An appointment reminder service for doctors automates one of the most time-consuming administrative tasks of any clinic: reminding patients to attend their scheduled appointment. 

On the topic of medical appointment reminders, we have some bad news and some good news. 

The bad news is that phone call reminders don’t work like they used to. With the rise in robocalls, people aren’t picking up their phones, especially if they don’t have your number saved in their contacts list.

The good news is that email and text reminders can be automated with the right technology. Here’s how you can reduce appointment cancellations and no-shows using an appointment reminder service for doctors.

 

What are appointment reminder services for doctors?

Appointment reminder services for doctors are automated emails and text messages that are sent to patients after they’ve booked an appointment with your clinic. Appointment reminder services reduce no-shows and cancellations by reminding patients of their appointment and giving them a way to reschedule if they need to. 

 

Why automated reminders need to be HIPAA compliant  

Before we dive into the benefits of an appointment texting service, we’re going to stress something you’re likely aware of: the need for HIPAA-compliant reminder software.

Text and email appointment reminders are allowed under HIPAA, as long as your clinic adopts software that secures patient data.  

Pro tip: Limit the amount of private medical information in all appointment reminder communication. 

For example, instead of specifying that your communication is from “Cosmetic Dentistry Services”, make sure the reminder comes from “Dr. Allen.” 

Don’t use your patients’ names in reminders if you can avoid it.

Finally, don’t include information about diagnoses or treatment plans in reminders.

 

8 benefits of using automated appointment reminders to reduce patient no-shows

  1. Reduce lost revenue from no-shows and cancellations.
    Automated appointment reminders make the most of your available time slots by reducing no-shows and cancellations, so you’re not losing out on potential revenue (more on that below). 
  2. Reduce patient no-shows.
    Electronic appointment reminders are more likely to be received than a phone call. Automated appointment reminders may be sent the same day of a patient’s appointment – “I forgot about my appointment” becomes an excuse of the past. 
  3. Reduce cancellations.
    With automated appointment alerts, patients can still cancel appointments – but they’re more likely to cancel with ample notice, giving other patients the chance to fill those cancelled time slots. 
  4. Reduce waiting lists.
    When no-shows and cancellations are optimized, your clinic will be able to move patients off of waitlists and on to your schedule. 
  5. Increase office efficiency.
    When you eliminate manual appointment reminders, you’re saving your reception staff hours of time making phone calls. 
  6. Fill your calendar to the max.
    When your appointment reminder solution comes with online booking, your cancellations become free appointments in real time. Other patients can then automatically book over that time without manual calendar management from your staff. 
  7. Make your patients happy.
    If there’s one thing people don’t like these days, it’s picking up the phone. Email and text appointment reminders are a non-invasive way to remind your patients about their appointments – and they’ll appreciate you for it. 
  8. Expand your clinic hours without additional staff time.
    Automated appointment reminders are a 24/7 service, unlike your physical staff. You can set up patient reminders so they’re sending outside business hours, when patients are more likely to see them. 

 

Email, text, or call reminders: Choosing the best channel for your patients 

Let’s say your front desk staff love calling patients to remind them of their appointments. You may consider phone calls a valuable, personal touch point between your clinic and your patients. 

Yes – older patients may still appreciate the personal touch of a phone call. But people under 40 think of phone calls as a waste of time. Why say something in a phone call that can be said in an email or text?

Automated text and email reminders have become customizable to the sender’s needs, and they are much more likely to be seen by millennial patients. 

Here are the benefits and pitfalls of each channel for appointment reminders: 

 

Phone Email Text
HIPAA compliant
Automated
Customizable
High rate of receipt
EHR integrated

 

 

How to pick the best patient appointment reminder: 5 questions you should ask before choosing

If you’re ready to invest in an appointment reminder but don’t know which one to choose, here are five non-negotiable features that should be included in your solution of choice. 

Is it HIPAA compliant? 

Google “automated appointment reminders” and you’ll come across a gamut of software solutions for the restaurant industry, hair stylists, personal trainers … any industry that requires an appointment to engage with a service.

But not all of these solutions were made for healthcare providers. 

As a primary care provider, you have an obligation to protect your patients’ privacy in a way that hair stylists don’t.

Choose a solution made for healthcare providers as a surefire way to make sure all your email and text reminders are HIPAA compliant.

 

Does it integrate with your techstack? 

Your clinic is beholden to your EHR, and that’s okay. Automated appointment software for clinics was designed to integrate with EHR systems so your data is centralized and updated in real time. 

Any automated appointment reminder system that isn’t integrated with your EHR and other practice management software will create silos. A patient may cancel and reschedule an appointment in one system while your EHR still “thinks” there’s an appointment. 

