Frequent Reminders: Why They are a Must for Busy Patients
Does it seem like everyone is busier than they were just a few years ago? Being busy is a byproduct of our modern, digital age, and is even seen as a status symbol by society. Right or wrong, it’s almost as if you have to be busy to prove that what you’re doing is important and meaningful.
Regardless of what’s occupying someone’s day, there’s no denying that we are all busy and pulled in a million directions. Being connected 24/7 to email, mobile phones, the Internet, and social media has blurred the line between work and life. It can be nearly impossible to disconnect, relax, and have a device-free day.
There’s always a silver lining, though. And, in this case, busy patients who lead a device-dependent lifestyle are some of the easiest to reach, especially for appointment reminders.
Why You Should be Sending Frequent Reminders
As the world evolves more and more into a digital age, the number of things competing for our attention increases. Your customers are no exception.
To reduce no-show and cancellation rates, offices have begun relying on reminders that help keep patients on track with their visits and treatment plans. While the standard practice is to send a text or call a patient about 24 hours before their scheduled appointment, busy patients may need more frequent reminders. After all, they have a lot going on! You can find best practices for reminders here.
Need more convincing? Here are 5 reasons to send frequent reminders to your busy patients to increase show-up rates and ensure treatment compliance.
- It’s Easy to Forget about an Appointment
Even if you remind your patient of an appointment the day before, there’s a decent chance they’ll forget about their schedule by the time the next day rolls around. A lot can happen in 24 hours!
Here’s a hypothetical example illustrating this point:
Suzi has an appointment on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. You send her a reminder on Monday at 8:30 in the morning (precisely 24 hours in advance), and she confirms that she’ll be there. Tuesday comes bright and early, and Suzi has had a whirlwind of a morning. One of her three children made a massive mess in the kitchen trying to “help” with breakfast, and her husband’s car has a dead battery. She needs to drive him to work, get the kitchen cleaned up, and help see the kids off to school. Oh, and did we mention that Suzi also has a full-time job?
Given all that Suzi has going on, she’s likely to forget that she also has an appointment with your office. But, if you send her a friendly reminder text at around 7:00 a.m. that morning, your message will be one of the first things she sees as she begins her day.
It will allow her to make arrangements at home so that she can make it to her appointment. She may ask her husband to Uber or drop him at work on the way to her appointment. And she can choose to tend to the kitchen later or have a cleaning person come and sort it out for her.
This is just one of an infinite number of examples of how someone can easily forget about an appointment and why it’s helpful to remind busy patients more than once that they’ve scheduled a visit.
- Things Come Up
As you read in the previous hypothetical example of “Suzi,” things come up and even the best-laid plans can hit a roadblock. A patient might schedule an appointment a month in advance and have every intention of keeping it. But, that pesky thing called “life” often gets in the way and it can derail even the most organized, calendar-centric person.
The more time that passes between when an appointment gets scheduled and the date it’s due to occur makes it all that more likely that your patient will have something that interferes with your schedule. Hopefully, your patient will remember that they’ve got a prior commitment with your office, but if they don’t, then you risk having a no-show or cancellation on your books.
You might think that a single reminder a day or two before is enough to ensure this patient shows up, but when an appointment is made far in advance, frequent reminders will help increase show-up rates.
For example, let’s say Jim booked his appointment 6 weeks ago. He travels quite a bit for work, and an unexpected client emergency has come up that is going to conflict with his future appointment. If your office relies on just a single notification instead of frequent reminders, then Jim might completely forget that he’ll be out of town during his scheduled appointment time.
However, if your office sends him a couple of reminders in the six-week interim, Jim can reschedule his appointment as soon as he finds out about his trip.
- You Stay Top of Mind
Patients like Jim and Suzi have a lot going on in their lives. It’s easy to forget about an appointment, and a busy lifestyle also means that the perceived importance of a scheduled office visit can wane, especially if other commitments are competing for attention.
By sending frequent reminders to patients who are busy, it helps them keep their calendar clear and avoid scheduling conflicts. When someone asks Jim or Suzi if they’re free for lunch next Thursday, they’re more likely to remember that they have already booked something with your office if they’ve recently received a reminder about it.
Going forward, patients like Jim and Suzi will be mindful of scheduling potential conflicts because they know they’ve already carved out that time slot.
- You Have to Compete for Attention
We are all bombarded by messages constantly. Countless notifications on social media, hundreds of emails, dozens of text messages, and a full voicemail box all require attention daily. If you are only sending a single appointment reminder to your patients, then it might not be seen.
However, if you send multiple reminders, your patients are more likely to see them and make either a mental or physical note of the time commitment on their calendar. This doesn’t mean sending a text message, email, or calling them every single day. That would be obnoxious and spammy.
So, how do you know when you’re sending too many messages? Our post Finding the Best Cadence for Reminder Messages will help you establish some guidelines, so you’ll find the right balance. The key is to send reminders frequently enough to encourage compliance without sending them so often that your clients become annoyed with you and your staff.
- Missed Appointments are Hard to Reschedule
Your patients aren’t the only ones with a hectic schedule. You’ve got a busy life, too! When a patient misses their appointment, it can be a massive challenge to reschedule it, especially if your office calendar is already packed.
And, considering how busy your patients are, it can be hard to find a mutual time that fits in your schedule. It’s far better to help your patients keep their existing appointments than try to find another time slot that works for both of you.
Helpful Tip: Don’t Nag
There’s a saying that goes something like this: “If I tell you I’ll do something, that means I’ll do it. You don’t have to keep reminding me every six months about it.” What’s funny about this quote is that the person who said it most certainly does need reminding! If they didn’t, then the task would have already been done.
Though reminders are meant to be helpful, if you’re not careful, then they can come across as annoying or nagging. Your patients need your care and services, and you’re providing them with valuable healthcare so that they can live their best life. Despite that, try not to overwhelm them with messages, especially if they’ve expressed a preference to keep communication to a minimum.
- Keep the tone of your calls and messages friendly and professional.
- Provide all the pertinent details of the appointment in your call or message.
- Ask patients to confirm that they are still on track to attend.
- Offer a convenient way to cancel or reschedule.
Though frequent reminders might be a turnoff for some patients, others will appreciate that you’re taking the time to help them remember that they’ve made an appointment. They wouldn’t have made the appointment if they didn’t want to come to your office, so keep in mind that you are helping them achieve their goals when you send a reminder.
As a final reminder, know each of your patient’s communication preferences before setting up a frequent reminder system and adhere to their wishes. Your patient management system will allow you to keep notes about these preferences as well as schedule all of your follow-up. There is no one-size-fits-all solution that will make everyone happy, so by customizing your patient outreach, you can create a custom experience for every member of your practice.