Like most people, you’re probably looking for an easy way to get reminded of upcoming appointments. Text message appointment reminders are the best thing since sliced bread. Integrating this technology into your office can effectively cut down on no-shows and improve patient satisfaction.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a step back and talk about what text appointment reminder software should be able to do for us in practice. Here are some rules that will help you choose the right system:
Text messaging has to be convenient
I don’t know anyone who enjoys exchanging texts with their dentist. Texts have got to be one of my least favorite forms of communication, right after voicemails. Texts more than a sentence long are annoying to respond to, and even two sentences can be a bit of a hassle if I’m in the middle of something else.
Instead of getting annoyed with your staff because they won’t stop texting you, make it easier for them by setting up some text message templates. Make sure staff know how to use them effectively – you want receptionists to make a few decisions based on what information they have, instead of wasting time typing out instructions every single time someone texts in.
Text appointment reminders must be quick
As far as special offers go, snail mail is only half as bad as an email newsletter. Text messages are way worse. They’re unreasonably slow compared to most other forms of communication. Texts take at least 20 minutes to hit their destination, which means if a patient texts in about an hour before a scheduled appointment, they won’t get a reminder until the day of the appointment.
There’s no contest between texts and emails when it comes to speed, but text reminders are far more convenient for patients since they don’t require them to visit any website or access an app. Text messages are also less likely to result in lost appointments than emails, though you should still use both methods for maximum patient security.
Text message appointment reminders must be reliable
Some text message reminder providers have done away with phone lines entirely in favor of cloud technology – these services send out all their alerts via email. This is a great method for practices that only want to use text messaging for dental, but it’s not so good for busy offices with long wait times or multiple locations. Texts are seldom more reliable than phone calls, which means you’re going to have to deal with some missed appointments if you switch to this system.
This happened to me the other day – I was in the middle of my shift when I got an automated reminder about a patient appointment. The automated voice told me all the information I needed, including the address and phone number of the place where my patient would be getting their cleaning. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough information – the message cut off before I could get any directions on how to get it.
My patient ended up missing their appointment, and I’m sure they weren’t happy about that. Text reminders mean you will have slightly fewer missed appointments, but they won’t be nearly as effective (or satisfying) as phone calls.
Text message appointment reminders must not get in the way of patient confidentiality
This one’s a biggie. Patients need to feel like their information is safe with you, and there’s no better way to make them paranoid than by sending texts about their appointments without permission or explanation. Text messaging can be an incredibly valuable marketing tool when used correctly, but it needs to stay out of the treatment room if it wants to avoid being labeled “creepy.”
Text messages are much more personal than emails, so take some time to discuss confidentiality concerns with your staff. Text messages should only be sent after a patient has verbally agreed to receive them – make it a rule, or you’re going to have an upset patient on your hands.
Text message appointment reminders must have decent follow-up options
In the unlikely event that a text message alert is missed, patients should be given enough time to reschedule their appointment before they’re forced into uncomfortable situations. This means appointments for things like cleanings and dental exams need to be set up at least 24 hours in advance. Text alerts about procedures and emergency visits should be closer to the 12-hour mark so people can still move forward with their plans if they want to.
If you send a reminder via text, you should also include a link to your online appointment system. Texts are informal, but they’re still electronic letters that deserve an equally formal follow-up.
These rules apply to email reminders as well, except the last one. Text messages require far too much time to be written out in full each time, so most practices rely on emails alone to schedule appointments. Texting is best left for confirming scheduled visits or sending patient surveys – there’s no need to get carried away!
Give patients their privacy and trust them with true convenience by using text message appointment reminders without overdoing it. Remember, nobody likes feeling like their information is public property; your job is to make people feel safe – not scared. Text appointment reminders can be a great tool if you get the rules right. Use Text Appointment Reminders Without Oversharing.
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