Patient no-shows are a common problem for medical offices. A 2018 study published by The American Journal of Medicine found that without some type of appointment notification, patients did not show up for their scheduled appointments 23.1% of the time.
The popularity of telehealth during the COVID-19 crisis has helped reduce the problem of patients not showing up for appointments, but it hasn’t solved it. One study showed that 7.5% of telehealth appointments were missed compared to 36.1% for in-clinic scheduled appointments.
The Task Force on Telemedicine reports that, based on preliminary evidence, telemedicine appears to be reducing the rate of patients who don’t show up for in-person doctor’s appointments. That said, it’s still a problem facing doctors today.
In this post, we discuss how the growing use of mobile technologies has impacted how physicians communicate with their patients. We also describe how, at no added cost, you can begin to use an automated appointment notification system in your medical practice.
Why Appointment Notifications Are Important
When patients miss their medical appointments, it can have a negative impact on their health. Not only will these patients not receive the treatment they need, but missing an appointment can also decrease compliance with their treatment plan, which can result in more expensive, complex procedures in the future. This negative consequence is contrary to the goals of a value-based model, which emphasizes quality care and lower costs.
In addition to causing missed opportunities for other patients who need care, patient no-shows can waste valuable clinical time for practitioners. Some practices try to deter no-show behavior by charging fees for not canceling an appointment ahead of time.
Starting in 2007, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) allowed practices to bill patients for missing an appointment, but only if the practice follows specific rules. This only covers the lost business from the no-show and doesn’t include the revenue that was lost from the canceled visit. It also doesn’t take into account how cancellations can affect your reimbursement under new payment models.
Medical practices can overcome many of these problems by sending out appointment notifications. But calling each and every patient to remind them of their appointment can monopolize hours of staff time. While many doctors still use letters and postcards for reminder messages, many are now using emails, text messages, and automated phone messages to remind patients of upcoming doctor’s visits.
Benefits of Automated Appointment Notifications
A study on the effectiveness of SMS reminder systems in healthcare services showed that these have in fact been successful in a variety of different settings. Among the benefits of appointment notifications are:
- Increase in the rate of appointment attendance.
- Reduced rate of missed appointments.
- Increase the rate of appointments that were canceled ahead of time rather than patient no-shows.
These statistics showed that the healthcare industry could save both time and money by automating patient scheduling.
Another survey by the Medical Group Management Association found that 90% of providers use some form of automation for appointment notification. This has resulted in:
- Higher revenue.
- Lower patient no-show rates.
- Better overall appointment utilization.
- Fewer unfulfilled appointments.
- Ability to see more patients.
- More time for staff.
How Mobile Devices Have Improved Patient Scheduling
The popularity of mobile phones has paved the way for doctors to start using SMS for reminding patients of upcoming appointments. In 2022, there will be 6.64 billion people with a smartphone.
Smartphones are even more ubiquitous in the U.S., where 79.1% of adults own one. The average American smartphone user now checks their phone every 12 minutes and uses it for about three hours a day.
Since people spend so much time on their smartphones, they tend to respond more to texts than other types of messages.
- About 98% of SMS text messages are read while only 20% of emails are opened.
- About 90% of SMS text messages are read within three minutes.
- SMS text messages have a response rate of 45% while emails have a mere 6% response rate.
Pro Tip: Use Upvio's automated email and SMS reminders feature to reduce patient no-shows. Not only will this feature send reminders to patients ahead of their appointment, but it will also notify staff when an appointment is created or changed, keeping everyone on the same page and reducing confusion and missed appointments.
Different Types of Appointment Notifications
Email notifications are the most common type of notification used to remind people of upcoming appointments. They are easy to set up and generally very reliable.
However, some people prefer text message notifications because they can be more immediate. There are also calendar reminders that can serve as appointment reminders.
Which type of notification you use is ultimately up to personal preference. Some factors you may want to consider include how far in advance you need or want to be reminded of your appointment, and whether you prefer a visual or auditory reminder (or both).
Although it may seem impossible to have patients show up to their scheduled appointment, many healthcare organizations use simple strategies such as sending appointment notifications to keep this from happening. Once you’ve done this, you can focus your attention on other important factors of running a practice.
If you're looking for a way to keep track of your appointments and make sure you don't miss any, Upvio is the perfect solution. We offer scheduling and telemedicine software that makes it easy for teams of all sizes to stay organized and on top of their schedules. With our convenient online tools, you can book appointments, set reminders, and more.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you stay on schedule!