5 Tips for Successful Patient Reminder CallsPosted: July 27, 2022 - By Health Dev
There would be no need for patient reminder calls in a perfect world because they would always show up on time for scheduled office visits. Unfortunately, this is far from a perfect world, and many patients will forget the dates and times of their medical appointments.
Missed appointments are more than just a hassle; they cost your practice money. If you don’t take steps to raise the patient arrival rates, the cost of those empty examination rooms can be substantial.
Missed office visits can also negatively affect a patient’s treatment outcome. Missed appointments can result in fragmented care, which can be particularly detrimental in treating long-term illnesses like cancers.
A quick phone call to a patient should be seen as an intervention to prevent problems for medical practice and the patient. The problem is usually finding someone with enough free time to make appointment reminder calls. That is why many medical practices are turning to the technology that allows them to schedule automated reminder calls.
Automated patient reminder calls, provided by a reputable and reliable IT partner, allow you or your staff to enter upcoming appointments into a patient’s file, set the frequency and number of calls, and let the appointment reminder calls software handle the rest.
How Do Reminder Calls Improve Quality of Care and No-Show Rate?
It’s not hard to figure out how reminder calls improve the no-show rate. Appointments are frequently made months in advance, and even the most organized patient may forget to write it in their calendar or write it in on the wrong date or time. One or more calls made to the patient in the days leading up to the appointment will keep the scheduled time and date fresh in their mind.
If timed correctly, patient reminder calls may also help to lower your practice’s cancellation rate. A call to a patient a week or more ahead of an office visit will give them time to change any plans they have made, so they are free for their appointment.
What may not be as obvious is how reminder calls can improve the quality of care. Many medical practices regularly overbook appointment slots to counteract the losses caused by empty exam rooms because patients don’t show up for scheduled appointments. This may lead to extended wait times and harried doctors and staff if everyone happens to show up for their appointments.
Reminder calls can predictably raise arrival rates, so there is less need for overbooking. Automated reminder calls enhance this benefit by freeing up the person who would typically make appointment reminder calls to be involved with in-house patient care.
How Can You Be More Successful With Calls to Patients?
Any call from your medical practice about an upcoming appointment may help raise the arrival rate, but the right call made at the right time will be even more effective.
Personalize Your Telephone Reminder Calls
No one likes receiving generalized robocalls. These calls are often ignored and messages deleted without being fully listened to. To avoid this, start the call with a greeting that includes the patient’s name and the caller’s name.
A call that begins, “Good Morning, Mr. Brown, this is Samantha from Dr. Blue’s office” in a bright, cheerful voice is less likely to be ignored than one that starts, “This is Dr. Blue’s office calling.”
Keep Target Population’s Preferred Language in Mind
You may not always know the preferred language of the patient you are calling. If you are aware that the primary language of a patient is not English, then you should make every effort to make the reminder calls in the patient’s native tongue. This will improve the call’s effectiveness, but it will also make the patient feel that they are important to you as an individual.
Prioritize High-Risk Patients
High-risk patients may suffer the most from the fragmented care resulting from missed office visits. They are also likely to be distracted by their medical condition and its effect on their lives. When setting up reminder calls, make sure that patients in the high-risk categories, like those battling cancers or other life-threatening illnesses, are at the top of the list.
Consider Text or Email Reminders to Support Contact
Let’s face it, many people, especially those under the age of 30, don’t answer their phones unless they know they recognize the number that shows on their caller ID. Many of them will not listen to messages left by those numbers either.
To reduce the chances that the attempts you make at contacting patients will accomplish nothing, consider sending texts or emails about upcoming appointments to patients in addition to calling them with mobile phone reminders. This will help bridge the generation gap and get your message to the broadest swath of patients.
Respect the Time Factor While Calling
If you find yourself asking the question, “When are patient reminder calls usually placed to patients?” then you should take the time to find the answer before placing your first call.
A call placed too early will irritate whoever it wakes up and will often be ignored. A call placed during the dinner hour is more likely to get answered but may still be an annoyance to the patient and their family. And a call placed too late in the evening may scare people who think it must be bad news if a doctor’s office calls them late in the evening.
Annoy or frighten your patients enough, and not only may they cancel their current appointment, but they also may never schedule another one. The most straightforward answer may be to schedule your appointment reminder calls during regular business hours, avoiding weekends and holidays.
Make Appointment Reminder Calls Efficiently With Technology
Studies have shown that patient reminder calls effectively increase arrival rates at your medical practice. Those studies did not reveal how much of a time drain reminder calls can be for a medical practice’s staff. Thankfully, Demandforce has the technology and skills to help your office make automated reminder calls without taxing your already overburdened staff.