When a medical practice is looking for an appointment reminder system to be integrated with the practice Electronic Health Records Management, practice manager needs to identify a set of features to evaluate. While medical appointment reminders may come in a huge variety of flavors, it is important to pick ones that satisfy practice requirements. A reminder system that has tons of bells and whistles, but does not address practice workflow scenario, is not going to do any good for the practice.
With this in mind, let’s first identify main scenario(s) common across most practices.
Scenario 1 – No Shows: Patient no show rate is above 3% and practice is looking how to minimize losses cause by patients not showing up for their appointments
Scenario 2 – Non-adherence: Patients come for a procedure not prepared. E.g. patient had breakfast while procedure requires fasting. This creates both health and liability risk. In addition, this leads to lost appointment slot that otherwise would have been taken by another patient
Scenario 3 – Health Maintenance: Patients need to be reminded to take their medications or schedule follow up appointments as necessary.
Scenario 4 – Billing and Collections: Patients that have outstanding balances need to be reminded to pay
In all scenarios, practice manager wants to ensure that patients are aware of upcoming appointments as well as are instructed on appointment prerequisites. Practice manager also requires a tool to reach out to selected patients and remind them of health maintenance issues, available immunizations and in some cases outstanding balances.
These tasks can be accomplished via:
Office Manager making direct call to patient
Automated appointment reminder system sending e-mail to selected patients
Automated appointment reminder system sending SMS to selected patients
Automated appointment reminder system calling selected patients
Out of options listed above, direct patient call is the most effective way of reaching out to patient whether to remind of upcoming appointment or collect the balance. A warm human touch makes a world of difference when getting in touch with the patient. However, calling every single patient would require a dedicated call center that would not be feasible for most practices whether small or large.
Automated appointment reminder e-mails and SMS would be a good choice since they do not require dedicated personnel to be sent out. However, the down side of automated e-mail and SMS reminders is media disconnect. E-mail is much less personal than a phone call. In many cases it might get ignored or sent to Spam folder.
Automated reminders performed via phone calls are proven to be the most effective way to bring reminders to the patients. It is important that the phone call shows on patient caller ID as a call from the practice, so that patient is not hesitant to pick up the phone knowing that this is not a telemarketer on the other end of the line.
Automated voice reminder should be able to greet patient by name using pre-recorded message featuring doctors or receptionist voice. This makes patient at ease that this is his doctor’s office calling.
And finally, the automated reminder system should be able to clearly communicate information about upcoming appointment date, time, location as well as any instructions, e.g. “Please come 15 minutes before scheduled time to fill in all the necessary paperwork”.
When evaluating a medical appointment reminder system, practice manager should consider applicability of the four major scenarios listed above and evaluate how the automated appointment reminder system is going to satisfy each scenario.