No one likes sitting in a doctor’s waiting room. Of course, patients expect some waiting during healthcare appointments. But when faced with a long wait, patients can quickly turn from tolerant to frustrated. More than eight in ten patients (84%) admit wait times impact how they feel about their healthcare experiences. And one in five patients have gone so far as to switch doctors because of long waits. While patients tend to place all the blame for delays on doctors and their staff, the truth is they themselves sometimes cause providers to run behind schedule. When patients show up late to appointments and aren’t prepared when they get there, it can throw off schedules.
One way to encourage patient readiness and ensure appointments run smoothly is to rethink how appointment reminders are used. If your organization currently sends out appointment reminders, you probably know how important these automated messages are for both patients and your team. Appointment reminders that are sent one or two days prior to appointments can reduce no-shows and prompt patients to contact their healthcare team if they need to reschedule. These messages are proven to work. So, maximize these messages to communicate more than just the date and time of appointments. Here are some examples of messaging that can be incorporated into automated appointment reminder messages:
- Notify patients that they may owe a copayment upon arrival. Appointments can get off to a rough start when patients aren’t prepared to pay a required copayment. Appointment reminder messages can remind patients to bring a form of payment if their insurance requires a copayment.
- Let patients know to bring an updated insurance card to their appointment. To make check-in run smoothly, it is helpful for patients to have their insurance card with them. Providers can quickly and easily mention this in an appointment reminder message.
- Ask patients to complete a health questionnaire or other paperwork in advance. Appointment reminder messages can include instructions for patients to either complete forms at home prior to their appointment or to show up 15 minutes early to complete paperwork before their scheduled appointment time.
- Alert patients of nearby construction that could add time to their commute. Patients may be unaware that there is construction in a nearby area that could impact their drive time. Sharing this information in an appointment reminder message and encouraging patients to allow for 10 extra minutes of travel time can help prevent patients from arriving late to appointments.
- Let patients know they will be offered preventive screenings or immunizations at their appointment. Making information available about preventive screenings or immunizations ahead appointments helps patients feel more informed, confident and prepared to make decisions during an appointment.
These suggestions only scratch the surface of what can be communicated to patients through appointment reminder messages. The point is, if providers are going to contact patients prior to appointments, they may as well make sure that messages are as productive as possible. By thinking outside the box about appointment reminders, healthcare teams can better prepare patients for appointments, reduce delays and keep wait times to a minimum. To learn more about some of the communication strategies that providers can use to minimize patient waits, download When Patients Are Waiting, Communication Is Key.