What if you could eliminate no-shows and cancellations with voice appointment reminders that practically send themselves? That may sound unrealistic, but it’s what most medical and dental offices, law firms, and other service-based businesses are doing today. Once set up properly, automated appointment reminders are an effective solution for costly schedule gaps.
The benefits of reminding your patients or clients about upcoming appointments may reach further than ever imagined. One study conducted on patients with chronic illnesses in Chile found that sending SMS appointment reminders to eligible patients increased the number of clinic visits by about 5 percent over a two-year period.
What’s surprising about that study is the fact that the visit increases didn’t come from patients who received the appointment reminders. It came from other patients who didn’t receive reminders. The reminders were so effective at allowing chronically ill patients to reschedule or cancel appointments in advance that it gave the clinics more time to fill gaps in their schedules.
Whether you connect with a phone call or a text message, reminders are proving invaluable for avoiding costly schedule gaps. Let’s dig into what these reminders are and how you can use them to your advantage.
What are Voice Appointment Reminders?
Voice appointment reminders are telephone messages sent to patients or clients to remind them of their upcoming appointments. Medical and dental clinics have been doing this for years by requiring office staff to call every patient scheduled for appointments one to two days out. For busy offices with a lot of patients, it’s a time-consuming process that you may still implement today.
How do you remind a customer of an appointment without going through that manual process? You use voice broadcasting and SMS marketing services to automate the process for improved efficiency. Keep reading to learn how to do that quickly and affordably.
Voice Reminders vs. Text Reminders: What’s the Difference?
To point out the obvious, text or SMS reminders are sent through text messaging, while voice reminders are sent as phone calls. Interactive messages that allow recipients to hit a button to reschedule or cancel an appointment are highly effective because they require less effort on the part of the customer. Phone calls that give recipients the chance to connect to office staff or account representatives in real time are effective as well, for the same reason – since the customer is already so close to speaking to someone about the issue, they’re more likely to go ahead and do so.
Every service-based business must determine which format works best for their market. For example, a doctor’s office with a lot of elderly patients may reach more people with voice reminders than text messages. The opposite is true for many other businesses.
Some of the best appointment reminder strategies utilize both formats. We’ll talk more about that in a moment.
Why Do Businesses Use Phone Appointment Reminders?
Businesses are adopting voice appointment reminder services at lightning speed because they solve one of the biggest problems for service-based companies: schedule gaps. You only need to spend a week or two in the office of a busy medical or dental practice to see the amount of time spent trying to keep the schedule fully booked. Every minute spent rescheduling an appointment at the last minute is costly to the business and the patient.
In a detailed review of existing scientific literature published in 2020 in Risk Management and Healthcare Policy, researchers noted the following costs of appointment no-shows for patients:
- Discontinuation of healthcare
- Longer appointment wait times
- Increased emergency room admissions
- Reduced access to care for other patients
The study also discussed the financial cost of no-shows for medical practices. Researchers highlighted one study that determined a vascular laboratory faced a gross loss of over $89,000 annually with a 12 percent no-show rate. Reducing that rate to 5 percent increased the laboratory’s revenue by more than $51,000.
Regardless of your industry, you’re likely losing money as well if you routinely have no-shows and last-minute cancellations. To determine your no-show rate, use the following process:
1. Count the number of appointment slots available in the last month.
2. Count the number of no-shows for the last month.
3. Divide the number of no-shows by the number of available appointment slots, and then multiply that number by 100.
The higher your rate, the more money you’re likely losing due to scheduling gaps. If you’re unable to fill those gaps, the financial losses are more devastating.
Can Small Businesses Automate Voice Appointment Reminders?
Voice appointment reminders aren’t just for large medical practices. Small businesses in a wide variety of industries are now utilizing reminder services to keep their schedules flowing smoothly. If your business relies on appointments, then reminders are an effective way to reduce your no-show and cancellation rates.
Patients’ Perspective on Voice Appointment Reminders
One concern you may have when considering phone appointment reminders is the impact on your clientele. Whether you’re coordinating the schedule for a mid-sized dental practice or managing your own schedule as a private accountant, you can save time and money by keeping all appointment slots full. You just don’t want your patients or clients to feel disrespected or annoyed by an added layer of communication.
The client response to appointment reminders hasn’t been studied much. What we do know is that at least one study found that reminders had no impact on patient care satisfaction. Those who received reminders and then filled out satisfaction surveys after their medical appointments didn’t include the reminders as a point of dissatisfaction.
When researchers interviewed 27 patients at a Portland VA office, they found that patients preferred personalized communications that included details on the clinic’s location. Some noted that they also preferred electronic reminders to mailed letters or postcards. Many stated that they would like to select the type of notifications they receive so that it better meets their needs.
