Understanding the Power of Patient Appointment Reminders

Patient appointment reminders reliably drive down no-show rates and increase revenue for healthcare providers. Despite this reality, too few patients receive appointment reminders. When they do, they are rarely automated in a way that is effective or straightforward.

Legacy systems, one-way messaging platforms, language barriers – these and other factors get in the way of providers offering patient appointment reminders. But increasingly, excuses won’t suffice. As healthcare consumers become more discerning, providers will have to offer an optimal patient experience if they want to stay competitive. This experience must include patient appointment reminders. 

How can providers achieve a digital posture that offers convenient, dynamic, and multilingual appointment reminders? Read on to find out.

The Epidemic of Missed Appointments

Patient no-shows are an enormous drain on the global healthcare system.

The number of patients missing their appointments is huge. In the U.S., patient no-show rates range from 5.5% to 50%, depending on the location and type of practice. Across the rest of the world, roughly 23% of patients fail to show up for their appointments.

This is bad for patients since those with a history of missing multiple appointments tend to have poorer health outcomes. Research shows that patients with higher rates of no-shows are significantly more likely to have incomplete preventive cancer screenings, worse chronic disease control, and increased rates of acute care utilization for hospitalization and ER visits.

No-shows are also bad for providers. Why? Because missed slots mean missed revenue.

  • The average cost of a missed appointment is $265.
  • On a collective scale, healthcare systems are losing $150 billion a year due to patients not showing up for their appointments.

Even for smaller clinics, the financial hurt is considerable. A clinic with an 18% no-show rate that is scheduled to see 22 patients would end up seeing only 18 patients. The potential revenue loss would amount to $1,060 in a single day.

Now consider a large healthcare network that caters to hundreds of patients and has a no-show rate of 40%. When that many patients consistently fail to make their appointments, the loss of revenue is staggering.

The downstream effects are serious, too. Missing out on large amounts of revenue impedes a healthcare provider’s opportunities for growth and development. It delays or prevents access to better equipment, advanced medical technology, highly skilled staff, and better training.

Missed appointments are a huge issue for every part of the healthcare infrastructure. What can be done?

Adapting to
Human Forgetfulness

Reminding patients that they have an appointment booked – sounds simple, doesn’t it? And yet the reality is that forgetfulness is the leading cause of no-shows. Here’s what a study from the U.S. National Library of Medicine found:

  • Forgetting about clinic appointments was the most common reason (36%) provided for missing scheduled clinic appointments, a reason consistent with other studies.

9% of patients also said they failed to show up for their appointments because they were not  notified about it.

The simple truth is that missed appointments are usually the result of our imperfect human memories. People book appointments weeks or months in advance and due to busy lives, perhaps they forget to put it on their calendar. As a result, when the day rolls around, the appointment  simply is not on their mental radar.

To compound this issue, most providers’ attempts to remind people of their appointments are dated:

  • Typically, patients receive a written reminder one or two weeks prior to an appointment. Often this is still a physical letter, despite the fact that daily communication for most people has migrated online. Even when it is an email, this can easily get lost in people’s crowded inboxes.
  • Moreover, a week or two is still plenty of time to forget about an appointment!
  • Providers often phone patients a day or two before their appointment to remind them. However, because it’s 2021, many people don’t answer random phone calls.

Unsurprisingly, most patients find this approach to be dated and inconvenient. Therefore, no-show rates continue to remain stubbornly high.

The Power of Modernized Patient Appointment Reminders

As with other areas of healthcare, providers still relying on outdated methods of providing appointment reminders should be careful.

  • 80% of patients put a premium on convenience factors and would have no difficulty switching to another provider if it is more convenient for them.
  • 79% of healthcare consumers expect providers to communicate with them via channels they prefer.

What’s the takeaway? If providers want to start reducing missed appointments, they need to modernize how they account for natural human forgetfulness.

When providers are able to deploy patient appointment reminders in a way that is convenient and addresses today’s patient expectations, they can bring down no-show rates, improve clinic attendance, and drive revenue.

What does it mean to modernize patient appointment reminders? It means providing these reminders in a digital medium that is convenient, reliable, and will reach patients how they want to be reached.

  • In the U.S., almost everyone now owns a smartphone. Almost all smartphone users (98%) use texts to communicate on a regular basis.
  • Patients prefer that their healthcare providers also communicate with them using text.
  • 70% of American healthcare consumers say they would choose texting to schedule appointments with their physicians.
  • 83% want to be notified through text regarding appointment confirmations, prescriptions, follow-ups, and more.
  • Out of the 36% of patients who forgot about their clinic appointment, 30% said they want a text reminder 1–2 days before the appointment in their preferred language.
  • 55% of respondents said they would reply to text reminders to confirm or cancel their appointments as well as ask for additional details from their physicians.
  • In one survey, 91% of respondents said they prefer to receive texts when getting updates from hospitals about the status of ill family members.

