For years, providing patients with appointment cards was the standard method used to remind them…
13 Reasons Why an Automated Reminder System is Your Practice’s Best Friend
Unless your patients have superhuman memory, chances are that they’ve forgotten about an appointment at least once. Perhaps they had to reschedule at the last minute because they made other plans, and it slipped their mind that they had a prior commitment.
Today, our lives are busier than ever. Balancing a career, family, hobbies, and extracurricular activities while still trying to take a moment to breathe means that paying attention to one’s health can take a back seat. This is especially true for maintenance and preventative health care like teeth cleanings and eye exams.
Savvy office managers have known for years that appointment reminders reduce the number of missed appointments, increase patient satisfaction rates, and help grow the revenue of a medical office. With recent technological advances, appointment reminders have become even more valuable to a busy practice. They’re almost like having another staff member that never has to take a break or go on vacation.
Still, many practices are rightfully concerned about automation. Does it come at the cost of the personal relationships you have with your patients? Will patients’ data be compromised due to a digital security breach? Does it threaten the job security of your staff? With Weave’s automated appointment reminders, the answer to these questions is “no.” You can learn more about Weave’s solution at https://www.getweave.com/custom-reminders
Not only does an automated system does replace some manual office tasks, which is nice, we’ve found that this vastly improves the efficiency of the practice and enhances the patient experience. We’ve come to refer to automated appointment reminder systems as a medical practice’s best friend, and we’ll share 13 reasons why.
Reduce Missed Appointments
There are two types of people: those who use a calendar consistently to track all of their commitments, and those who are certain they’ll be able to keep it all in their head. For patients relying on memory, getting a reminder can mean the difference between showing up for their appointment and forgetting about it completely.
Even the most organized people can forget about an appointment from time to time. Sending an automated reminder the day before can help them remember that they have somewhere to be, and it reduces the risk of an empty waiting room.
Gone are the days when you could just write the appointment time on a business card and expect perfect attendance rates, if such a time ever existed. With the rest of the world going paperless, patients may no longer have a physical place to put the card to help them remember, and it will likely end up under a pile of junk mail.
In 2019, people are more reliant on their smartphones for text messages, emails, and call reminders than ever before. They tend to have at least one smart device within reach all day, even when they go to the bathroom. Because of this, sending a text appointment reminder or making a quick phone call, whether automated or live, is bound to get their attention.
We’ve also discovered that because people are so attached to their phones, they tend to expect a reminder, and when they don’t get one, they assume that they don’t have an appointment. That may seem odd, but it illustrates just how attached people are to their devices.
Send them a text, and you’ll have their full attention. By helping your patients remember that they have a commitment at your office on a specific date and time, you can increase show-up rates.
The bottom line is that reducing the number of missed appointments directly affects a practice’s revenue. Numerous studies have shown that missed appointments drop by 25% to 50% when an office implements an automated appointment reminder system. Not only does this impact your finances, but it also means your patients will come in regularly, helping them maintain their health.
Reschedule Appointments Efficiently
If a patient happens to remember that they won’t be able to make their appointment, they also have to remember to give you a call and reschedule. It can be a lot of work that sometimes leads to an unproductive game of phone tag.
Fortunately, an automated appointment reminder system can also make rescheduling more efficient and hassle-free. When your patient receives a text or call, they’ll be able to confirm that they’ll attend the appointment. If they can’t make it, they can reschedule on the spot by selecting an option on their phone’s number pad.
Advanced two-way systems like Weave also allow patients, in a seamless conversation, to speak to a live person at the office to reschedule immediately. Instead of endless voicemails, both you and your patients will feel relieved at how easy it is to reschedule.
Reactivate Lapsed Patients
Not everyone tracks when it’s time for a teeth cleaning or eye checkup, but the fact of the matter is that these health maintenance visits should be routine. Before the advent of tracking software, office staff would have to manually track when a patient was due for a visit and begin making phone calls or sending letters.
Today, that process is so much easier. By using a system like Weave, you can set everything up in advance. Here are some of the features we recommend:
- If the patient hasn’t scheduled their appointment, send them a friendly reminder that they’re due to come in for a checkup.
- If the patient is past due, send them an email, text, or call reminding them that they need to schedule.
- Send birthday greetings that let your patients know you’re thinking about them while also gently encouraging them to make and attend an appointment.
- If their current payment method failed or they have a past due balance, send them a reminder so that they can update their payment information.
