Not only effective for vaccinations against COVID-19 – appointment reminders via SMS

How appointment reminders via SMS are enriching the medical sector

There is a light at the end of the tunnel – vaccinations against the coronavirus (COVID-19) finally started in Germany at the end of 2020. In most states, patients receive appointment reminders via text message to remind them of their vaccination appointment. This happens for good reason, as the data for reminder text messages speaks for itself, as we will show you in the course of the following article. However, you can also benefit massively from appointment reminders via SMS in your day-to-day practice. It doesn’t matter whether you are a dentist, family doctor, endocrinologist or physiotherapist. Wherever appointments are made, reminder SMS can streamline your workflow.

How do appointment reminders via SMS work?

Ideally, an effective workflow for appointment reminders via SMS goes something like this:

Your patient books an appointment for a vaccination and consents to receiving appointment reminders in the process. Your system triggers a reminder SMS to be sent to the patient before the first appointment. The text should include the date, time and location of the appointment. Ideally, of course, you should word this reminder as friendly as possible; after all, your patients are your customers. Especially if you send reminders for vaccination appointments, you should also mention the vaccination specifically.

If the patient keeps the first appointment, a message will be sent again for the follow-up appointment. If they do not keep the appointment, a text message can be sent asking them to make a new appointment. Of course, if you offer the option to book appointments online, you can also send a link along with the text message. This also means less extra work for you and your team.

Good to know

If your patients consent to appointment reminders via SMS, you may use the SMS for this purpose only.
Sending advertisements following the reminders to get vaccinated, for example, is not allowed.

Are reminders really effective?

There are various studies on the effectiveness of appointment reminders sent via SMS. Whether the studies are looking at vaccination reminders for young children in Africa or reducing no-show rates in medical facilities in Europe – there is always a statistically significant difference between the control group and the group in which patients receive the text message reminders. However, a reduced no-show rate is not the only benefit you can get from sending appointment reminders.

It’s with more complex appointments, where your patients need to make arrangements in advance, where more detailed reminders are extremely useful. Your patient needs to arrive at the appointment sober? Remind them ahead of time when to stop eating food. Your patient needs to take a certain medication before the appointment? Again, you can send a text message reminder a few hours before the required time.

With these small, friendly reminders, you ensure that appointments that are kept can be put to ideal use. On top of that, though, your patients will feel well taken care of and thus very likely be more satisfied with your service.

Appointment reminders to get vaccinated

There are numerous studies that have looked at the usefulness of text message reminders in immunization appointments. Although most of them were conducted in African countries, there is reason to infer that similar effects occur in Western countries. The studies showed that vaccinations requiring multiple appointments were not only more successful but also completed faster when appointment reminders were sent via SMS. Not only does this have benefits for you and your practice, but it also helps to bring about any desired basic immunizations in the population more quickly.

Insbesondere für Impfungen sind Terminerinnerungen via SMS sehr sinnvoll

Is it worth the investment?

As you’ve already read above, the investment in appointment reminder SMS is worth it just for the fact that it massively reduces the no-show rate. If that fact isn’t enough for you, in a study presented in 2019, the authors estimate that the Aarau Cantonal Hospital saves around $9200 per month due to the reduced no-show appointment rate. That is about 7600€ at the current time (beginning of 2021). This study also talks about the fact that the failure rate was reduced by up to 48% after the introduction of SMS reminders.

In addition, there is the reduced burden on your team. Your employees don’t have unnecessary idle time and can make the most of their workday. Giving your patients the additional option to change their appointments online saves even more time and effort for your team. You can conveniently include the link to the appointment change interface in the SMS.

Why are text messages especially good for appointment reminders?

You may be wondering why SMS in particular are so very popular for appointment reminders. The reasons are as simple as they are convincing. Compared to other messages, such as emails, SMS attract much more attention in recipients. We are used to receiving a lot of mails per day, many of which are advertising or even spam.

SMS, however, we perceive very differently. Mostly, we receive important notifications or personal messages from friends and family via SMS. Therefore, we pay more attention to short messages than to messages that reach us through other channels. Moreover, SMS is a communication medium accepted by most people. Thus, they reach not only people who may not want to use a messenger, but also those who do not use smartphones. The only requirement to receive SMS is that the recipients have a cell phone with an active number. Therefore, you can reach your patients much more reliably via SMS than via email.

If you want to offer a special additional service, you can also send your appointment reminder as a Text2Speech or Voice message. Here, an SMS is sent to a landline or mobile phone number and read aloud upon delivery. Especially for people who are visually impaired, this can be a good alternative to the classic SMS.

Appointment reminders via SMS can be used for all types of appointments

Many benefits combined in one short message

The use of appointment reminders via SMS offers many benefits for immunization centers and physicians of all types. The massive reduction in no-show rates can save a lot of money. Automation also ensures that your team’s workload is reduced. An extremely desirable side effect is that your patients feel well taken care of because of the reminders.

Appointment reminders for vaccinations also show clear advantages. Here, not only the no-show rate is lower, but the vaccinations are also completed more frequently and more quickly if the patients are reminded of the respective appointments with an SMS. Appointment reminders via SMS therefore not only help you and your patients, but, in the best case, also help society as a whole.

If you are interested in more uses of SMS in the medical field, we recommend our blog post on mHealth.

Best regards
Your sms77 team

Header: iStock/PeopleImages

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