Automated appointment reminder service generates positive outcomes

December 1, 2009

An automated patient appointment reminder service enables eye care professionals to send customized texts and emails to remind patients of upcoming appointments.

An automated patient appointment reminder service (Smile Reminder) offers a solution to both problems. The service enables eye-care professionals (ECPs) to send customized texts and e-mails to remind patients of upcoming appointments. It also allows patients to quickly and easily confirm their appointment via an e-mail or text message.

Convenient, reliable, beneficial

In addition to automated appointment reminders and confirmations, the service provider offers standard and personalized services that allow offices to simplify their daily routine and strengthen doctor-patient relationships. These services include last minute openings notices, birthday messages, e-newsletters, e-surveys, custom promotions, patient recall/recare, e-newsletters, patient referrals, and even a video testimonial tool.

Practice builder

The e-mail appointment reminders are completely customized with the practice's look and feel. The e-mails can also offer several other options beyond appointment confirmations, including "Add to calendar," "Map it with Google," "Refer-a-friend," and "Check my account," where the patient is linked to a portal to pay bills online, check scheduled appointments, and much more.

"[The appointment reminder] provides office staff with extra time to handle more important business by eliminating the time commitment associated with of confirming appointments, and gives patients easy access to pertinent information without their having to ask someone for it," Van Orden said.

That has been the case at Vision Professionals, a practice with two locations in suburban Columbus, OH. Chris Smiley, OD, said his practice serves more than 5,000 patients, and 75% to 80% of them have provided their e-mail addresses and use the appointment reminders.

Financial benefits

"The return on investment is extremely high, patients like it, and it saves on staff time," Dr. Smiley said.

Located near several major corporations' headquarters, a large number of Vision Professionals' patients are executives, and they appreciate an e-mail contact that they can view and address on their own time rather than being interrupted by a phone call, according to Dr. Smiley.

"One of the big issues we have-and I'm sure it's the same for many doctors-is cancellations and no-shows," Dr. Smiley said. "We have seen a 20% decrease in cancellations and no-shows since we started using this, so we're averaging about one more exam per day compared to what we were doing before with phone calls. So, at least for us, [the appointment reminder] pays for itself in 1 day of each month of operation."

Annette Leatherman, office manager at Vision Professionals, said, "About 90% of our patients who use the service are very pleased with the quick reminder via text or e-mail. They simply just don't want to talk on the phone," "In addition, it has made our monthly recall system much simpler and more cost-effective. It has taken the staff time that we have to dedicate to reminder calls down to almost nothing."

While on the surface the appointment reminders may seem complicated because of all its features, Leatherman said that's not the case. It simply extracts data from the in-house practice management software, and generates the desired service with a few mouse clicks. And the support staff at the service provider is very helpful with any questions that arise, Leatherman said.

Dr. Smiley said the appointment reminder also came in handy when his practice recently added a new doctor. "We were immediately able to announce our new associate to more than 80% of our patients at the click of a mouse," Dr. Smiley said. "It's an unbelievable way to communicate with patients, especially compared to the cost and time involved with creating a letter, putting it in an envelope, putting a stamp on it, sending it out."

A service that's appreciated by patients, eliminates a tedious, time-consuming staff chore, and boosts a practice's revenues by minimizing patient no-shows seems like a good reason to remind everyone to smile.