Avoid the headache and choose an integrated approach. 

 

Is it easy to use?

If your staff can’t easily update your email and text reminder copy, your appointment reminders risk losing their personal touch and becoming ineffective. 

What if you want to send certain reminders to patients who booked an appointment for a specific service and not others? Or what if, say, a global pandemic hit and you needed to communicate crucial information to your patients when they book an appointment?

It should be easy to train your staff to use your automated appointment reminder software. Even though they’ll barely need to touch reminder text once it’s been set up, they shouldn’t waste time trying to figure out software that’s difficult to navigate when they do need to engage with it.

 

Can you automate your reminders? 

Did you know texts have an open rate of 97%?

If you start to send text reminders to your patients, they’ll see them. But how often should you send them?

A good cadence for appointment reminders is to send one month out, one week out, one day out, and one hour out

So that’s four reminders spread over a solid amount of time to reduce cancellations and no shows.

But to make this cadence feasible, your reminders will need to be automated. Meaning you should be able to “set it and forget it” so you’re meeting optimal requirements with little to no work after set up.

 

Does it handle reschedules and cancellations?

Life happens and your patients will always need to cancel and reschedule appointments.

You can’t avoid that reality. But you can choose an automated appointment reminder solution that hooks into an online booking system that allows for each rescheduling after a cancellation. 

Rescheduling is a core feature of any great reminder automation software, because this is what will allow you to reduce the impact cancellations have on your bottom line. 

 

How appointment cancellations and no-shows affect your bottom line 

Missed appointments cost the American healthcare system $150 billion every year

Yes. $150 billion. 

Your clinic could be seeing anywhere between a 5% to 30% no-show rate. Every 60 minutes’ worth of missed appointment is costing clinics an average of $200 every time. 

But those are averages. You want to know how much patient no-shows are affecting your bottom line. Here’s how to calculate the impact of no-shows on your clinic:

Multiply your average number of patients per month by your average revenue per appointment. Multiply that number by your average no-show rate. 

That’s the amount of revenue you’re losing every month to no-shows. 

Your automated reminder software solution can help you recuperate a large portion of this lost revenue and even partially pay for itself in the process. 

 

5 steps to automate patient appointment reminders

When you adopt an automated patient appointment reminders solution, you’ll have control over a “dashboard” as a place to start populating your reminders. Here are five simple steps to set up automatic text and email reminders for your patients. 

Step 1: Set up an “action” based on time elapsed after a patient has booked their appointment.

Step 2: Underneath your newly created action, choose the type of communication you want to create: an SMS text or email. 

Step 3: For SMS text messaging, edit the message within the preview. Preview the message and save under the “time action” created in step 1.  

Pro tip: Use automated fields such as clinic location name, patient first name, last name, etc., so that personalized text populates automatically based on patient and clinic information.  

Step 4: For email, edit the subject line and email body copy, with pre-populated fields such as appointment time and location.

Pro tip: Keep your message short, but add visuals like your logo. 

Step 5: Repeat process for additional reminders, such as 24-hour reminders and 2-hour reminders. 

Set up your automated reminder system. Book a free demo.

 

How to write effective text appointment reminders (+ 6 free templates)

  1. Keep it short.
    No one likes to receive walls of text, unless it’s from someone close to them. Keep your text reminders as short as possible so your patients retain the most important piece of information: the date and time of their appointment. 
  2. Keep it clear.
    Text reminders are no place to be witty. Communicate only the most crucial information in a text reminder, as clearly as possible. If you want to get creative, follow up with marketing campaigns – but never try to upsell in text reminders.  
  3. Make it actionable.
    Add an easy way for patients to confirm their appointment after the first text reminder. The standard mechanism for confirmation is to ask patients to respond with “C” for confirmation or “Y/N” to clarify whether they’ll be able to make it. 
  4. Keep it HIPAA compliant.
    Never include more information than you have to in a text reminder. That means leaving out appointment details like reason for appointment, treatment plans, etc.
  5. Consider emojis!
    Emojis are a great way to add a personal touch to your text reminders without taking up much space. 

 

The bare minimum

You’re scheduled to see [physician name] on [date] at [time] at [location name]

Reply “C” to confirm your appointment.

[location address]

 

The personal touch

Hi! [physician name] here. You’re scheduled to see me on [date] at [time] at [location name]

Reply “C” to confirm your appointment. Looking forward to seeing you!

[location address]

 

The emoji reminder

🦷 Reminder that you’re scheduled see [dentist name] on [date] at [time] at [location name]. 🦷

Reply “C” to confirm your appointment. 🙌🏻

[location address]

 

The one-week reminder

We’ll be ready for you! You’re scheduled to see [physician name] next week at [location name]

Reply “Y/N” to let us know if this is still a good time.

