No-show appointments are incredibly frustrating to healthcare professionals and patients alike. They are also extremely costly. It’s estimated that the NHS loses approximately £216m a year through missed general practice appointments with 15 million GP appointments wasted each year.
But, why do patients not turn up for appointments? Transport, care issues, forgetfulness, or simply the time and difficulty of cancelling all contribute to the issue. Yet, many of these overarching reasons for missed appointments can be significantly reduced through automation.
Let’s take a closer look at how automated appointment reminders could help to reduce missed appointments.
How to reduce no-show appointments with automated reminder software
A literal reminder
Perhaps the most obvious way that appointment reminder software reduces no-shows is that it literally reminds people of the time and date of their appointment.
More often that not, the reason for missed appointments is quite innocent – people forgot. With busy lives, work drama or childcare responsibilities, several automated reminders give patients the opportunity to re-organise their diaries to attend, reschedule the appointment for a more convenient time or cancel altogether, freeing up the spot for someone else
Similarly, automated appointment reminder systems help to make cancelling and rescheduling as easy as possible. It can often take a significant amount of time to cancel a healthcare appointment, simply due to phone wait times.
With online scheduling and automated reminders, however, this process is made significantly more straightforward. Patients can simply respond to an SMS or email indicating whether they will or won’t be attending an appointment, so that the practice can act accordingly.
Communication is clearer
When booking healthcare appointments, it can be incredibly difficult to remember all of the details, or track down the letter you were first given with instructions. This can lead to missed appointments due to confusion, frustration or a lack of informed pre-planning.
By using appointment reminders, practices can provide all of the important information concisely in either a text or email. Patients who receive several reminders telling them where they need to go and when; what will happen at the appointment; any protocols, as well as timely information such as delays and detailed transport information, are certainly more likely to attend.
More personalised messaging
Perhaps counterintuitively, automated reminders offer an opportunity to provide a more human, personalised service. Often, a barrier to turning up for appointments is a fear of the outcome, exacerbated by a lack of trust in or anxiety about the appointment process.
Personalised messaging allows for better relationship building with patients and increases trust. This might just be friendly wording, but it is also possible to personalise messages even further. Automation links up contact information with other details held in databases so that – for example – practices can notify patients in their chosen language or at a time most convenient for them.
Automatic integration with EHR
Complete electronic health records (EHR) integration makes the patient scheduling process seamless too. As patients update their appointment information or reschedule, practice calendars are updated in real-time, and other patients can automatically be notified of a recently freed up appointment slot that might be convenient for them.
Data integration with hospital systems also allows for better tracking and analysis. Automatic reminder responses feed directly into the database, so that clinics can better analyse this data to understand the frequency, reminder stage, and reasoning behind missed appointments. Recognising patterns in missed patient appointments is incredibly important to reducing no shows, as clinics can improve reminders accordingly.
Want to reduce no-shows in your practice? Get in touch with one of the team to discuss how you can automate your appointment reminders in your practice.