Patient care is the top priority for any healthcare practice. But running a practice successfully means that there are other priorities that must also be squeezed into a day’s work. From managing employees to processing payments, you’re probably overwhelmed with the number of items on your to-do list.
An automated appointment reminder SMS template can tick one of those to-do’s off your list, permanently. It’s no secret that no-show rates are costly and inconvenient for healthcare practices, but there are many different opinions on the best way to tackle the issue, including strict cancellation policies and client management. Most have their merits, but a proactive approach of reminding clients before the appointment is better for everyone.
That’s where SMS appointment reminders come into their own. They’re highly effective, with appointment reminder software improving the number of on-time arrivals and kept appointments, and reducing no-shows by at least 50%.
Let’s take a quick look at the data. A study by the Journal of Family Medicine and Disease Prevention found that the majority of clients missed appointments because they either forgot to attend or didn’t know they had an appointment (37,6%), personal reasons (16,1%), or lack of transportation (6,9%). Another study found that 78% of the patients considered appointment reminders to be helpful and reduced the rate of missed appointments by 11.4%, and allowed to reallocate 28% of cancelled appointments.
What is the Financial Impact of No-shows on Your Practice?
Remember that no-shows are missed appointments that result in lost income and a lot of wasted time. And if you think that the impact on your practice isn’t big, there’s a quick calculation you can do to work out how much they cost you every month:
Number of Patients Per Month X Revenue Per Appointment X No-Show Rate = Monthly Lost Income Due to No-Shows
To put this into context, if you have one no-show per day in your practice (and the rate is probably higher), it will cost you over USD$2,000 per month.
The Top Benefits of an Automated Appointment Reminder SMS Template
From the research, it’s clear that text messages are the most effective (and preferred) medium for appointment reminders, but what is it about an SMS that makes it useful for reducing no-shows?
1. They get sent automatically
Human capital is a scarce resource in healthcare practice, and with your admin staff already run off their feet keeping client records updated, sorting out billing and acting as the first touch-point in the client experience, there really is no need to add manual follow-ups to their to-do list when the task can be done more effectively (and efficiently) using practice management software.
There’s a simple set-up process where you choose an SMS template (and there are many to choose from), set the reminder frequency and timing, and you’re ready to go. The software will send automated reminders freeing up your staff, as well as reducing no-show rates.
Your practice shouldn’t waste valuable resources trying to call clients or sending manual messages – automated text messages cut down on phone time for your reception staff, and have the best chance of being read and acted upon.
2. Everyone receives and reads their SMSes
One of the best reasons to send SMSes rather than relying on phone calls or emails is that SMS technology is available on even the oldest mobile phones, and uses in-built technology that can’t be deleted, so there is no app download necessary. Also, unlike other communication methods such as a phone call or email, almost everyone reads their messages. This is because it’s available on their phone (66% of Americans check their phones 160 times every day) and they’re trustworthy (less than 3% of SMSes sent are spam, compared to over half of all emails).
3. Communication is instant
If you’re relying on email to remind your clients of their appointments, then sending an email on the morning of their appointment won’t reduce your no-show rates. Most people only check their personal email a couple of times a day so, while your email will probably be read at some stage, it might not be in time to remind them about their appointment with you. In contrast, 90% of text messages are read within three minutes of receipt.
4. Text messages aren’t invasive
Your client might be busy driving, talking on the phone or in a meeting when you call to remind them of their appointment, which would make it difficult to answer the phone. Even if they are available, your clients might not feel like answering the phone (up to 40% of them are introverts and will avoid answering the phone at all costs). So, even if you do get through, there’s a good chance that your call will be screened and there’s no guarantee that your client will listen to the voice message that you leave.
With text messages there is less psychological pressure to respond immediately, so you don’t have to drop what you’re doing and answer the call, and you have time to think of your response (and check your diary) before responding.
5. Handy for later referral
One thing that most clients will agree on is that text messages are a handy source of information. Whether your client needed to be reminded about the exact time of the booking, needs a contact number for the practice, or a reminder about what documents need to be brought with them, your simple SMS will have everything they need.
6. They’re accurate
Automated SMS appointment reminders take out most of the opportunities for human error. Unlike a phone call, there’s no chance that the information will be sent or received incorrectly as the client doesn’t need to have good phone reception, nor do they need to remember any information. Your admin staff member will also not be in a position to make errors by confusing the client’s appointment details or forgetting to communicate something important.