Most offices collect patient email addresses, and this can be another touchpoint to reactive patients and encourage compliance. For example, we recommend sending regular and relevant content to your patient list. You can segment your list by interest and add custom fields to your email correspondence reminding them of when their next appointment is.
If your patient is part of a family unit and not everyone in the family is visiting your office, use email as a tool to keep your brand at the top of their minds, and you can openly invite your patients to bring their friends and family members to your practice.
Multiple Touch Points
There’s not a one-size-fits-all point of contact that will make everyone happy. We’re all different, and that means that one patient may love getting phone calls while another prefers to receive texts.
In the early days of automated appointment reminder systems, office staff wouldn’t be able to easily segment their patients’ preferences. The best-case scenario would be to keep a file that they’d need to pull up and review before reaching out.
Now, however, it couldn’t be easier. If a patient says explicitly how they prefer to be contacted, that goes in their file, and this information is instantly communicated with any outreach system. If their record says they want text only, then when it’s time to remind the patient of their appointment, the system will automatically send a text message.
You’ll never have to write a reminder to yourself that Billy wants a text and Cheryl wants a phone call. Your appointment reminder system handles it all for you!
Fully Customizable for Your Practice’s Needs
An automated appointment reminder system is fully customizable. You’re no longer limited to just listing the date and time of the appointment. Your message reminders can be friendly, conversational, and unique to each of your patients.
Every field that’s entered into the system can become a merge field, which means you can customize it with your patient’s data. For example, your message can start with a friendly greeting that includes the patient’s first name.
The system will also populate the message with the time of the appointment, what type of visit it is, the name of the doctor, and any relevant instructions for the appointment that you could specify in your system in advance.
Being able to time messages is another important benefit. Instead of doing an all-morning dialing marathon trying to reach everyone at once – or worse, having to interrupt your work flow all day to make reminder calls – your system will handle it for you and reach out to patients at the interval you suggest.
An ideal time to reach out to a patient is 24 hours before they’re due to come into your office. By scheduling a call or message at this time, you’ll have the highest possible attendance rate, and you won’t have to lift a finger. The system handles everything.
You can also customize the number of times you reach out to a patient and how. If a patient hasn’t confirmed their appointment, you can send an automatic message reminding them to confirm. You can also begin sending reminders several days in advance. For particularly important appointments, staffers will often choose to send a reminder three weeks before the visit, and then send follow-ups one week prior as well as the day before.
Save Time and Reduce Labor Costs
If you have a high-volume practice that sees a lot of patients a day, calling each one individually can be a huge drain on time and resources. It ties up phone lines and staff members, making it hard to field incoming calls and serve new patients that are calling in.
On average, it takes between four to eight minutes to make a patient phone call. Multiply that by 10, 20 or 30 and you’ve pulled your staff away from other important activities that they could be doing instead. You’d rather focus work on activities that drive revenue into the practice instead of doing manual tasks that are ideal for automation.
Also, consider that most people don’t even answer their telephone and that often the hours that your office is open and available to receive calls is precisely the time that most people are at work and indisposed to answer. Having an automated system ensures that you’ll be able to reach your patient base and remind them of their appointment times without having to deal with the frustration of getting voicemail every time.
To err is human, and even the most detail-oriented staffers are bound to make a mistake here or there. Dialing a wrong number, getting a patient file mixed up, or forgetting to remind the patient altogether are all missteps that have happened at every office at one time or another.
With an automated system, these mistakes won’t happen because all of the data is available to the computer, and the system will carry out the tasks it’s assigned. As long as your original patient data is up to date, accuracy won’t be an issue.
Patient Privacy and Legal Compliance
Being able to send confidential messages to a patient about their appointment helps maintain the patient’s privacy rights and allows a medical office to remain HIPAA compliant. The system requires only contact information, not sensitive medical data, and you can automate a message that only refers to the doctor’s name and the time of the appointment.
Though you already know not to leave detailed and potentially embarrassing messages on voicemail, using an automated text system takes all the guesswork out of the process. There’s no gray area, and there are no judgement calls to make.
Easy to Manage without Having to Babysit
In years past, an office manager might have had a giant calendar to manage. Pages upon pages of files to juggle and calls to make on a daily basis could easily become a stress headache in the making. Unable to rely on memory alone, workspaces would be littered with Post-it notes reminding front desk staff to collect payment, reschedule appointments, or follow up with insurance companies.
