Receiving a text (i.e., instant message or SMS) reminder about an upcoming event has become mainstream in the past few years. Whether it’s the status of a flight or an appointment with the doctor, consumers have come to expect reminder notifications from their service providers. (why worry about keeping track when someone else will do it for you!)
Deftly used, a simple appointment reminder system can become a powerful tool to reduce patients’ no shows, have everything they need in advance of an appointment so they can submit critical paperwork, and increase long term patient retention.
In this article, we will discuss three reasons marketing managers should consider making patient text reminders a core part of the patient acquisition and retention strategy:
Relevant For Both Millennials and an Aging Population.
Beyond reminding patients about an appointment, a test-based reminder is an opportunity to engage a patient both before and even potentially following a visit.
Together with analytics, a reminder system can provide insight into which messages resonate with their patients—an inexpensive medium for market managers to test what type of messages are the most useful.
Universal Appeal of SMS Text Messages
Research has shown that millennials expect and prefer to text over talking on the phone. A recent uptick in robocalls has pushed all age groups to ignore phone calls increasingly. I don’t answer calls anymore unless I recognize the number. For now, at least, text messages are less prone to such abuse.
Email used to offer an attractive, less invasive alternative to messaging. However, older patients struggle with email for multiple reasons, including the seemingly inevitable deluge of junk mail, a preponderance of email-based scams, and the complexity of dealing with email client applications. Whereas with SMS text and instant messages, only a simple smartphone is needed to read and reply.
An equally important consideration is the relationship and communication of caregivers of elderly patients. They may not live with the patient, but need or want to keep up to date with their loved one’s medical care. Text reminders offer a simple and secure way for that to happen through a medium they prefer.
Reminders Are A Conversation Starter
Text message reminders also offer an opportunity to engage with patients. Next time you buy groceries, look at the printed receipt with reminders of all the benefits of shopping at your favorite store. Text and t messages offer a compelling opportunity. Consumers, whether clients or patients, often appreciate a reminder, opening the door for you to include a little bit of information you deem valuable. You might send a link to videos introducing them to the highly educated, capable provider that may help them; send instructions on how to complete online forms or upload insurance ID cards before their visit, saving them (and you) time at check-in.
In all these examples, text and message reminders are a good starting point to improve your patients’ experience on your website. You will want to work with your digital marketing team to set up the content on your site that can help direct patients to set up and administrate text reminders.
Text messages, however, for all their strengths, still suffer from limited lengths. No one likes to get 3-page long text messages! Clearly, there is only so much you can say in a text message! So you’ll need to be succinct, and, in the case, a response to your message is required, it should be limited to answers such as yes or “Y” or no “N.” More detailed content may be provided by directing the recipient to a web link in your message.
Helping You Get the Message Right
If there is one thing I’ve learned in marketing, it is that whatever I thought would resonate with customers often does not. Testing communications with your buyer is a requirement, not an option.
For all but the smallest practices, the volume of SMS appointment reminders offers an opportunity for marketing managers to perform A/B testing on messages, measuring the impact on various patient behaviors. The length and simplicity (text only) of messages, further simplifies the problem by keeping the scope of changes limited. A word of caution. Message testing is predicated on having ready access to which patients received which messages when, along with the outcome of those communications – did the patient arrive on time, did they bring the paperwork they were supposed to, did they execute the call to action in the messages? You’ll want to make sure you have access to that data before you start.
Excellent communication with patients has always been important to patient acquisition and retention. The use of traditional postcard reminders and phone calls certainly works. Text messages offer numerous advantages over other communication mediums, including suitability for all age groups, simplicity, and testability. And did I mention cost? Compared to phone call reminders, text messages offer significant cost savings to the practice, while ensuring consistency of delivery.