There are many reasons people may miss an appointment. Some are due to last-minute distractions or obstacles. Others are determined in advance. When you send out appointment reminders, you do a couple of things that your clientele will likely value:
- Remind those who scheduled appointments months in advance and have legitimately forgotten or don’t realize it’s coming up so soon
- Allow those who have no intention of showing up to cancel or reschedule easily and quickly
How to Create Effective Voice Appointment Reminder Systems
What are the current best practices for voice appointment reminders? If you’re going to use this strategy to keep your schedule flowing, there are some tips you should use to maximize your results. These best practices apply to any type of business regardless of size.
Start With a Personalized Phone Call Reminder
Remember that survey of Portland VA patients that we discussed a moment ago? That research highlighted the need for personalized communications from service providers. Phone calls are the most personalized option because a real person’s voice delivers the message rather than text on a screen.
It was also noted in that research that phone call appointment reminders have a considerable impact on reducing no-shows. If you’re only going to send one reminder, a phone call is your best option because most people have phones today.
You can leave messages on a landline or mobile phone. If text messaging is the only option, you may automatically miss those who don’t have a smartphone or regularly use their phone.
Send Follow-up Reminders for Clients Most Likely to Miss an Appointment
You can look at the attendance history of your patients to determine those most likely to miss future appointments. There’s a first offense for everyone, but you can safely place the highest risk on those who have missed appointments in the past—especially without calling ahead to reschedule—and new patients with an unknown track record.
For those clients, you should consider sending two reminders. That recommendation is drawn from a study published in The American Journal of Managed Care in 2018. Researchers conducted a three-armed randomized, controlled trial that put the following three strategies to the test:
- Reminders 3 days prior to a visit
- Reminders 1 day prior to a visit
- Reminders 3 days and 1 day prior to visit
That last option was the most effective for high-risk patients. At least 24 percent of those who received one reminder missed their appointments. For those receiving two reminders, that number decreased to about 20 percent.
If you’re using a reminder service that allows you to send unlimited appointment reminders, it’s easy to set this up. You can automatically send new patients two reminders and then use one reminder until a patient has a no-show. That no-show is the trigger for the added reminder for future appointments.
Keep It Simple and Concise
Your voice appointment reminders are supposed to save you time over manual phone calls. While you might ask someone how they’re doing on a phone call, you don’t need the extra chit-chat for an appointment reminder.
Stick to the following basic information:
- Clinic or business name
- Name of a service provider
- Date of appointment
- Time of appointment
- Special instructions, if applicable
Special instructions might include arriving 15 minutes early for paperwork for a doctor’s office visit. Lab visits may require patients not to eat or drink for 24 hours or more prior to the appointment. Other businesses may have their own requirements that patients need to follow. Stating those requirements in the reminder message is a good idea.
What will set you apart is the tone used in your message. You want to come across as friendly and eager to see your clients or patients. You can keep the message brief and still make every client feel valued and appreciated.
What Is the Best App for Voice Appointment Reminders?
The market for telephone appointment reminder apps is growing quickly. It’s easy to get confused when comparing features, especially if you have never used a voice broadcasting or reminder service. To help you make an educated decision, let’s review some of the essential features. The best appointment reminder solution will include all of these.
Some appointment reminder programs require you to create your messages and then log into the app to send them manually. While creating your message in advance has its advantages, you lose a lot of the benefits of appointment reminder services when you’re required to spend time manually sending messages.
The solution is to find a voice appointment reminder service that allows you to automate and schedule delivery. You allow the system to work for you so that every member of your team can focus on more critical tasks. They can work more efficiently while you never have to worry about forgetting to send reminders.
Eliminate Manual Scheduling With Full Integration
The best voice appointment reminder programs will integrate with popular scheduling systems like Outlook Calendar or Google Calendar. Other integration options may include Google Gmail, Active Campaign, and Google Sheets. The integration allows your reminder software to coordinate with your scheduling program to ensure reminder messages are sent at the right time.
Full integration should also include adjustments for appointment confirmations, reschedules, and cancellations. Most offices spend a lot of time manually entering these schedule changes. Integration and automation can free up your office phone lines and take those tasks off the shoulders of staff members.
Copper RPI Lines vs. VoIP Services
This is one area where the newest technology isn’t the best option. VoIP services are everywhere today, but they aren’t as reliable for voice broadcasting, and carriers will often mark VoIP messages as spam. The best voice appointment reminder applications work with copper RPI lines and trustworthy carriers.
The Appointment Reminder System You Can Trust
Where do you find a voice appointment reminder system that offers all of these highlighted features and more? You contact VoiceShot. We’re committed to offering the highest quality messaging services with comprehensive features that suit a variety of businesses and organizations. Schedule your demo today, or sign up to start your free trial.