There’s no arguing that automated notifications are the most efficient method for connecting patients about their upcoming appointments. But make no mistake – the wording of these messages is extremely important. By encouraging interaction, response rates to automated messages are increased and your office suffers fewer missed appointments and unfilled cancellations, potentially saving your office substantial loss of income. In fact, not using an appointment reminder solution is a guarantee you are leaving money on the table.
Paul McMullan, Product Manager for HouseCalls© by Televox, offers three best practices and some additional ideas to help your bottom line:
1. Confirming the Appointment: “To confirm this appointment, please press 1.”
This one is a no-brainer. Sure, you could connect with your patients with a simple reminder message, and many of them would attend that appointment as scheduled.
But by allowing patients to press the keypad and confirm that appointment time, you accomplish two things:
- Rather than idly listening to a message, patients must take an action to confirm their attendance. Interacting with the message in this way makes them less likely to forget the visit.
- Your messaging software will give you access to detailed reports that tell you which patients confirmed, giving you assurance that the appointment time will be kept by that patient.
2. Repeating the Message: “To repeat this message, please press 2.”
When you are delivering notifications that include specific dates and times, including the ability to have the message repeated is always a good option. Statistics show that when offered at the message’s conclusion, as many as 5% of patients will choose to have the message repeated. Sometimes it is so they can grab a pen and paper. Other times they are distracted by children or pets. Whatever the case, offering the “repeat” option will ensure you are not leaving that significant portion of your patients behind.
3. Canceling the Appointment: “To cancel this appointment, please press 3.”
This one can be tricky. On one hand, offering the option to cancel during the appointment notification gives your team the opportunity to fill that potential hole in the schedule. After generating a list of patients who have canceled, your team can also develop a strategy on reaching out to those patients again to get them back on the schedule.
However, some organizations feel that including the option to cancel gives patients an “easy out” if they do not feel like attending their scheduled appointment. Fortunately, this cancel option can be easily added or removed. You may choose to omit the cancel option, and quickly add it in if elevated no-show rates are persistent.
Other messaging options:
Consider adding any or all of these notifications for an even more valuable patient experience:
- Transfer to Speak with Staff – If your main focus is keeping inbound call volume to a minimum, this may not be the way to go. But from the patient’s experience, a one-key transfer to a live person is a convenient way to have questions answered, get directions, etc.
- Record a Message – This allows patients to leave a message for your team that can be retrieved at a later time. The benefit? You’ll receive a patient’s message without generating any additional inbound phone traffic.
- Take a Survey – If you’ve also added a Survey solution, messages can offer a direct link to allow patients to complete your survey.
- Optional Messages – This gives patients the option to hear directions to the office, insurance information and other often repeated details that many patients need. If patients do not need to hear this information, they do not have to.
A final recommendation:
Offer a confirmation of the patient’s response. This helps prevent a scenario where a patient presses the wrong button and does not know how to correct it. For example, if a patient presses ‘3’ to cancel, the confirmation message can then state: “Are you sure you wish to cancel? If so, please press ‘3’ again.”
Making your messages easy to understand, convenient to follow and informative for both the patient and your office staff will help keep your schedule full and your appointments on time, resulting in more – and better – business.
For information on Televox automated messaging solutions, call 866-897-5821 or visit televox.com.