When you remind your patients of an upcoming appointment, the benefits are a win-win for everyone. Your patients are more likely to remember to show up at the right place and time, and you get to keep patients moving smoothly through your office, maximizing both how many patients you see and how happy your patients are with their smooth visit. But text appointment confirmations have to be thoughtful and customizable to your patients’ and your practice’s needs to be ultimately effective.
When we tell doctors about Zingit and its many tools, often the first and immediate response we get is, “My practice management software already does text appointment reminders.” Since text appointment reminders are such a no-brainer, we are never surprised. However, basic appointment reminders are not enough—and without robust management or customization, they can even end up bothering or annoying patients, or, at worst, cause patients to miss appointments or show up late.
It’s time to go beyond basic text appointment confirmations!
Consider these robust tools you want in your appointment reminder system:
• Customizable timing.
Basic appointment reminder systems often send reminders at set times, with no ability to customize. You want a system that is smart enough to be adjusted based on your practices needs. Zingit is adjustable to send at any interval you deem appropriate—whether that’s 2 days before, 1 day before, or 1-2 hours before. As a basic guideline, we suggest setting the reminders to send all at one specific time for the following day—a time when your staff is at the desk and knows the reminder will be sending out. (For example, all of tomorrow’s appointments will get a reminder at 2pm today.) This way, they can manage responses that come through at one set time per day. Then we suggest another reminder on the hour, 2 hours before each appointment. (So all appointments between 12 and 1 will get a reminder at 10am.) But, the world is your oyster when it comes to setting up appointments through Zingit, as you’ll start to see below.
• Real-time conversation capability.
When you use a basic system and your patient gets an appointment reminder via text, it might be asking the patient to reply “C” to confirm. And that is the extent of the robotic interaction the system can handle. But what if the patient cannot make the appointment? They are sick, or they forgot, or something urgent has come up. Life gets in the way sometimes, and your patient now needs to call your office, possibly wait on hold, and interrupt whatever your staff is doing. Then they have to have a clunky conversation where they try to align your calendar with theirs for a reschedule. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could just send a quick text that your staff could respond to? And for everyone’s sake, what if your staff’s response could include a link to reschedule immediately? You would probably rather reschedule and also fill a vacant spot as soon as possible than have it slip by the next day unfilled. This is why we suggest a single time the day before—so a staff member can handle any responses that come through all at once via text, preventing clunky conversations or an annoying game of voicemail phone tag that could take up the day.
• Appointment type filters.
Not every appointment is created equal. Sometimes, like in chiropractic offices, people have multiple appointments in one week—and then they switch to a less frequent maintenance schedule. Sometimes, like in dental offices, patients only come in two times a year for cleanings. Use appointment type filters in Zingit to adjust the reminder schedule accordingly. For patients who come in regularly, maybe they need only one reminder. If it’s unusual to a patient’s schedule, a few would be best. Also, some patients are more valuable to the practice based on the amount of time they take—remind regularly for these appointments. If certain appointments have a 24-hour cancellation policy, consider adjusting that appointment type to send a reminder 26 hours in advance to give the patient time to cancel without incurring a fee. Again, the world is your oyster.
• Multiple appointment filters.
At some practices, a patient sees multiple providers in a row, and so they have multiple appointments. You don’t want to send patients a text appointment reminder for each appointment. We have heard too many times of patients who only see the final appointment reminder and show up late, missing all other important appointments. This is the worst case for an appointment reminder gone wrong. It’s disappointing for the patient, and costly to your practice. You want to be able to specify for your system to only send a reminder for the first appointment of a given day, and then your staff can smoothly take the patient through the schedule once the patient shows up on time.
• Delivery confirmation.
Zingit’s system sends text messages using short codes. The excellent thing about this process is that it allows for you to receive delivery confirmations. A backup message can be put into place if a message does not go through. This way, if a message is not delivered, if the person has opted out of text, or if there isn’t a mobile number on file, your system can send a phone call reminder to the person instead.
• Multiphone number lookup.
Often, you have multiple phone numbers on file for one person. You want a system to be able to find the mobile number for the patient and send the message there (avoiding having a reminder sent to a landline where it is not delivered).
Putting the proper systems in place for appointment reminders will improve your patient communication and ultimately their satisfaction with your practice. And your schedule will be maximized if your patients know when to show up, or if they can easily reschedule when an appointment no longer works. And your staff will appreciate effective appointment reminders that take them away from games of voicemail phone tag, allowing them to handle responses to patients easily via text at a scheduled time each day.
The Takeaway on Text Appointment Reminders
Zingit offers all of the above tools and more, and we can easily get you set up, integrating with your existing practice management software. Are you interested in learning more about Zingit and how it can be put to good use in your practice? Set up a personal demo today.