Most practices using automated appointment reminders, MGMA finds

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A recent poll from the Medical Group Management Association finds members often send automated appointment reminders to patients to trim no-shows for appointments.

Nearly 90 percent of 1,475 polled members use reminders, and only 11 percent do not. Respondents using automated reminder services list multiple benefits, including higher revenue, lower no-show rates, improved patient compliance, better appointment utilization, fewer unfilled appointments, the ability to see more patients and reductions in staff time confirming appointments, which improves efficiency and productivity.

“Today’s patients expect appointment reminders through telephone calls or texts prior to their appointment,” says Nick Fabrizio a principal at MGMA Consulting. “Most healthcare organizations have transitioned to appointment reminders via text messaging, which is even more efficient and effective than voice messaging.”

Despite the high rate of text messaging adoption, some providers don’t see the need to adopt texting, Fabrizio notes. For example, a concierge physician practice is unlikely to experience many no-shows, so it isn’t worth the expense, and conversely, a walk-in clinic also may believe that it is not worth the cost.

Also See: Text messaging helps VA trim missed appointments

Still, there are a few tips that providers can adopt and make appointment processes even easier, according to Fabrizio.

• Differentiate between landline and cell phone numbers for patients who have opted into the service so that any automated system the practice uses can accommodate patient preferences for a call or text message.

• If the organization has a system for confirming appointments, regularly monitor the confirmation rate. Email confirmation systems for cancelling appointments may become unusable after the patient is within the no-show policy’s window of incurring a fee.

• If using a text reminder, ensure it is a straightforward text that is easy to comprehend so patients can simply respond yes or no.

• Consider staging reminders if the organization opts for multiple methods. Send an email reminder five days before an appointment, followed by a phone call three days before the appointment, and send a text message one day before the appointment or on the morning of the appointment.

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