Mental health providers face numerous challenges, but one of the first and most significant obstacles is getting patients to attend their scheduled appointments. Late cancellations and no-shows can derail an office’s day, costing your practice time and money. It’s not only the business that suffers. Most no-shows are due to simple forgetfulness, which means that a timely reminder message – or several – is often all that stands between a patient and their treatment. But how many appointment reminders should your office send? And when? Fortunately, research has taken the guesswork out of the equation. We’ve summarized what you need to know to create an automated appointment reminders cadence that boosts your revenue and patient satisfaction.
Optimize Your Automated Appointment Reminders Cadence with the Right Frequency and Timing
Research shows that even two automated reminders are more effective than one at increasing patient confirmation rates.
However, a study by Solutionreach in 2019 determined that the frequency and timing of appointment reminders can increase these rates by an impressive 156 percent.
Here’s the breakdown:
- The majority of this increase – 126 percent – was due to a weekly message sent less than one month but more than a week before the appointment.
- Another 26 percent resulted from a daily message sent less than a week but more than 24 hours before the appointment.
- An hourly message (sent less than seven days but more than 24 hours beforehand) added another 4 percent increase.
This study indicates that the number of reminders and the combined types of messages – weekly, daily, and hourly – drastically improve confirmation rates. But the precise timing remains unclear. What is the best cadence for reminder messages?
Try the 3-3-3 strategy
When it comes to the cadence of your appointment reminders, three is the magic number.
Send the first reminder three weeks prior
With a confirmation rate of 79 percent, this reminder message has the most significant impact for practices that see patients on a monthly or quarterly schedule. Three weeks appears to be the sweet spot as patient engagement drops when reminded closer to two weeks or four before their appointment. If your practice sees patients weekly or bi-weekly, sending the first reminder five days before the appointment would be a comparable option.
Send the second reminder three days prior
The confirmation rates for reminders sent between 3-5 days don’t vary statistically, but there is still a logic to sticking with three. For example, take a look at your calendar. You may know about an obligation a month in advance, but how far ahead can you plan with certainty? We know from experience that five days is plenty of time for an unexpected conflict to arise. Therefore, it may be helpful to remind a patient three days before the appointment when their schedule is more solidified.
Send the third reminder three hours prior
Although the hourly message does not impact patient confirmation rates much, it encourages a patient to follow through and come to the appointment. So why three hours? To start, it’s a tidy completion to your reminder cadence strategy – 3-3-3. More importantly, if the appointment has slipped a patient’s mind, three hours is generally enough time for them to coordinate any last-minute arrangements such as childcare or transportation.
Take your appointment reminders to the next level
As we’ve seen, the optimal cadence for appointment reminder messages is partly a science. Still, it is strengthened by what you do best as a behavioral health practitioner: considering your clients’ needs and setting them up for success. Keep this in mind as you consider other best practices for your strategy.
- Make it easy for patients to schedule, reschedule, and cancel appointments. When patients choose from time-slot options while scheduling their appointment, they are more likely to pick a date and time that works for their lives and keep it. Prevent no-shows by enabling them to easily reschedule.
- Let patients choose their contact method. When onboarding a new client, make it a point to ask whether they prefer to receive calls, texts, or emails. A phone call that feels like a courtesy to one patient will bounce off the full voicemail box of another.
- Be respectful and stay compliant. As with everything else, patient consent is a priority when setting up your reminders cadence. TCPA regulations require limiting communications to once per day and no more than three times per week unless given express written consent for a greater number of messages and non-healthcare messages.
- Adapt your reminders to context. Rather than rigidly adhering to statistical research, the best cadence considers your practice and patients’ unique needs. Evaluate the population you serve: do they struggle with ADHD or other conditions that may interfere with memory and executive functioning? If so, more frequent reminders could be valuable. On the other hand, a patient who attends therapy every Friday at 10:30 a.m. will not need the same reminder support as someone who schedules once per quarter.
Automate your appointment reminder system with the right software
Reminders improve patient retention by accounting for human fallibility. But if you then assign the task of calling hundreds of patients multiple times to your front-office personnel, you’re back at square one.
Valant’s EHR is a cost-effective and practical solution that benefits your staff and patients by integrating scheduling with automated and customizable appointment reminders.
Contact us today and request a free demo to explore whether Valant can help optimize your therapy office’s appointment reminders system.