patient reminder text messages

How Patient Reminder Text Messages Can Help Reduce No-Shows

Missed appointments are a significant problem for the healthcare industry. In a recent Medical Group Management Association poll, 37% of offices reported a jump in no-show rates from 2022 to 2023. Another 52% saw no change.

Patient reminder text messages can reduce the number of appointment no-shows. According to a recent survey, the average person checks their phone a staggering 144 times a day. Three-quarters of Americans check it within five minutes of receiving a notification.

It’s time to make patient reminder text messages a standard part of appointment management. They’re relevant, convenient, and connected to most reasons people don’t show.

Common Reasons Behind Patient No-Shows

When a patient has an upcoming appointment, you make sure they know about it. You might email or make a patient reminder call, which has become standard in appointment management.

Most patients appreciate the reminder or would have shown up either way. But sometimes, no matter how helpful and well-timed your call is, the person doesn’t come in.

Everyone has a different explanation, but most fall into one of four categories. Patient reminder text messages address all of them.

Forgetfulness

“I forgot.”

You’d probably hear this excuse from at least a handful if you called all your no-show patients. These are frustrating conversations, especially when you remember making the appointment confirmation call.

With patient reminder text messages, the communication stays visible. If they open their text message app, it will be right there with messages from family and friends.

Inconvenient Appointment Times

According to a Risk Management Healthcare Policy study, unworkable time slots are a common reason behind appointment no-shows.

This explanation can also be challenging for admins to understand. You wonder why they didn’t decline the time slot or ask to reschedule when you called with an appointment reminder.

Unfortunately, returning a call or email can be difficult. A patient might get a call during work and forget to call back to cancel. Or, they might not have email access at home, so your after-hours message doesn’t reach them.

Others might assume that they can’t reschedule. The average wait time for an available appointment now exceeds 25 days, so it’s a fair assumption. Someone might desperately attempt to get there, fail, and be too embarrassed to call.

With patient reminder text messages, addressing conflicts is more manageable. Patients don’t have to worry about you “getting mad at them” over the phone — even if you never would. 

Instead, they can text you quickly, saying they can’t make it. You get a notification and can reply soon with alternatives. The process is more straightforward and enjoyable for everyone.

Miscommunications

Communication problems are behind a large percentage of missed appointments. Humans are fallible; even the most straightforward reminder message only sometimes works. 

In one study, patients who cited “miscommunication” explained that they:

  • Thought they had canceled
  • Tried to call but didn’t reach anyone
  • Didn’t realize they needed to call
  • Thought the appointment was on a different day or time

Patient reminder text messages can solve these problems and more. One reason is that texts are more straightforward and often more precise than voice communication. 

Think of a patient you call to remind of their 10 am appointment tomorrow. They thought you said 11, and they only figure it out once it’s too late. If the reminder comes by text, they can double-check.

Dissatisfaction With Care

Some patients miss their appointments by choice. They don’t think the doctor can help them, so they lose motivation to come in. 

A friendly reminder might not solve the problem alone, but it can show patients you care. The key is crafting the right patient reminder text messages. 

It’s easy for SMS reminders to sound cold and clinical, but they don’t have to be. Customize your messages with friendly and encouraging language so they don’t sound machine-generated. If you have two-way text messaging software, you can invite them to reply with questions or concerns. 

The Power of Text Message Reminders

Patient reminder text messages meet people where they are. Most patients text friends and family multiple times daily, so SMS appointment reminders are as convenient as possible. Patients don’t even need to stop what they’re doing to answer the phone.

However, an excellent appointment confirmation text is more than just a meeting reminder. When you confirm appointments by text, you connect with patients personally — without straining your practice’s resources.

Benefits of Using Text Messages for Reminders

There are many reasons to use text in your practice. Convenience is the most readily apparent, but the business case for patient reminder text messages goes much deeper.

Every appointment reminder text makes you more competitive, strengthens patient relationships, and enhances patient experiences. Let’s explore how.

Reduced No-Show Rates

Preventing no-shows is why many practices start sending text reminders for appointments. Fortunately, the strategy works.

Research has shown a connection between patient reminder text messages and reduced no-show rates. In one study conducted in an urban pediatric clinic, more than a third of families without a text message failed to show up. The no-show rate was less than a quarter among those who received a text.

A broader study review looked at no-show rates across the world. It confirmed that receiving a notification made patients 25% less likely to “no-show” without canceling — and 23% more likely to attend.

Since those studies, the number of text messages sent worldwide has increased by almost 17%, reaching 2 billion daily texts. Text messaging has remained just as effective, and best practices keep evolving.

For example, according to a 2022 study, a follow-up text message can reduce no-show rates even more. Given that the top two reasons for no-shows are “forgetting” and “miscommunication,” extra patient reminder text messages can only help.

