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How to reduce no shows with text reminders for patients

Patient no-shows can cause significant distress and challenges for practices, physicians and medical administrators. According to recent statistics, no-shows cost the US health care system $150B per year.

Solving low attendance rates and patient communications doesn’t require a difficult solution. In fact, sending simple and affordable text message appointment reminders might just be your answer!

RELATED: Find out how to calculate your no-show rate and how much it is costing your business!

Reduce missed appointments now!

Integrate SMS for EPIC MyChart.

Why you should use text reminders in medical practices

When you engage with patients, you are talking to everyone and anyone. 

If health practitioners wish to communicate with patients and ensure attendance rates, they should pick communication technologies that are accessible and convenient. Using smartphone-only enabled apps isn’t going to work.

mHealth (aka mobile health) technology is defined by the World Health Organization as the use of mobile and wireless technologies to help practitioners and medical offices achieve health objectives for their patients. With the rise in global phone coverage and increasing use of mobiles globally; mobile-assisted technology – especially SMS texts – seems best placed to reach as many patients as possible.

SMS technology is also:

An infographic showing a phone sending a text message
  • Ubiquitous – familiar and universal to most people
  • Accessible5.25B people own or use mobile phones
  • High visibility98% open rate versus email’s 20% open rate
  • Preferred73% of consumers prefer to get a text message over other comms
  • Self-paced – If responses are required from either end, practitioners or patients can respond at their leisure
  • Proven – Consistent studies have shown that appointment text reminders can reduce no-shows by 50% across the board, not just for healthcare.
  • Responsive – SMS can produce high response rates of > 50%

SUCCESS STORY: When email was failing to produce quick and responsive communications, not-for-profit Rona Scrubs switched to text messaging to communicate with doctors and nurses instead. This produced >50% response rates in just 10-15 minutes as opposed to 10% response rates for email over two weeks.

An example SMS from Left Bank Medical reminding client about appointment

Over the years, extensive research has demonstrated the power and effectiveness of patient appointment reminders for medical appointments. This is most likely why you’ve seen the widespread adoption of this communication channel by many healthcare providers!

162 research studies were undertaken in SMS appointment reminder behavior interventions,  it was found that nearly all demonstrated that text message reminders enabled patients to show up at their appointment time delivering better outcomes for both the patients and the medical facility.

4 tips for effective patient reminder text messages

If you’re considering using text messaging to help your practice reduce no-shows and increase engagement with patients, ensure you optimize your SMS appointment reminders with these four easy tips!

1. Save time by sending automated appointment reminders

Save your admin team some time and boost your bottom line by automating SMS reminders through your medical practice management software.

Make scheduling appointments easy with automated text confirmations and reminders that go out as soon as someone makes a booking. This process should also allow you to offer customers a preference for their communications, whether that’s via SMS or email.

RELATED: Learn about the new and exciting ways healthcare providers are using text messaging to more deeper engage patients and provide better patient care.

2. Send the right number of SMS messages at the right time

The optimal number of appointment reminder messages varies between 1-3 depending on lead time (time until the appointment). When sending texts, you should aim to space them out. For example, bombarding a patient with three text messages if they’ve made a booking in two days’ time is excessive.

Infographic showing the correct number of SMS to send (1-3 reminders) and optimal time: 24 hours before an appointment

Make sure to always send one 24 hours before an appointment, while you can choose to space the other two the way you want to. For example, you might choose to send a final reminder 1-2 hours before the appointment. You could also send another one week before their appointment.

3. Keep your SMS content brief and factual

One of the biggest reasons why SMS incentivizes actions is its brevity! With only 160 characters, businesses can get right down to the point or link to a web page for more information.

With patient text reminders, you want to keep to the facts (like appointment date) and stay concise. This helps customers to quickly skim, reply and move on with their lives while still keeping the fact they have an upcoming appointment top of mind. 

An SMS template which outlines the key information to include and CTA

Make sure to always include:

  • Date and time
  • Location information (if necessary)
  • Who is contacting them
  • Call-to-action if they need to cancel or reschedule
  • Opt-outs

RELATED:  To ensure you are HIPAA compliant, do not include any private patient or medical information in your text reminders.

4. Make your SMS messages personal

Did you know 71% of customers feel frustrated when an experience, whether medical, retail or otherwise, is impersonal?

Patients are often in vulnerable situations when they visit a physician. It’s essential therefore that communications are personalized so that patients feel you take their care seriously.

It’s also a lot easier than you think! 

With text messaging, you can easily add in parameters such as #FIRST NAME# or #DOCTOR#. Add custom parameters to messages through our web portal or through your healthcare management system such as with our Epic MyChart SMS integration. 

Banish no-shows with SMS.

Integrate SMS for EPIC MyChart now.

Final thoughts, further reading

Ensuring patient attendance doesn’t have to be a headache. With text message reminders, you can easily uplift attendance by up to 50%. If you want to learn more, or speak to someone about your no-show challenges,contact one of our messaging specialists now. Make sure to also check out: