ContentsThe Impact of Missed Appointments on Dental PracticesBenefits of Using Dentist Appointment Reminders for PatientsBenefits of Using Dentist Appointment Reminders for Your OfficeDentist Appointment Reminders via SMSBest Practices for Dentist Appointment RemindersDentist Appointment Reminder Examples & TemplatesImplementing an Effective Appointment Reminder StrategyHow to Set Up Appointment Reminders for Your Dental PracticeTry Dentist Appointment Reminders for Your Practice
Isn’t it disappointing when patients don't show up for their dentist appointments?
For dental offices, no-shows can be a major problem, disrupting your schedule and affecting your bottom line. So how can you combat the problem of no-shows?
Most offices employ a simple concept to help: dentist appointment reminders. After all, we’re all busy. Reminders are a powerful tool that can help you stay in touch with your patients and ensure they never forget an appointment again.
By sending automated reminders via text or email, you can keep your patients informed and engaged, while reducing the likelihood of no-shows. Here we'll explore the benefits of dental appointment reminders, particularly via SMS. We’ll also discuss how reminders can help you improve patient satisfaction, streamline your operations, and boost your practice's revenue.
So, say goodbye to no-shows and hello to a more efficient, productive practice with dental appointment reminders!
Let’s say you own or work for a busy dental practice.
You’re booked out for weeks or months ahead of time. Scheduling is tricky—you need to figure out what works for the patients as well as the providers. You need to also keep some time slots open for emergency visits. Plus you need to be flexible when people reschedule.
And there are always people that don’t show up.
Patient no-show rates in the healthcare industry can reach as high as 80%. And this costs the industry around $150 billion per year.
Not to mention the time that could be spent on more productive things. One health clinic reported that the amount of missed appointments during a single year amounted to 1,300 clinic hours.
Dental offices are not exempt. One article points out how a single lost appointment per day can cost a dental practice anywhere from $20,000–$50,000 per year. This can obviously add up quickly, especially if you have multiple no-shows in a day or week.
A missed appointment means you’re not getting to offer your services. It means your patient isn’t getting the care that they were hoping to get and that they will have to reschedule. It means that other patients who could have filled their slot have to wait.
The bottom line is that missed appointments hurt your bottom line.
So what can be done? One simple answer: reminders.
Appointment reminders can be incredibly beneficial for patients.
One study of a hospital found, “Non-attendance rates were 38% lower in patients who received an SMS reminder than in patients who did not receive a reminder.”
By receiving reminders via text or email, patients are more likely to remember their appointments and show up on time.
A patient actually showing up means that they’re getting the healthcare they signed up for. It means they won’t have to go through the hassle of rescheduling. Additionally, appointment reminders can help patients know how to plan their schedule.
Furthermore, appointment reminders can also help patients stay engaged with your practice. By sending regular communication from your office, you can help keep your practice top of mind. This not only means that your patient will be more likely to attend their scheduled appointment, it can also lead to increased loyalty and better patient retention in the long run.
Ultimately, healthcare practices such as dental offices exist to serve patients. The patient can’t be served if they don’t show up. Appointment reminders can help improve the patient experience and lead to better outcomes for both your patients and your dental practice.
In addition to benefiting the patient, appointment reminders help benefit the efficiency and profitability of your office.
As mentioned, missed appointments mean missed revenue. Missed revenue means missed profit. And missed profit means that your practice isn’t doing as well as it could be doing.
But it’s not just about the money. It’s also about making the most productive use of your time and resources. It’s not efficient for your office to be spending large chunks of time dealing with no-shows—following up with them, rescheduling, collecting fees (if you charge a no-show fee). They could be spending this time on other things, like finding new patients, giving good customer service to current patients, or administrative tasks that need to be done.
Since appointment reminders mean that more people will show up to their appointments, those reminders can help give your office a boost of productivity and profitability.
The main types of appointment reminders you can provide are phone calls, emails, and SMS.
While all of these have the potential to be effective, one report claimed that only 52% of all phone calls made to mobile phones are answered. Email is well known to have a low open rate (averaging around 23% for healthcare emails).
SMS, on the other hand, has reported read rates as high as 98%.
So while your best option is probably to include a combination of reminder methods, if you have to choose one, choose SMS.
(Mobile Text Alerts is an SMS platform that allows you to send dentist appointment reminders and engage with your patients.)
Through the SMS platform, you can manage a database of your patients online. You can then schedule and send appointment reminders in a few different ways:
You do have to keep in mind that text messages aren’t encrypted. So in order to be HIPAA-compliant, you’ll need to either:
To ensure the success of appointment reminders (particularly for SMS), there are several best practices that dental practices should follow.
Getting permission is especially important if you’re sending content that includes PHI. But even if you’re not, you should make sure you get consent.
Generally speaking, people don’t like to receive unsolicited messages. If they never willingly provided you with their phone number, they may be suspicious when they see a text come in.
Because of mobile carrier guidelines, we would recommend including the name or abbreviation for your practice in every text message you send.
Mobile carriers are pretty strict about not allowing messages they deem as spam to be delivered to recipients. If you clearly identify yourself, you’ll not only ensure that your patient knows who’s sending the message, you’ll also make it less likely for carriers to prevent the message from being delivered.
