long but increasing staff numbers to accommodate customer calls is expensive and potentially wastes resources.

The best ways to reduce inbound calls is to ensure the customer doesn’t have a reason to call. Customers who call are often confused, unsure or need to check what’s happening.

Using SMS to proactively contact customers not only reduces calls to the business, especially for routine queries such as deliveries of items or confirmation of appointments, but also delivers a higher level of customer service by providing the answer before they have thought of the question.

In fact, many customers now prefer information via text instead of the frustration with being tied to a phone or computer for help.

Alternatively, using AI solutions such as chatbots can reduce inbound calls by dealing with repetitive questions with real-time answers and updates. For many businesses, a chatbot can quickly answer questions such as dates and times of shifts, confirmation of appointments, details about item deliveries and other readily available information, greatly reducing the demand on staff time.

Manage costs with business messaging

Business messaging provides a simple solution to a range of common challenges, such as no shows, late payments and vacant slots in work rosters, as well as providing fast, targeted information to your customers.

Want to find out how to cut costs in your business? Find out more about SMS appointment reminders or contact us.

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