A growing number of clinics are adopting technology to automate the process of reminding patients about their appointments. When done correctly, appointment reminders can reduce the risk of no-shows, help patients arrive more prepared, and increase operational efficiency within the clinic. They can also reduce costs associated with paper-based, mailed reminders.
However, a 2016 study on appointment reminders found many healthcare providers were using them sub-optimally and highlighted several areas of improvement. We’ve addressed some of these areas and included tips and best practices below so your clinic can take full advantage of automated patient reminders on Ocean.
Use Reminders to Help Ensure Patient Records are Kept Up to Date and Accurate
Having incorrect or outdated contact information is not only frustrating, it can also directly impact patient care by making it difficult to communicate with patients about appointments, referrals and results. For patient populations who often miss their appointments, keeping track of changing contact information can also be very time-consuming. While clinic staff will generally confirm patient demographics at check-in, it’s not always possible to review every detail with each patient during a busy clinic.
By incorporating a Demographic Review Form into your Ocean Patient Reminders, Ocean Tablets and Ocean Check-In Kiosks, patients can privately review and change their own information at home or in the waiting room. This can reduce the amount of clinic staff time dedicated to this task, improve the overall accuracy of patient contact information, and help ensure reminders are sent to the right place.
Be Strategic with Timing
Finding the balance between too many and too few reminders can be tricky at first. Depending on your practice, Ocean recommends a few different options:
For specialist visits, annual physicals or other appointment types booked months in advance
Consider sending a manual reminder as soon as the appointment is booked so patients can plan accordingly. Ocean makes it easy to create email templates incorporating clinic details and forms for the patient to complete in advance of their visit. This can be supplemented with an automated reminder with the date and time sent a day or two ahead of the appointment.
Customize reminders and timing based on appointment type
To ensure patients are sufficiently informed, you may choose to send multiple reminders that serve different purposes. For example, for a well-baby visit you might choose to send a reminder one week out from the appointment and with a well-baby screening tool like the Rourke Developmental Screen to give parents enough time to review the materials and consider their responses. A basic reminder containing specific appointment details can also be sent 1-2 days before the scheduled visit. Ocean makes it easy to customize as many reminders as needed based on different appointment types.
Schedule reminders according to your cancellation policies.
For example, if you require 24 hours notice for a cancellation, you will want to schedule reminders at least 2 days ahead of the appointment. If necessary, this gives patients the opportunity to reschedule and clinics to contact other waitlisted patients.
Bonus tip: Patient missed their appointment? By configuring a reminder based on the keyword “-NS” for no-show, Ocean can to send an automated notice to patients telling them to contact the clinic and reschedule. Learn how with our Creating/Configuring Ocean Reminders guide.
*Available for Accuro users only
Include More Than Just the Necessities
In some cases, providing more information beyond the date, time, and place improves compliance. Patients arrive to their appointments feeling more comfortable and prepared when they know what to expect. For mental health visits, reminders with a short orientation paragraph explaining the treatment process and some gentle encouragement were found to be more effective when compared to simple phone call reminders.
In Ocean, this is easily done by creating templates:
Alternatively, reminders can also include office policies, particularly surrounding cancellation and no-show fees. Instead of missing the appointment completely, this encourages patients to proactively contact the clinic and reschedule to avoid repercussions.
Interested in learning more about Ocean Patient Reminders and see how you can effectively implement them at your clinic? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: Ocean Reminders are currently only available for TELUS PS Suite, TELUS Med Access, or Accuro EMR users on an Ocean Unlimited Licence.