In February 2019, close to 1,500 healthcare leaders responded to a survey sent out by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA). The poll asked if the leaders used automated appointment reminders for their practices, and the answer was yes for 88% of the respondents. That speaks to the popularity of text and phone call appointment reminder services in just one industry, but reminder services are catching on in many others as well.
Any business that depends on appointments to manage heavy caseloads will struggle with unproductive gaps between appointments, no-shows, and other scheduling issues. The idea of sending a reminder for all upcoming appointments isn’t new, but the ability to automate reminders is a game-changing concept that is only possible with advanced technology.
What is a Phone Call Appointment Reminder Service?
A phone call appointment reminder service uses technology to send automated appointment reminders by telephone. You can choose between text or phone call reminders or use a combination of both. For instance, you may send a phone call or voicemail reminder and then follow-up with a text reminder if a patient or customer fails to respond to the first.
Automated reminder services allow you to send messages to everyone scheduled for an appointment simultaneously. For example, if your dental clinic has 20 appointments set for the upcoming week, you can send out 20 reminders at once. That saves you a significant amount of time while freeing your office staff from the burden of making 20 phone calls while managing incoming calls and handling patients already in the clinic.
How It Works
How do automated appointment reminder services work? The process can vary, depending on your chosen service provider, but the general process is as follows:
1. You choose a provider and sign up for service. The best providers will allow you to create a free account to try it out first.
2. Decide whether you want to send text reminders, phone call reminders, or both. The best providers will allow you to send both from one convenient platform.
3. Create your messages. If you select text messages, typing the words into the provider’s cloud-based system should work. For voice messages, you may upload a voice file, use a computer voice, or speak directly into the system’s recording application. The best providers will allow you to use text-to-voice technology if you don’t want to use your own voice or would like to inject variables into the message such as appointment dates and times.
4. Send out test appointment reminders.
5. Share telephone numbers of all appointment holders with the phone call appointment reminder service. The best providers make this simple by syncing their platforms with your calendar. It’s less complicated than it sounds and is a must-have feature if you want to simplify the process of automatic appointment reminders.
6. Send out your automated reminders to the right phone numbers at the right time. You can set them to go out immediately or schedule them for future dates.
Benefits of Using a Telephone Appointment Reminder Service
There are a couple reasons you may consider using a phone call appointment reminder service:
· You currently do not send out reminders and are experiencing an unacceptable rate of no-shows. You know it’s time to help your customers or patients remember their appointments for everyone’s benefit.
· You currently send your reminders out manually, but you know it’s an unnecessary stress on your staff. You know it’s time to take advantage of technology and find a simpler approach to appointment reminders.
Even if you know that now is the time to embrace automated telephone technology, you may need an extra nudge to take the leap. Perhaps the following benefits of using automated reminders will serve as that nudge.
Fewer Missed Appointments
Remember that MGMA survey we mentioned moments ago? Respondents who said their organizations used automated appointment reminder systems stated that the systems resulted in lower no-show rates. In another small study conducted at a breast imaging center in 2018, no-shows were reduced from approximately 20% to just over 7% when pre-appointment phone calls were implemented.
This is the most obvious benefit of reminding your patients or customers of upcoming appointments, but it’s also the most important. Other benefits piggyback off of the reduced no-show rate.
Less Stress for Staff Members
When someone misses an appointment, staff members often scramble to call other patients or customers to fill the scheduling hole. That may or may not work out, but the end result is the same for those making the calls: unnecessary stress.
Stress is also created when staff members are required to manually call patients or customers to remind them of upcoming appointments. Even if the calls are made by one person at the end of each day, it’s one more task that prevents them from getting other work done or leaving the office at a reasonable time.
Automating appointment reminders instantly relieves this stress. It starts by taking call tasks off the desk for employees and ends with fewer missed appointments to manually cover.
Fewer Schedule Gaps
From medical providers to financial advisors and hundreds if not thousands of other service providers, it’s a serious problem when a no-show or cancellation leaves a gap in the middle of the day. If it happens occasionally, you can use the time to catch up on paperwork or enjoy a moment of personal time. If it happens routinely, it slows down care for other patients or customers. Each time a provider sits idle through an appointment block, money is lost for the business and other patients or customers miss out on an opportunity to receive faster service.
How Missed Appointments Cost You Money
We just mentioned that every time a service provider sits idle through an appointment block, money is lost for the company. How much money are you really losing if appointment no-shows are a serious problem or even a moderate problem for your company?
