How Reminder Systems Help Medical Professionals Keep Their Schedules Full
You’ve probably already heard the stats about how costly missed appointments are for a medical practice and how they can also derail a patient’s treatment plan. No business is immune to people missing their appointments, whether it’s a surgeon or a personal trainer.
These missed appointments can hurt both medical practices and patient alike. Offices suffer due to forgone revenue and disorganized chaos, and patients suffer as well. Not only to do they postpone treatment and care, but they can also get frustrated if they miss their appointment and can’t get back into the office for weeks or months.
Depending on the type of office and the patient base, no-show rates can range from 10% to more than 36%, with the average at around 20%. These stats are with no reminder systems in place. Any system that reminds a patient is better than nothing, but as you’ll see, automating and systematizing the process is an ideal way to improve your stats.
The good news is that you can drastically reduce no-shows, which, in turn, should boost your practice’s revenue while also optimizing the time your staff spends on other revenue-generating and business development activities.
Automated recall has evolved over the past few years. Gone are the days of generic and impersonal text messages or automated robo-calls. Now your patients can experience a custom message that’s suited to their preferences. Not only does this help increase patient compliance, but it can also benefit your staff and make their jobs more rewarding and less stressful.
Here are the top 6 ways medical professionals are using reminder systems to manage their time and patients:
Results vary, but studies show that a simple appointment reminder can reduce no-shows drastically. Each clinician’s experience will be different, with some offices reporting a moderate decrease in no-shows of about 4% while other offices boast that their missed appointment rate was cut in half.
It doesn’t take a sit-down meeting with your accountant to determine that missed appointments cost money. If you see an average of 20 patients per day, and each patient visit yields an average price of $100, then 4 missed appointments could cost you around $100,000 per year!
This figure doesn’t even include the added time of your staff to track down patients and reschedule their appointments. It also doesn’t consider the opportunity cost of those tasks, meaning they could be spending their time on activities that help grow your office, which we’ll get to further in this article.
What’s particularly unfortunate is that a last-minute cancellation or complete no-show equates to time that doctors and technicians can’t recover. As you implement a reminder system, we suggest taking stock of your current situation so that you can monitor your improvements.
Start by figuring out your no-show rate by following this formula:
No-Show Rate = No-Shows / Scheduled Appointments
In the example above, the rate would be calculated as 4/20, which equates to 20%. If you can drop that rate down to 7%, then you’ve effectively reduced your no-show rate by 65%.
Here’s the formula in action:
% Decrease = Decrease/Original Number x 100
Visually, that’s 13/20 x 100 = 65%
By decreasing your no-show rate, you increase the revenue and profits of your office without even adding any new patients to your practice!
Keep Care on Track
It’s easy to take our health for granted until something goes wrong. And when it comes to maintenance care or checkups, patients might not prioritize their appointments. However, by keeping patients on a consistent plan of preventive care and maintenance, it can go a long way to preventing health emergencies down the road.
For example, let’s say you run a dental practice and your patients are scheduled for cleanings twice per year. By ensuring your patients make it to the appointments, you’ll be able to catch conditions like cavities, plaque buildup, gingivitis, tooth decay, etc.
Your patient reminder system can also communicate the importance of yearly maintenance to ensure their health. By making sure your patients stay on track with their care, it helps them avoid more serious interventions later.
Increase Customer Satisfaction
Patients want to feel valued and important. We all do, right? But, if all your staff does is schedule their appointments and then expect them to show up and comply with your recommendations, they may come away from your clinic without feeling any emotional connection to your office.
Appointment reminders serve as a touchpoint for your patients. It’s a way to remind them that you’re invested in their care, and you want them to maintain their health.
Think of your interactions with patients just like you would any relationship. If you schedule a dinner with one of your friends or colleagues a month in advance, you’re likely to follow up with them a few days before to make sure your plans are still on. It’s what we do as humans. We confirm the dates.
Similarly, it puts a pretty big burden on your patient to expect them to remember an appointment, especially if it was made months in advance. Buy reaching out to them with a simple and friendly appointment reminder message or phone call, you’re communicating the importance of their presence in your practice.
No matter how organized your patients are, they’re bound to forget things. And, if you’re not sending appointment reminders to them, you’re essentially training your patients to call you every time they forget to write down their appointments in their calendars (or on a post-it note on their computer screen).
Fortunately, if your patients are used to your office sending them an appointment reminder, they’ll be more likely to adopt the habit of waiting for their reminders or checking for a reminder instead of picking up the phone and calling your office.
If a stray phone call does happen to come in, your team will have the chance to ask them if they got their appointment reminder, which is a great way to test the efficacy of your reminder system!
A reminder system helps your office staff stay on track and remain efficient without being thrown off by tardy patients or a barrage of phone calls. This is especially true if your software and systems are automated and integrated to contact patients on autopilot and update patient records as needed.
Imagine how much extra time your office staff would have if they weren’t tied to their desk for an hour or two each day making manual appointment reminder phone calls. Imagine how much more pleasant their jobs would be if they weren’t trying to manage unexpected busy and slow times in your office due to patients not showing up as expected.
By making sure patients are kept in the loop of their appointment times, you have a greater chance of having a smoothly running office. This helps prevent long wait times, lulls in activity, and increases patient satisfaction because they don’t have to wait as a result of accommodating late arrivals.
To sum up, here’s a list of benefits to your office staff
- Reduced phone calls from patients asking about the time of their appointment.
- Decreased chance of patients running behind and causing the doctor to run late.
- Fewer labor hours dedicated to manual patient outreach (unless your patient has specifically requested a live telephone call).
- Happier patients as a result of an office that stays on schedule.
Have you asked your staff what they love most about their job? Do you know what they like least? We can guess with almost perfect certainty that they didn’t decide to work in your office because they love making appointment reminder phone calls. They probably don’t relish in leaving voicemail after voicemail.
Without an automated reminder system, the reality is that your valuable team is doing repetitive work that doesn’t bring them joy. What else could they be doing with that time? They could be spending time with patients, making them feel comfortable and welcome. Or they could be keeping your office on track and organized.
If your staff does any community outreach, marketing or social media, they could use this time to help grow your practice and network on your behalf. Or, they might want to brush up on customer service or communication skills. They might even use the time to learn more about your industry, trends in treatments or discover conferences that you could attend. The possibilities are endless. Virtually any task is going to be more helpful to your bottom line and fulfilling to your staff than being stuck making the same scripted phone calls day in and day out.
Most offices have realized the importance of reminding patients of their appointments. In today’s busy world, it’s a necessity. Otherwise, no-show rates would continue to skyrocket.
However, an automated reminder system does more than just remind patients that they have an appoint with your office. They’re also a valuable tool to build rapport, increase patient satisfaction, keep treatment plans on track and aid your office staff in doing the work that they’re best suited to do.