The evidence is very clear: Patients want appointment reminders via text messaging. When this happens, they are far less likely to miss an appointment.

Modernization means keeping in mind other digital mediums as well.

  • Approximately 10% of patients prefer to use online portals for appointments and other medical communications.
  • Email remains popular with healthcare consumers aged 45 and older.

An up-to-date approach to patient appointment reminders and all-around patient communication must include the  full range of patient preferences.

Utilizing a Unified Communication Hub

The only way to systemize and scale the sending of patient appointment reminders is through dedicated technology. Better still if the technology allows providers to send automated patient appointment reminders that are triggered by timing, patient demographic, language, and so on.

The WELL™ platform is custom-built to centralize every patient interaction in a single place. The platform enables patients to leverage communication options that are convenient, automated, dynamic, bi-directional, and conversational.

Through the platform, providers can reliably reduce patient no-show rates through automated patient appointment reminders that go out via text (and other preferred channels).

Patients receive reminders in a timely manner. Each reminder provides patients with the option to confirm, reschedule, or cancel their appointment, giving them that element of convenience and ease of use that traditional healthcare communication systems can’t deliver.

With the WELL platform, healthcare providers transform patient communication into a two-way process that meets patients where they are. When patients receive reminders through channels that they normally use, they become more engaged and more involved with their health.

The WELL platform maximizes the power of patient appointment reminders through a variety of features:

Two-Way Patient/Provider Texting Functionality

Two-Way Patient/Provider Texting Functionality

Patients can use their mobile phones to exchange text messages with their physician offices. Bi-directional text messages notify healthcare providers of incoming messages from patients, enabling them to respond to their patients immediately.

Fully-Automated Appointment Scheduling

Fully-Automated Appointment Scheduling

Patients use text to schedule and reschedule their appointments. This eliminates the need to call the clinic or download an external app.

Pre-Appointment Instructions

Pre-Appointment Instructions

Before checking in for their appointments, patients receive a set of instructions to help prepare for their time with their doctors.

Broadcast Messaging

Broadcast Messaging

This WELL feature enables healthcare providers to create and send customized messages to up to 1,000 patients, notifying them of the availability of slots, turning cancellations into revenue.

Multilingual Support

Multilingual Support

WELL supports 19 different languages, including Spanish, German, Japanese, and Chinese. The platform instantly translates messages to a patient’s preferred language, helping providers build rapport and strengthen relationships.

Secure Messaging

Secure Messaging

WELL™ is also designed to protect patient information through secure messaging protocols. All messages are secured and require patients to verify their identity prior to viewing the content of their messages.

Providers Seeing Success With Patient Appointment Reminders

Tandem Health

Tandem Health had been sending patient appointment reminders via a dated communication system that patients found to be unintuitive and cumbersome. Canceling and confirming appointments through the phone or a patient portal required extensive effort, sending Tandem Health’s patient no-show rates to over 20%.

After implementing automated reminders with the WELL platform, patient attendance increased by 25%.

“Just walk into any waiting room. Everyone is on their phones texting,” said Marty Martin, Director of Clinical Informatics. “With WELL, we are meeting them where they already are.”

Vista Community Clinic

Vista Community Clinic (VCC) utilized email and one-way text messaging platforms to notify patients of their upcoming appointments. VCC’s average patient no-show rate was a worrying 23%. In other departments, the figure was beyond 30%.

Six months after implementation, WELL drove down VCC’s patient no-show rate by 25%.

Tiburcio Vazquez Health Center

The Tiburcio Vazquez Health Center (TVHC) sees 115,000 patients a year, most of whom are native Spanish speakers. The majority of TVHC patients were unresponsive to patient appointment reminders being sent in English. The language barrier problem contributed to high no-show rates.

With WELL’s multilingual platform, TVHC’s no-show rate slid down by 20% while confirmed bookings increased from 25% to 80%.

“They’ve given us a better way to talk to our patients; an easier, more efficient way to reach out to people, along with  a better way to handle scheduling,” said Caleb Sandford, TVHC Chief Operations Officer.

Automated patient reminders are key to success for the modern healthcare provider.

To discuss how WELL™ can help, connect with a Communication Specialist.

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