[location address]

 

The 24-hour reminder

It’s almost time! You’re scheduled to see [physician name] tomorrow at [location name]

Reply “Y/N” to let us know if this is still a good time.

[location address]

 

The 2-hour reminder

We’ll be happy to see you today! You’re scheduled to see [physician name] today at [location name]

Reply “Y/N” to confirm that this is still a good time.

[location address]

 

How to write effective email appointment reminders (+ 6 free templates)

  1. Brevity is still key.
    People receive hundreds of emails per week. Email reminders have high open rates because patients have come to expect them, but that doesn’t give you licence to be wordy. Email reminders don’t need to be as short as text reminders, but your patients will appreciate your respecting their time.  
  2. Make the call-to-action obvious.
    Use call-to-action buttons that stand out and clarify the next step for the patient, whether it’s appointment confirmation or rescheduling.  
  3. Provide a clear way to reschedule.
    Add a link to your online booking page so patients can easily reschedule their appointment directly from the email reminder.  
  4. HIPAA compliance is a must.
    Similar to text reminders, only communicate what’s necessary for the patient in the reminder – that means omitting reason for appointment, treatment plans, etc.
  5. Add emojis for fun.
    Add emojis to your subject lines as a potential way to increase open rates for your emails. Emojis help your email reminder stand out in your patients’ inboxes.
  6. Add your logo.
    Your logo can live in your emails reminders as a header, so patients know right away the email is coming from your clinic. 

 

 

The bare minimum

Subject line: Your appointment with [physician name] is confirmed. 

[logo]

Your appointment with [physician name] is coming up soon on [date] at [time], [patient first name]

Please confirm that this is correct.

[confirmation call-to-action button]

Thank you!

[location name]

 

The personal touch

Subject line: Your appointment with [physician name] is confirmed. 

[logo]

Hi! It’s [physician name] here. You’re scheduled to see me on [date] at [time] at [location name]

Please confirm that this is correct.

[confirmation call-to-action button]

Thank you!

[physician name]

 

The emoji reminder

Subject line: Your appointment with [physician name] is confirmed. 😎

[logo]

📣 Reminder that you’re scheduled see [physician name] on [date] at [time] at [location name]. 📣

Please confirm that this is correct. 👍🏾/ 👎🏻

[confirmation call-to-action button]

Thank you!

[location name]

 

The one-week reminder

Subject line: Your appointment with [physician name] is one week away. 

[logo]

We’ll be ready for you! You’re scheduled to see [physician name] next week at [location name]

Please confirm that this is still a great time.

[confirmation call-to-action button]

Thank you!

[location name]

 

The 24-hour reminder

Subject line: Your appointment with [physician name] is tomorrow! 

[logo]

It’s almost time! You’re scheduled to see [physician name] tomorrow at [location name]

Please confirm that this is still a good time. 

[confirmation call-to-action button]

Thank you!

[location name]

 

The 2-hour reminder

Subject line: Your appointment with [physician name] is today! 

[logo]

We’ll be happy to see you today! You’re scheduled to see [physician name] today at [location name]

Please confirm that this is still a good time. 

[confirmation call-to-action button]

Thank you!

[location name]

 

4 tips to reduce appointment cancellations and no-shows

Beyond automated appointment reminders, there are other things you can do to reduce appointment cancellations and no-shows. 

When your clinic is running efficiently, train your staff and invest in these four areas to improve patient experience. 

Make the scheduling (and rescheduling) process easier 

If phone calls to your clinic are required to reschedule appointments, you’re already behind. Adopt an online booking system so patients can reschedule their appointment after their kids have gone to bed or when they first wake up. 

Have a clear cancellation policy

Your cancellation policy should exist in a few places and contain several pieces of crucial information. Double check your current cancellation policy and make sure it includes:

  • A reasonable time frame within which to cancel (24-48 hours)
  • Penalties for late cancellation 
  • How to cancel an appointment

Place your cancellation policy on signs in your office, on your website, and within any new patient materials. 

Implement rewards

People respond to incentives. A great way to reduce cancellations and no-shows is to reward people for showing up. 

Beyond any existing referral rewards program, consider implementing a rewards program for your best patients who never cancel on you. Reward patients for “most number of appointments in a row without cancellation”, and tell your patients about it in your email campaigns

Handle cancellations with empathy and understanding

A final truth to leave you with:

Cancellations will always happen. When they do, the best way to respond is with empathy and understanding. When patients know your clinic can accommodate their busy schedules, they’re more likely to return.

Consider a cancellation an opportunity to offer an appointment to someone on your waitlist. When someone else is able to fill a canceled time slot, everyone wins.

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