7. Easy to add to a client’s phone calendar
Having all the information available in a text message makes it much easier to copy and paste into a calendar reminder. A phone call is less reliable as the client may need to try and find a pen and paper first, or they may think that they’ll remember the details but get distracted as soon as they put the phone down.
8. Certain delivery
If you’ve got their number right, then you can be confident that the message will be delivered successfully because they can’t go to a client’s spam box, and your client will always receive a notification of the SMS. You can also be reasonably certain that the SMS will be read because while email has an open rate of around 20 – 30%, SMS open rates are at over 98%.
9. It offers more privacy
A text message can’t be overheard so unless someone is looking at your client’s phone over their shoulder, they won’t know the contents of your message. This is different from a phone call where other people in the room can hear the client’s side of the conversation and sometimes if the line is clear, they’ll even be able to hear snippets of your admin person talking. In many cases, this can mean that clients will let your call go to voicemail because they don’t want others to know their personal business.
10. Time-based efficiency for the client
It takes only a few seconds to scan a text message and respond. This keeps information exchanges brief and to the point, avoiding unnecessary time wastage. There’s no need for additional conversation chitchat, but this is not perceived as being rude or uncaring by the clients.
11. Text messages are more accessible
For the hearing impaired, those in areas with poor signal, or those who work in noisy office environments, a text message is much easier to receive, read and understand.
12. They are cost-effective
Power Diary, for example, charges USD$0.11 per SMS sent (and they’re free for clients to receive). If you see ten clients a day on average, and each client receives two SMS reminders before their appointment, it will only cost you $50 per month, and the savings could be upwards of $2,000.
5 FREE SMS Reminder Templates
Writing an effective appointment reminder SMS template means including the right information. Knowing how important text messages are for reducing no-shows means that it’s worth taking a bit of time to refine your templates to improve their efficacy.
- Keep your messages short and to-the-point;
- Use simple, easy-to-understand language;
- Remind them about any paperwork they need to bring with them;
- Send messages in the afternoon between 12 pm and 5 pm;
- Ask clients to respond with a simple Y to confirm or N to cancel.
Many no-shows arise because clients have written down the incorrect appointment time, so always include that information in the reminder. Asking them to confirm or cancel via text also encourages them to take immediate action because you’ve made it easy for them to do so. That means you get advance warning of any cancellations (and those slots can then be filled), rather than no-shows because the client forgot to cancel.
SMS Template 1:
You have an appointment with [Healthcare practitioner’s name] on [Date] at [Time]. Reply Y to confirm or N to cancel. Please call our office on [Contact Number] if you have any questions or need to reschedule. Please bring your ID and Medicare card.
SMS Template 2:
Hello [Customer Name], This is a reminder of your appointment with [Practice Name] on [Date] at [Time]. Please reply with YES to confirm or call [Contact Number] to reschedule.
SMS Template 3:
This is a friendly reminder that you have an appointment tomorrow starting at [Time], ([Date]) with us at [Practice Name]. Please give us a call on [Contact Number] if you need to get in touch or reschedule.
SMS Template 4:
Hi [Customer Name], this is a reminder that you have an appointment on [DATE], at [TIME]. Please remember to bring your [Document Name] with you. Thanks, [Practice Name], text YES to confirm.
SMS Template 5:
Hello [Customer Name], you have an appointment booked with [Healthcare Practitioner] on [Date]-[TIME]. Please text YES to confirm.
If you manage a healthcare practice chances are you work long days seeing clients, running the practice and putting out fires. There’s barely enough time to make a cup of tea during the day, so less time-sensitive (but still critical) tasks end up falling by the wayside. And one of these tasks is appointment reminders.
But it’s an area that you can’t afford to neglect. An appointment reminder SMS template continues to be the most effective way to reduce client no-shows which have a direct negative impact on your bottom line because you can’t make up the time or regain that lost income.
With more and more people using their smartphones to manage their daily lives, text messages are the leading medium for reminding your clients about their appointments.
If you’re still on the fence, thinking that text messages are a bit old school, keep in mind that:
- Almost everyone has a phone with SMS technology;
- Close to 100% of SMSes are read (with most of them read within 3 minutes);
- These short messages have the potential to reduce your no-shows by over 80%.
If you know someone that’s struggling to get on top of their no-shows, please pass on this article – it could be exactly what they need to reduce the number of missed appointments in their practice and, at the same time, improve their bottom line.