July 10, 2017

SMS Reminders Reduce Missed Medical Appointments for Providers

When a patient misses a scheduled appointment, it can impact their health and well-being. It causes financial difficulties for their providers as missed appointments add up to $150 billion in annual losses. mGage helped one company empower practices to easily send SMS reminders of appointments, follow-up scheduling and past due bill notices to patients.

Background

Missed appointments cost the U.S. healthcare system more than $150 billion annually. These costs filter down to medical practices of all types – the average practice has a no-show rate of 12 percent, while the rate for some practices and services (such as ones that require a special diet or prep by the patient) can be as high as 50 percent. Patient no-shows do more than reduce a practice’s revenue stream – it also creates inefficiencies in staff scheduling and longer wait times for appointments for other patients.

SMS is an important channel for medical reminders along with other important messages (see below). Patients want to be contacted via the method they prefer to use. For example, the Vanderbilt Medical Center was able to increase confirmation rates from 30 percent to 55 percent by allowing patients to select text messages as a preferred channel compared to the previous phone-only model. The preference for text reminders is particularly true with millennials – a recent survey showed that 62 percent preferred receiving general appointment reminders via text.

Providers can benefit from the effectiveness of SMS messaging along with their patients. Multiple studies have shown that patients are more likely to respond to SMS messages than other forms of communications such as phone calls or emails. As an example, patients are more likely to cancel an appointment rather than no-show if a reminder is sent via SMS. This is important, as slots for canceled appointments can be filled with other patients rather than going to waste.

Several technology companies offer solutions to healthcare providers looking to reduce the burden of no-shows. One such company provides a way for anyone who needs to contact a patient to automatically send personalized messages across multiple channels including SMS texts, phone calls and emails.

Challenges

When the company evaluated potential partners to manage the delivery of SMS messages to customers through carriers, reliability was the primary concern. Appointment reminders that are not received by customers are potentially lost revenue for the medical practice and a reason to switch to a different practitioner. Appointment reminders are only effective if a patient can receive and respond to a text in a timely fashion.

Solution

Partnering with mGage gave the company access to the most reliable and proven network for sending Application-to-Person (A2P) SMS messages. mGage is the country’s largest Tier 1 aggregator and send roughly 30 percent of all text messages in the United States. Using direct domestic and international connections, mGage sends messages to more than 150 countries through 1,800 global carriers. This is built on a scalable infrastructure that leads reliable service and dependable uptime – meaning that messages will go out when they should go out.

The client’s service allows patients to choose how they are contacted for reminders at their doctor’s office, selecting from SMS, phone calls or emails – or a combination of any of the three. Appointment information is collected through the healthcare practice’s existing scheduling software, meaning there is no additional implementation needed for a practice to use the service.

Results

SMS has become a critical element for the company to connect patients and their healthcare. They send more than 180,000 SMS messages to patients each month to remind them of appointments and to communicate other critical information. This represents roughly one-quarter of all communications they handle for doctor’s offices.

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Richard Manfredi
Richard Manfredi / Author

Richard Manfredi is the Content Marketing Manager at mGage. He has more than 15 years of marketing and public relations experience with clients in technology and is a former staff reporter for major daily newspapers.

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