Patient Engagement – Reminders Done Right

Patient Engagement - Reminders Done Right
Catherine SampelsSales Director at Adtel /

Need help optimizing or selecting patient engagement software? Choosing the right vendor, or making sure you’re current one is a good fit, is crucial to your success. Success meaning revenue, efficiency…and your stress level. Patient engagement software should positively impact your entire office – front office, back office, marketing and clinical. If it isn’t, you may want to clarify with your current vendor what they offer to make sure you’re using all features, or you may just need to look for a different vendor. Being stuck with the wrong vendor can sacrifice your revenue and your sanity. If you aren’t using automation yet…it’s time to get with the program! The right technology, fully engaged, will become an invaluable asset that boosts revenue, increases efficiency, reduces overhead, improves patient experience and improves your online presence. This can mean big bucks for your practice or healthcare organization.

It is possible to find a vendor that has it all. A veritable one-stop-shop with reminders, no-show management, recalls, 2-way texting, wait-list management, lab result notifications, time-block messaging, bulk messaging, surveys, payment reminders, online reputation management, online scheduling, micro sites for expanded online presence and reviews for your own website. If you’re using multiple vendors, you’re probably spending more money than necessary.

This article is focused solely on appointment reminders, but this is the first in a series of articles to enlighten you on available features and best practices for use.

REMINDERS: Using text, email and voice calls combined has proven to result in the highest response rate, and having all three types covers all age demographics. Plus, it is nice to give your patients options. You should have the ability to set the patient’s preference for the reminder type(s) they want. The software should also offer multiple delivery intervals. For example: deliver reminders 3 days prior to the visit, then send a follow-up the day before. If you choose multiple intervals, the software needs to have the ability to knock out patients who have already responded so they don’t get additional reminders. Otherwise, you run the risk of overwhelming or annoying your patients.

With more advanced technology, appointment reminders can be customized by appointment type which is great if you need to communicate prep instructions prior to the visit. Embedding your address makes it easy for patients to Google map their way to the office (essential for multiple locations where patients cross locations). Including the patient’s first name is ideal if you see multiple family members or if the caretaker is responsible for multiple patients. Having the ability to customize the response to patients based on whether they have confirmed or rescheduled allows you to communicate further instructions. The more information you include in reminders, the lower your call volume. You don’t want to field unnecessary calls and patients don’t want to call you and wait on hold. Automating doesn’t mean you lose touch with your patients – it actually improves communication.

If you are using or would like to use text message reminders, select a vendor who can deliver messaging to all cell phone carriers. Some carriers will block messages that originate from a short code instead of a regular phone number, known in the industry as a long code. Some vendors can also get black-listed by some carriers for violating terms. These will have a negative impact on delivery rates, and therefore, your revenue.

Some practices think that if they’re using appointment reminders through their portal, they don’t need a separate vendor. Keep in mind that portal adoption is around 20-30% so you could be leaving over 70% of your patients out of receiving reminders and recall notifications. If you aren’t reminding everyone, you’re losing money. By using the messaging in your patient engagement software to include a link to your patient portal, it can help increase portal adoption.

Be aware, some vendors will mark appointments as confirmed when they’ve only sent messages, not when patients reply. So ask the question to make sure you know what you have or what you’re buying. It skews the numbers and negatively impacts your revenue by leaving holes in your schedule.

Final note: I am frequently asked if reminders have to be opt-in or opt-out. Appointment reminders are considered part of treatment under HIPAA, so only an opt-out is required. Find a vendor who does not require opt-in. The easier the process, the higher the adoption rate. If patients are not opting in, you’re left with holes in your schedule, costing you money. Find a vendor who does opt-out only. Both text message and emails should contain opt-out information and once a patient opts-out it should be the vendor’s responsibility to remove them, although you should have the ability within the software to re-subscribe.

If you have questions, or would like information on our software, please contact Catherine Sampels at 214-716-0521 or [email protected]