Like most things in business, it varies according to a variety of factors, including your geographical area, industry, and other company policies. One report found that physicians lose $200 for every missed appointment.
While you may not be in the medical field, you can still come to an educated estimate for your own business by considering various factors of loss involved. Let’s detail a few of them now to get your brain moving in the right direction.
For a medical practice, you may lose the patient’s copayment as well as an insurance payment for the services provided. Other businesses may lose consulting fees or the cost of providing the scheduled services. And not only are you losing revenue from your no-show, but you’re losing the potential revenue from a patient who tried to make an appointment and couldn’t so they went elsewhere.
Service providers often remain on the clock while waiting out an appointment block without a patient or customer to serve. The organization must pay that service provider’s salary or hourly wage even though they may not complete much productive work during that time.
Waiting Room Frustration
Have you ever stopped to consider how much business long wait times are costing your business? If you often have a full waiting room or run behind schedule much of the time, it may cost you more than you think. For most industries, long wait times create boredom and a perceived waste of time for customers and patients. That often results in complaints and frustration for staff members, some of which can find their way to online reviews, only exacerbating the damage.
When wait times at a particular business are consistently longer than the perceived value of what comes after the wait, business is lost. For instance, a patient who knows her primary caregiver is always running behind may drop into an urgent care rather than scheduling appointments for minor issues. She may seek a new caregiver altogether if wait times get too long. Same goes for non-medical businesses like spas and restaurants. People are only willing to wait so long for their scheduled appointments and reservations before they walk.
How Much Do Missed Appointments Cost You?
With those loss factors in mind plus any others that you can identify for your business, it’s time to consider the overall cost of missed appointments. It has been estimated that missed appointments cost the healthcare system $150 billion annually, and that number is potentially higher in reality. As we said, the same research estimated that a physician will lose about $200 per no-show. Multiply that by every no-show patient and consider the already thin margins, and you can see how fast the cost adds up.
When applied to other industries, the total cost could come out much lower or significantly higher. It depends on the nature of services provided, the number of providers on standby for an appointment, and the lost earnings for each appointment.
For instance, a surgeon with a no-show patient on surgery day would probably lose more than a primary caregiver with a patient missing for a routine checkup. A financial advisor may miss out on varying amounts of income, depending on what services a client was scheduled to receive during an appointment.
When you combine no-shows with last-minute cancellations, you start to see the enormous cost of missed appointments across all industries. And even if you decide to charge people a fee for their no-shows, you risk losing them as patients or customers. While some people will understand the charge and take responsibility, many will be irritated and deny any wrongdoing. You’re left arguing with them, defending your policy, and potentially losing any good will established.
Calculate Your Estimated Cost of Missed Appointments
Use the cost factors listed above plus any others you identified for your business to determine an estimated cost for one empty appointment block. You’re assuming the cost of one scheduled appointment that goes unfilled regardless of the reason at this point. You just need an estimate, so don’t worry about precise numbers here.
That number may open your eyes, but you’re not finished with your analysis just yet. Pull up appointment data for last month. Write down the total number of appointments scheduled that month, regardless of whether the customer or patient showed up or not. Then subtract the number of no-shows and cancellations and write that number down.
Divide the total number of appointments scheduled by the total number of cancellations and no-shows to see the percentage of appointments abandoned. Multiple that number by your estimated cost of an open appointment block for a good estimate of what you lost due to cancellations and no-shows that month.
You can adjust the math to consider only no-shows or cancellations if you want to get even more insight. When you consider the estimated cost of automated phone call appointment reminders, you can see whether the investment is worth the price from a financial standpoint.
Appointment Reminder Services Are the Solution
If you know that missed appointments are a big problem for your company or you simply want to reduce the risk, phone call appointment reminder services are more readily available today than ever before. You can dramatically increase your show-up rates without asking staff members to spend time dialing number after number in an attempt to reach your patients or customers. You can allow a computerized system to do the work for you.
VoiceShot is a leading phone call appointment reminder service with more than 20 years of industry experience. Our cloud-based system is highly intuitive, so you won’t waste time trying to figure out how it works. Our rates are affordable, and we can provide all of the automated voice messaging services that your business will ever need.
Contact us today to schedule a demo or discuss how our text and phone call reminder services can help you operate more efficiently and save money. We look forward to showing you a simple, affordable solution for one of your biggest operational challenges.