Improved Patient Engagement

Text appointment reminders may start as one-way communication, but they don’t need to stay that way. Today’s patient reminder text messages allow patients to reply with a confirmation, cancellation, or question.

Even if a patient doesn’t reply, simply receiving an SMS reminder creates a connection. This connection is more immediate and reliable than a phone call or email, which a patient has to step away to answer. 

People can read and reply to patient reminder text messages at work, at home, or while running errands. They can engage with your office while caring for their kids or walking the dog. Appointment confirmation texts bring you into patients’ daily lives, closing the gap between doctor’s office and home.

Time and Cost Savings

Patient reminder text messages also directly affect your practice’s bottom line. Consider how long it takes for a member of your office to complete a reminder call. Then, multiply that by your weekly patient count.

Let’s say it takes an employee two minutes to make the average reminder call. Most physicians in the U.S. see between 11 and 30 patients per day, so we’ll meet in the middle at 20. 

That’s 40 minutes daily, which works out to 200 minutes per five-day workweek — three hours and 20 minutes. If your office is open 52 weeks a year, that’s over 173 hours. 

Resulting expenses, assuming typical administrator pay rates? Over $4,000 a year.

Reminder text messages are much more affordable and free your employees for more meaningful tasks. You can do more with the same number of staff, and your patients get more of your attention and time.

How to Craft Effective Reminder Messages

Patient reminder text messages have a lot of potential, but not just any message will do. The tone and style of those reminders speak volumes about your practice, professionalism, and familiarity with texting norms.

If this is your first foray into SMS reminders, follow these tips for crafting the perfect patient text message:

  • Use the patient’s name. Use first names unless patients specifically request otherwise.
  • Keep it brief. No one wants to read lengthy texts. Convey essential appointment details, such as date and time. Then, direct them to the correct next steps, such as filling out intake forms before the appointment.
  • Follow standard grammar and usage rules. Patient reminder text messages are professional communication and should read as such. Avoid texting slang, even if your patient base is younger.
  • Include links to action items. If you have digital patient forms for pre-registration, link to them in your message. Check the mobile-friendliness of those forms first!
  • Shorten links. Bulky links are confusing and distracting in text format. Use a free shortener like bitly or TinyURL to make those links more SMS-friendly. You can even add custom anchor text like “pre-register here.”
  • Send the text during business hours. You’ll want to be around for the patient’s reply, so send confirmations when people are in the office. 

Before you send your first SMS reminder, create a text message template that suits your practice. Leave room for your automation system to add the patient’s name, appointment date, and other details. 

Feel free to use our texting template examples as starting points.

Best Practices for Ensuring Patient Privacy and Consent

Text messaging is more complicated for medical offices than for other types of businesses. A veterinary office, auto shop, or hair salon doesn’t need to comply with patient privacy laws, but you do.

You need to ensure your patient reminder text messages comply with the Health insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Fortunately, it just takes a few simple steps to make your patient texts HIPAA-compliant.

Most importantly, you need to get permission from the patient to send texts. This step also helps you comply with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which requires consent for any business-to-customer communications.

HIPAA also restricts any communication involving protected health information (PHI). Text messages have a high risk of accidental disclosure, as it’s easy for someone nearby to glimpse a notification. 

Patients must explicitly consent to receiving PHI, such as diagnoses or test results, as text notifications. It’s generally safest to avoid texting that information. Instead, link to a password-protected patient area and host the PHI there. 

If a patient needs to receive diagnosis-related information via text, be sure they know of the risks of accidental disclosure. This disclosure should be a part of all SMS messaging consent forms, especially where PHI is involved.

How Reminder Systems Can Integrate With Appointment Scheduling Software

Patient reminder text messages never happen in a vacuum. They’re one small piece of a medical facility’s workflow and need to act like it.

The best-case scenario is a scheduling system that integrates automated text reminders. The reminder tool gets information from your practice calendar, allowing you to text every patient on a schedule.

For example, suppose you want to send reminders 48 hours and 24 hours before an appointment. Customize the message with an appointment reminder template, which complete solutions like Demandforce provide as part of your package. The system will fill in the correct personalized information for you.

Tell the system which texts you want to send at 24 and 48 hours, then let the automation do the work. Your patients will get personalized patient reminder text messages, and you can focus on answering questions.

Leverage a Patient Communication Solution That Works for You

Patient reminder text messages are powerful tools for medical practices. They reduce no-shows while helping patients feel connected to their healthcare providers. They show your understanding of patients’ busy lifestyles and commitment to making medical care accessible.

As with any tool, patient reminder text messages are most manageable when they fit smoothly into your workflow. Demandforce’s patient engagement platform makes it easy to reach patients where they are. The system makes scheduling and rescheduling easy for patients. They come to know you as an easy office to work with, and your team has easier days.

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