Personalization is commonly accepted as an important communication strategy. So when possible, try to include your patient’s name within your reminder texts. Doing this just adds a nice touch.
SMS software will allow you to insert the patient’s name without actually having to individually type it in each time.
This should go without saying, but when setting up your reminders, remember to include the date and time of the patient’s appointment.
Having this information readily available on hand will make it much easier for your patients to remember to keep their appointments.
Your SMS reminders in particular should generally be to-the-point. SMS as a communication avenue is intended for short and concise messages.
You can be informal if it’s consistent for your brand, but overall, opt for clarity rather than flowery language.
If patients for one reason or another no longer want to receive your reminders (which isn’t likely), make sure they know how they can opt out.
This is especially important for SMS. Mobile carriers will be less likely to filter out your SMS as spam if you include opt-out instructions for every message.
Although the sweet spot of how many reminders to send has yet to be discovered, one study found that sending 2 reminders for a health appointment as opposed to 1 saw better results.
We’d recommend you try sending 3 reminders:
You may find that your patients prefer just 2 reminders. Although we wouldn’t recommend more than 3 reminders, you may also find that more than 3 works best for your patients.
Here are some examples of how dentist’s offices could use appointment reminder texts:
Pelton Family Dentistry: Katie, don’t forget! You have an appointment with Dr. Sara Thursday, 7/13 at 1:15pm. See you there! Reply STOP to opt out
Eastridge Dental Group: Hi Annie! Your cleaning is tomorrow (8/23) at 9:10am. See you bright and early! Text STOP to stop
Branson Dentistry: We’re excited to see you for your exam today, Mark! As a reminder, your appointment is at 11:40am. Reply STOP to unsubscribe
You can also use texting for other reminders and notices too:
Oakland Dental: New Dental Assistant job opening now available! Click here for more info: http://mbltxt.com/qGI Reply STOP to stop
Lincoln Heights Dentistry: 4th of July sale! 20% off all products (including electric toothbrushes, water flossers, and sensitivity toothpaste) until Friday. Call the office to order: 402-464-5465. Reply STOP to opt out
Dr. Patterson: It’s been 3 months since your last cleaning, so just a friendly reminder to discard and replace your current toothbrush! We’ll see you on your next cleaning 🙂
There are a few steps you can take as you try to plan and implement your appointment reminder strategy.
Ideally, you’ll want an SMS system that’s able to integrate with your calendar and database, so that you can easily automate processes.
Mobile Text Alerts is able to integrate with thousands of services without needing coding, through the integration site Zapier.com—or if you have access to developers, you can set up your own integrations via API.
Once you’ve determined what system you’re going to use, you can plan other aspects of your strategy.
Designate someone (or a team of people) in your office who will be in charge of setting up and sending out the reminder texts.
Since the process can often be automated, they likely won’t need to micromanage too many of the details. But it’s good to have someone in charge who can make sure everything goes smoothly.
As mentioned above, we would recommend 2–3 appointment reminder messages per visit. But you can make that determination for your own office based on what you think will be effective for your patients.
You can also try a certain number of texts for a while and see how it goes—then change later if needed.
The good thing about appointment reminders is you don’t have to get too creative. You can set up a series of messages and use that same template for all of your texts (just with different details filled in personalized to the patient).
Figure out what you want to say, and write it down—then you won’t have to do it again.
After you’ve made your plan for your appointment reminders, you can start implementing it in your chosen SMS platform. Once messages start sending out, you should see fewer no-shows for your appointments.
(Make sure to record a benchmark data point for your no-shows before implementing SMS, so that you have a point of comparison.)
As your messages go out, you can monitor the results. After your reminders have been going for a while (at least 1 month), you can analyze data points such as:
Once you’ve analyzed some of that data, you can make more informed decisions about how to optimize your texts.
To set up SMS dentist appointment reminders with Mobile Text Alerts, here are a few steps you can follow:
You can get started by setting up a free trial, which allows you to try things out without having to commit to anything.
Your free trial will let you get a feel for the platform, see what it’s like to send messages, and add in your contact database.
After you’ve created a free account, the next step is to get a free walkthrough of that account. SMS experts can do a free 1-on-1 consultation. They’ll walk you through everything and can give you advice specific to the dental industry.
They’ll also be able to answer whatever questions you might have about getting started and help you get things set up.
You’ll most likely load your contacts initially into the SMS platform via a spreadsheet import. You’ll just take your list of contacts, put it into a spreadsheet, and drop it into the system.
Your patients will then be automatically loaded into the SMS platform.
If you want to send your messages manually, you can simply input them as needed into the online dashboard and schedule them for the appropriate time.
More likely, you’ll want to automate the messages. You may be able to do that by using the integration site Zapier.com. Otherwise, if you have access to web developers, you can also have them use API to set up the automation. (The API documentation they’ll need can be found here.)
You’ll be able to monitor and analyze your messaging efforts from the dashboard reports.
That way, you’ll be able to see how successful your messaging efforts are proving to be.
Want to give SMS reminders a try for your dental office?
Get a free trial account today to test things out for yourself.
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