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When Should You Send Patient Reminder Messages versus Appointment Confirmation Messages?

Patient Reminder Messages vs. Appointment Confirmation Messages

Posted by Jyotsna Robinson, Implementation Manager at Vital Interaction on 9/24/17 4:49 AM

Being strategic with patient reminders and confirmation messages can go a long way toward keeping your providers’ schedules full and your patients satisfied.

To confirm or not to confirm? That is, when should you seek appointment confirmation from patients, and when should you simply send appointment reminders?

This is a question that many of our customers are posed with during the implementation process, as well as when they see a need for change in their current patient reminder and scheduling system.

Both message types—patient appointment reminders, or reminder messages, and confirmation messages—serve a similar purpose: getting patients to show up for their appointments. However, each message type has a distinct role to play in the appointment setting and confirmation game, so it’s essential to employ them differently—and more importantly, strategically.

To get the most out of your Vital Interaction™ system’s patient messaging features, let’s take a look at the following:

  • important factors worth considering when deciding whether to send reminder messages or confirmation messages
  • what kind of content to include in these messages and when to send them
  • strategic ways to use patient messages to boost patient satisfaction

Reminder Messages, Confirmation Messages, and Your Workflow

In particular, there are a few workflow factors that can help guide your messaging strategy decisions. Some important questions to consider include:

  • How far in advance of appointments are messages sent?
  • Will staff be following up on the message statuses?  
  • How much time does your staff need to fill empty appointment slots?

How far in advance reminders are sent will depend on whether or not you should accept confirmation responses. At Vital Interaction™, we typically advise excluding the “Confirm” button in patient reminder messages—whether email, text, or voice-call—that are sent more than 72 hours prior to the appointment. By removing this option, patients will receive an appointment confirmation message closer to the appointment date, which will increase the odds of kept appointments.

However, if you want to be proactive in filling empty time slots, emails should include a “Decline” button. Giving the patient a chance to notify your office of a cancellation ahead of time is beneficial all around.

While there will be a few false-positive cancellation requests, you can fill slots by, for example, contacting waitlist patients or simply waiting for patients to contact the office to schedule appointments. Allowing patients to decline their appointment can also help reduce your no-show rates, if you follow up with those declined appointments.

A Different Kind of Reminder Message

Vital Interaction™ stops delivery of appointment reminders once the patient confirms or declines their appointment. However, there are times when it’s smart to include an additional reminder message in your delivery schedule—one that does not ask the patient to confirm or decline her appointment, but simply serves as a friendly reminder. We refer to these reminder messages as our pre-appointment reminders.

Pre-appointment reminders are great to send to patients when scheduled several weeks to months prior to their appointments. You can send these handy messages via email, text, or our newest pre-appointment message type, interactive voice recording (IVR). We can typically send pre-appointment messages the day the appointment was made or two weeks ahead of the appointment.

Being strategic with patient reminders and confirmation messages can go a long way toward keeping your providers’ schedules full and your patients satisfied.

Strategically Sending Pre-Appointment Reminder Messages

Another way to utilize the pre-appointment messages is to work them into your current appointment reminder schedule or system.

For example, say you currently send emails five days prior to appointments, deliver IVRs 72 hours before, and send text messages 48 hours before.

At five days when the patient receives your email, she will either simply read the email for details or decline her appointment. You would not want to enable confirmation at this point. The patient will then receive the next two message types until she confirms or declines her appointment. This means she will either confirm 72 hours or 48 hours before her visit.

In either case, life gets busy, and there is still plenty of time to forget. That’s why we recommend automating the delivery of pre-appointment reminders 24 hours before the appointment. The patient will not be given an option to confirm or decline the appointment at this point. Instead, the pre-appointment message will simply provide them with the appointment details and serve as a last-minute reminder.

Using Reminder Messages to Boost Patient Satisfaction

You can also use additional reminder messages, or after-appointment messages, to maintain or improve your practice’s patient satisfaction. A few easy, but effective ways to achieve higher patient satisfaction through messaging include:

  • sending an after-appointment message as an additional reminder for post-visit details
  • linking a patient satisfaction survey to remind patients that their opinions are valued
  • sending a simple thank-you note, letting patients know their loyalty and business mean a lot to your practice
  • adding a personal touch to your patient contact, by, for example, sending a birthday note to let patients know you are thinking of them on their special day

Patient reminder messages and confirmation messages each play an important role in an effective appointment reminder system. Being strategic with how you use and when you send these messages can make all the difference when it comes to keeping your providers’ schedules full and your patients satisfied.

If you’d like to update your existing reminders or start incorporating any of the above messaging techniques into your reminder system, call (512) 487-7625, option No. 2, or email support@vitalinteraction.com. We are happy to assist you in customizing your patient contact experience.

To learn how our Automated Patient Interaction System can help your medical practice streamline operational processes, reduce operating costs, increase revenue, and improve patient engagement, call (512) 487-7625.