There was always something to do and never any downtime, and patients would sometimes fall through the cracks. It was chaotic, and though some people thrive in that type of environment, it’s almost never a good experience for your patients.
With an automated system, all of the data and the “to-dos” are housed in a digital system with “tickler” reminders that automatically get executed. Need to collect payment? Your system will send a note to the patient. Need to reactivate a patient? Your system will know when to do it and what content to send. Need to cancel an appointment on your end because the doctor had a last-minute emergency? The system can reach out to the patient and let them know. You get the idea.
All of this allows you to focus on what’s important: creating a comfortable and low-stress in-person experience. Instead of dreading a visit to the doctor or dentist, your patients may actually start looking forward to it.
Today, many systems advocate a “set it and forget it” method. While we would never recommend ignoring the functionality and optimization of a system after implementation, we do recommend taking full advantage of your automated appointment reminder systems to lighten the workload and make patient communications more efficient.
Once you have a basic setup in place, you can continue to improve it, add touch points, and refine the communication as necessary. Every office is unique and has its own communication style and tone. With an automated appointment reminder system, you’ll be able to create a consistent experience at every communication opportunity.
Advances in Technology
Though any type of automated appointment reminder system is better than nothing, we at Weave can’t help but be proud of how far things have come in such a short time.
Reminder software no longer generates a robo-call or a generic text reminder. Today’s systems are fully customizable and create an experience that makes your patient feel like a valued patron of your practice. From first name greetings to appointment details, notifications can be tailored to fit any office’s preferences.
A recent development is the advent of two-way communication. It used to be that if a patient needed to reschedule or confirm, they would have to call the office directly. Now there are options for the patient to confirm or reschedule directly from their message screen. It makes the process simple, streamlined, and convenient for everyone.
Advanced systems like Weave’s integrate with all major patient management systems. This means that you don’t need to maintain two databases or customer files to keep track of everything. The systems are connected, so when a patient calls or you need to reach out to them, you’ll have their full patient history at your fingertips.
Things fall through the cracks. Someone might forget to send a patient reminder or do a necessary follow-up phone call. A system like Weave can help in a couple of ways. First, having automation reduces the risk of oversight, which we’ve touched on already.
Where a system like Weave shines is when it comes accountability. With Weave’s call tracking software, you’ll be able to see at a glance which staff members make and answer the most calls. Plus, you’ll know if every patient received their automated reminders and find out which ones need a personal follow-up. If anyone on your team isn’t pulling their weight, you’ll have objective data that you can use for setting expectations.
It’s also helpful to identify a team member that is going above and beyond the call of duty. In the past, their efforts might not have been noticed. At the very least, it would have been tough to objectively measure them. This system makes it easy.
Consistency is Key
Whether we like to admit it or not, we often gravitate toward chain stores and restaurants because we like knowing what to expect. A Starbucks in New York will make a cup of coffee that tastes identical to a cup of Starbucks coffee in California.
With an automated appointment reminder system, each reminder will receive a consistent message. This helps create a uniform experience for the patient while also aiding in your office’s branding efforts.
There will be no more “ums” and “ahs” on the phone or a different experience for your patient depending on who makes the follow-up call. Instead, each touchpoint will meet your standard for excellence because it’s already been planned for execution.
Improved Health Outcomes
We saved the best for last. The goal of any doctor’s office is to help their patients live their best lives. However, just like skipping gym sessions, missing a doctor’s appointment means they’re not getting the care they need. Problems stay undiagnosed, and treatment plans may not get recommended or executed if the patient doesn’t consistently attend their appointments.
Further, we all know that patients tend to stop coming if they don’t get regular reminders. By having an automated system in place to remind patients when it’s time to come in, you help them keep their health on track. It’s a win-win.
Change can be a challenge. It often seems unfamiliar and intimidating… but it doesn’t have to be.
If your office has been doing things manually or you’re using a barebones automation system, the idea of making a procedural switch can seem like a giant leap. Fortunately, a system like Weave requires no tech skills whatsoever, and we offer plenty of training and free webinars so that you can familiarize yourself with all the features. You’ll have a working automated system that provides a unique experience for your patients that will be up and running in no time.
The options to communicate in real-time with your patients are more advanced than ever before, and these are exciting times to be in the healthcare field. Practice members finally have the tools to provide a VIP experience at scale without having to invest in a large team to make it happen.
Have you implemented an automated appointment reminder system yet? Do you have a basic one that’s not quite meeting your expectations? Let us know!