The ability to automate patient reminder messages, or appointment reminders, is certainly a favorite communication software feature among medical practice administrators today. In a nutshell, automated reminders save significant amounts of time and money—two commodities that seem to be increasingly more difficult to secure in today’s ever-changing healthcare environment.
To ensure that your messaging setup—that is, your message content and schedule—continues to balance the needs of both your practice and your patients, it’s essential to evaluate your messages and their efficacy at least once a year. Moreover, it’s important to be mindful of factors or circumstances that may be grounds for making changes to your messages or messaging schedule.
Reviewing and Modifying Patient Reminder Messages
One of the many benefits of automated patient reminder messages is that data runs in the background. What does that mean for you? All the information—as well as the necessary tools—you need to review and modify your patient reminder system and messages is at your fingertips.
Before you get started, it’s important to first understand the flexibility and extent of message associations available to you. To review your message associations, simply go to Tool > CMT > Message Associations.
With the above message associations in mind, let’s now take a look at some instances in which it can be beneficial to your practice—as well as your patients—to edit your message settings.
Updating Reminder Messages Based on Locations, Providers, and Appointment Types
Every medical practice is unique in terms of office locations, providers, and appointment offerings, often making different message types necessary. Vital Interaction™ can modify your message associations to accommodate your practice’s particular setup and needs.
Practice size and number of locations are often grounds for changing message configurations. For example, smaller practices generally usually require fewer, less involved messages. On the other hand, generally the larger the practice—and the more locations—the greater the need for multiple types of messages.
Appointment types—new patient appointments, in particular—are another common reason that many practices we work with opt to deliver a non-default reminder message. Sending a reminder message at the new patient appointment-type level, for example, provides the opportunity to deliver various instructions or next steps (e.g., arriving 30 minutes early to fill out paperwork).
Many of our customers find it beneficial to send patients, new and current alike, a pre-appointment message, a type of reminder message that operates outside of your appointment reminder schedule. Vital Interaction™ can send pre-appointment messages to patients ahead of time—even as soon as the appointment is booked—and use them to achieve a number of things, such as linking new patient paperwork on your website or requesting that patients arrive 30 minutes early if their paperwork isn’t complete.
Strategically Using Reminder Messages to Reduce Cancellation Requests and No-show Rates
Two additional, notable examples of when it’s worth considering making changes to your current messaging strategy is when dealing with either a high volume of appointment cancellations and no-show rates or high rates of confirmed but subsequently missed appointments.
If your practice struggles with a high confirmation/no-show rate, one of our top strategies is to deliver pre-appointment messages closer to appointments, regardless if they’ve been confirmed.
Conversely, if your practice has high rates of declined appointments and no-shows, you may want to consider changing the message type and content that patients receive after opting out of their appointments. It’s important that these post-cancellation responses match your practice’s scheduling workflow. For example, is the patient prompted to call the office to reschedule or is he expecting a call from your office?
Patient Reminder Messages: Dealing with Delivery Errors
Vital Interaction™ prides itself on accurate and reliable delivery of messages. Though we do everything in our power to ensure the seamless delivery of messages, there are, naturally, times when errors occur. That said, a common support request we get regarding message errors is researching what was sent to a patient and when.
When receiving complaints from patients regarding reminder messages, here are a few things I recommend doing to resolve the matter as quickly as smoothly as possible:
- Check your message reports, or email email@example.com with the complaint and we will happily look into the matter.
- Cross reference with your schedule what type of message was sent. Did the appointment change? If so, when?
- Ensure that patients’ details in your system match what’s in ours.
Medical practices and their needs continue to evolve, making it crucial to conduct a general sweep of your messages and current message associations at least once a year. With the new new year approaching, there’s no time like now to give your message associations an annual “checkup.”
Vital Interaction™ is currently testing a beta version of message editing. If you are interested in being at the forefront of our messaging upgrades, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.