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With Patient Reminder Messages, Timing Is Everything


How healthcare can increase patient engagement.

smartphone healthcare,text message reminder,patient engagement

Patients are getting more impatient, and it’s understandable. Everything is at their fingertips 24/7. In this digital age, people are overwhelmed with information coming from every sector of their lives. As such, healthcare providers face a growing challenge to engage with patients where they are and how they want, to ensure that they show up, come prepared and follow instructions. Success or failure in reaching this goal not only affects patient health and outcomes but also provider payments.

There is no doubt that reminders — whether phone, email or text — can help get patients to scheduled appointments on time and prepared, but all reminders are not the same. A new analysis of 20 million reminder and confirmation messages suggests that there are differences based on timing and cadence. Dialing in those two factors really does result in a better response from patients.

First, the data showed that the most effective messages are the weekly and daily reminders. Let’s quickly define those. The weekly reminder is sent less than one month but more than seven days before the appointment, and the daily reminder is sent less than seven days but more than 24 hours before the appointment.

The weekly reminder can increase patient confirmation rates by 126 percent. When a daily reminder is added, it increases the confirmation rate by 26 additional percentage points. Just these two messages increase confirmations from patients by a total of 152 percentage points compared to when no reminders are sent to patients.

The analysis found that the best timing for those two reminders is three weeks and three to five days ahead of the appointment. The confirmation rate for messages sent three weeks ahead is 79 percent, while the rate for messages sent three or four days ahead is 78 percent.

The addition of a message sent on the same day as the appointment increases confirmations by another 4 percent. This isn’t a huge boost for confirmation rates, but the task is easily done through automated messaging and certainly doesn’t hurt as a last-minute reminder.

A message sent when patients schedule the appointment was found to have virtually no impact on appointment confirmations. So, this is one reminder that practices can skip. The one exception is when the appointment is scheduled less than a month in advance. In that case, the message sent at the time of scheduling essentially replaces the weekly reminder.

Using a best practice approach based on data is a good starting point for any healthcare organization looking to reduce patient no-shows. However, it is just a starting point. Providers should analyze their own results, be responsive to patient feedback and adjust their reminders accordingly. Doing so will allow the organization to continue to improve the effectiveness of its reminder strategy.

Healthcare providers can also increase the effectiveness of reminders by including patient preferences and communication options in the mix. Ask patients if they prefer reminders via text, email or phone, what language they want and how often they’d like to be reminded. And offer flexible options to respond like real-time text conversations to ask a question or reschedule.

Reducing no-shows requires a balance of science (the data on best timing) and art (patient preferences). While that requires some effort, the results will be well worth it.

Jim Higgins is the founder and CEO at Solutionreach.

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