The Types of Reminders That Just Don’t Work Anymore
Tashfeen Ekram, MD
It’s time to expect more from mobile appointment reminders and leverage them to drive patient engagement.
One-way communication reminders, where the patient isn’t able to respond to reply and confirm their coming to the appointment, just don’t work—and neither do unintelligent two-way systems. You know the ones: the automated reminder that prompts a patient response but doesn’t deliver an answer in return.
Both of these types of reminders snuff your patient’s desire to communicate, and that’s the opposite of what we want. As providers, we should be encouraging patient communication. That’s the only way we can optimize our crammed schedules, stay on top of developing symptoms, and ultimately deliver exceptional healthcare.
Here are a few ways you can change the way you use mobile appointment reminders to boost patient engagement and keep your patients happy.
Kick One-Way Communication to the Curb
Several providers to this day only offer one-way mobile appointment reminders. The message goes out to the patient and the patient is not asked to respond.
You have an appointment with Dr. John Doe on Wednesday, 4/1/2020 @ 4 PM.
Messages like this hurt patient engagement. Asking the patient to respond to a text message means more than you may think–it’s asking them to play an active role in their care through that response.
Adding a two-way response feature doesn’t mean more work for you. Luma Health’s reminder system helps you triage patients’ incoming text messages with you having to lift a finger.
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For example, here are some actual unedited patient responses to appointment reminders via Luma Health.
hello, i have an appointment for 4:30 today. unfortunately i am going to have to reschedule. i woke up with a stomachache and was only able to sleep two hours. i am texting instead of calling because i have poor cell reception indoors.
hi i am not feeling well today can i do my therapy tomorrow?
good morning. this is john and i have a 2:30 with jim. i have to reschedule this appt. i have been doing the exercises that ashley has given me and have been over working my back muscles. i’m in too much pain to come in today. pain level is up to an 8+ and is causing nausea and making me throw up. pls apologize to john and hope this doesn’t screw up his day. thank u.
Instead of just canceling the appointment and leaving it up to the patient to reschedule (and missing some very valuable patient information in these texts!), we can help them find another appointment on the spot and alert key staff to messages with critical health information. As healthcare providers, we should remove as many barriers to patient access as we can.
Rather being told to come to the appointment without getting a say in the matter, the patient can be asked to confirm the appointment, and given the option to cancel and reschedule. Not only does it empower the patient with the choices that drive patient engagement, but it helps your clinic maximize business results. If patients aren’t given the option to reschedule appointments, or if they forget about the appointment in the first place, you run a high risk of the patient not showing up.
No-shows and cancellations continue to plague practices, and they’re costing thousands of dollars in lost revenue — find out just how much here. Recover that revenue by ensuring that patients can get care at the time that works for them, and that they’re kept in the loop about their own care.
With automated, two-way reminders, we engage the patient in a conversation and help them find a new appointment—all over text messaging.
Scrap Unintelligent Two-Way Reminders, Too.
Do you know what’s worse than dead-end, one-way reminders?
One-way reminders posing as two-way reminders. I call these unintelligent two-way reminders. Just take a look at the mobile appointment reminders I received from my dentist:
They told me to “Text C to confirm,” but I wanted to test the service and texted a non-standard response. No one answered. Then, I tried a normal response. Still no answer.
This isn’t rare, but it’s pretty disappointing. See, some patients won’t understand the messages they receive are automated and sent by a computer. In turn, the computer won’t register the patient’s responses unless it’s programmed to do so. The computer will only understand as much as you teach it to understand. If the computer fails to understand the patient’s response, it just makes the provider look inattentive—and that’s exactly what we’ll be if we continue using this kind of system.
Just imagine the patient’s experience: the patient takes the time to write a response to the unintelligent two-way reminder your clinic sent. The patient doesn’t receive a response but assumes someone read it. Maybe the patient even wanted an answer on an ongoing therapy they’re on. Then, the patient shows up for his next appointment where he’s questioned about his missed appointment. Oh, and he’s slammed with a late-appointment fee, too.
I wouldn’t be happy, either.
Thankfully, Luma Health has natural language processing and intelligent reminders built into its service to help triage and engage your patients. If a patient responds with “Yep,” “Sure,” “No problem,” or even a thumbs-up emoji, our system automatically recognizes those responses as confirmations, and correctly interprets phrases like “Can’t make it” or “That doesn’t work” as cancellation requests. What’s more, front office staff always has full visibility into messages, ensuring that they retain the ability to respond to messages if needed. Pretty smart, right?
Leverage the Reminder-Waitlist One-Two Punch
What is this “reminder-waitlist one-two punch,” you may be wondering? It’s our easy two-step process to drastically reduce no-shows and unfilled cancellations. First, you can send your patients actionable, two-way reminders that allow them to respond with any questions they may have.
It’s also important that these reminders are customizable, so that you can tailor messages to each patient’s needs and give them any necessary pre-appointment instructions. Again, this goes a long way in making patients feel empowered to take an active role in their own care.
Of course, there are times when life gets in the way, and patients end up not being able to make it to their scheduled appointments. Allowing them to easily cancel and reschedule ensures that appointment slots don’t go unfilled, and that patients can still ultimately get to the care they need. Our smart waitlist allows patients to automatically add themselves; then, when a slot opens up that fits their needs, patients are texted an offer to take that slot.
It’s quick and easy for both patients and providers, aided by a seamless EHR integration that automatically updates schedules in real time. When health systems are equipped with this powerful reminder-waitlist combination, no-shows and cancellations can become a thing of the past.
A Smarter Way to Remind Your Patients
Appointment reminders have been around for a few decades. They started with automated phone calls and worked their way into email and text messaging. Other than the form of communication, not much has changed about them. Luma Health offers intelligent, automated two-way text reminders that make it easy for your patients to get in touch with you. It’s what patients deserve, and it’s what they’re increasingly demanding — to see why patients love mobile-first messaging, download our “Why Patients Love Text” infographic in the Luma Health Resources Library now.