Reduce No Show Appointments in Your Practice With Smart Marketing Tools

Leilani Bruce
Published on Dec 17, 2018

Reduce No Show Appointments in Your Practice With Smart Marketing Tools

It’s fifteen minutes past your patient’s appointment time and they’re nowhere to be found. Frustrating. To make matters worse, you just told another patient you couldn’t see them today. Even more frustrating.

No shows and last minute cancellations are expensive. According to a recent study by healthcare technology company SCI Solutions, the cost of missed appointments is approximately $150 billion per year. It’s easy to see why – wasted preparation time, time spent rescheduling, and unused time slots add up quickly.

Can’t figure out how to reduce no-show appointments? You’re not alone. You might make phone calls, send a text or email reminders, have your appointment policies posted at the front desk, or add a cancellation fee to recover some of the lost income. And yet, no shows continue to be a problem.

Don’t throw up your hands just yet. There are innovative technology solutions popping up in the marketplace every day to address these problems. These tools not only reduce no-show appointments, but they also improve patient satisfaction at the same time. You might think that marketing your practice ends when you get a new patient, but it’s an ongoing process of nurturing a relationship. These healthcare marketing examples make it easier for you and your staff to do just that.

You might think that marketing your practice ends when you get a new patient, but it’s an ongoing process of nurturing a relationship. Share on X

Automated Text, Voicemail, and Email Reminders

Using an automated notification service to send secure appointment reminders is a good idea even if you’re already making reminder phone calls. Although phone calls are more personal, it’s a time-consuming task for your staff. Plus, today’s consumers now expect these types of reminders — and rely on them to stay organized.

Look for software that allows you to send all three types of reminders from a single dashboard. Having two-way communication is also essential. For example, some automated text messaging services, such as PhoneTree’s HealthWave Connect, allow the recipient to text response or opt out. This makes confirmations or cancellations fast and easy. It’s also important to confirm if the software will integrate with your electronic medical record system. You don’t want the headache of maintaining two separate databases.

Mobile Marketing Watch reports that text messages have an open rate of 98%, compared to 22% for email.

Online Scheduling

According to Health Leaders Media, about 85% of consumers still schedule doctor’s appointments by phone. However, a 2017 study by Healthgrades/Stax showed that consumers clearly want more online options. When given a choice between physicians with similar experience, proximity, availability, and patient satisfaction ratings, the vast majority of consumers (81% for PCPs, and 77% for specialists) choose the physician who provides online scheduling.

But how does this avoid no-show appointments? Many patients feel guilty or awkward canceling an appointment — especially last minute. Providing them with an option to do so online will increase the chances that they’ll cancel earlier and more consistently when the situation arises. You also have the opportunity to confirm they’ve read your appointment policies before they schedule. You can remind them again when they initiate a cancellation online, so there’s no confusion about the consequences.

Look for a robust solution like Medfusion, which allows your staff to keep full control of your schedule. You set the parameters to avoid double booking and ensure the patient gets the right appointment with the right provider. There are also systems that allow patients to book an appointment from commonly used websites like Google, Yelp, and Facebook. Imagine how convenient it would be for patients to find your Google My Business page and make an appointment right there.

Smart Marketing tools to reduce no show appointments

Medfusion reports that implementing online scheduling can reduce no-shows by 50%.

Automated Missed Appointment Messages

Even with your best efforts, you’ll still have no shows. It’s important to contact them quickly to reschedule, so your patient’s care isn’t compromised and you don’t lose valuable income. Having an automated system to send a missed appointment message will get your patient rescheduled as soon as possible. You can customize the message, remind about your policies, and include a link to call or schedule online. Some systems like Vital Interaction have two-factor authentication to make sure the patient wants to cancel. Once they confirm, it automatically offers three new appointment times for them to choose.

The fact that you followed up quickly to check on the patient shows care and concern and establishes a personal connection that will make them more likely to show up next time. Patients who miss an appointment will often make an effort to ensure they don’t skip the next one, so it can help reduce no-shows over time.

Automating missed appointment follow-ups saves valuable time for your staff and gets the patient back on your calendar quickly.

Waitlist Notifications

When a patient doesn’t show up for an appointment, that means another patient missed an opportunity to be seen by your practice. With the right automation software, you can send an automated message to patients on your waitlist immediately after someone cancels.

This allows your practice to provide better service to all your patients and respond quickly to individuals who really need your care. While this won’t directly reduce no-show appointments, it can certainly ease the financial impact while providing the added benefit of improving patient care.

Tools like SolutionReach can send a message to patients on your waitlist the moment you have a cancellation, keeping your calendar full and improving patient satisfaction.

Thinking Bigger – Marketing Automation

Marketing healthcare is about building personal connections. Your patient chose your practice because they felt a connection. To keep them coming back and respecting your time, you need to actively nurture that relationship. That’s the key to reducing missed appointments. And it’s also the goal of marketing automation.

Marketing automation continuously communicates relevant, helpful, timely information with your patients. This builds trust, which creates happy patients who keep their appointments. A comprehensive marketing automation solution like HubSpot or Marketo addresses all the opportunities to improve patient satisfaction and does so in a coordinated way. For this reason, growing practices should consider adding marketing automation to their healthcare practice marketing plan.

But let’s focus on how to reduce missed appointments through marketing automation. For example, you have a new patient who called to set up an appointment. Here’s a basic flow of communications.

    • Immediately After the Call – Your patient receives a text and email confirmation.
    • A Few Days After the Call – Your patient receives an email or series of emails (spaced out every few days) on topics like “Welcome to our Practice” or “Preparing for Your First Appointment.”
    • A Few Days Before the Appointment – Your patient receives automated text, email or voicemail reminders.
    • A Few Minutes After Appointment – Your patient receives relevant information about a condition or illness based on diagnostic codes.
  • 30 Minutes After Missed Appointment – Your patient receives an automated text or email about their missed appointment with a link to reschedule.
Marketing automation continuously communicates relevant, helpful, timely information with your patients. This builds trust, which creates happy patients who keep their appointments. Share on X

As you can see, the automated process of relevant communication is triggered by an action – new patient, new diagnostic code, upcoming appointment, or a missed appointment. Once set up, these processes can run without taking valuable time from your staff.

Each of these timely messages builds trust and gives your patient the opportunity to communicate with you. With every touch point, you’re building credibility and helpful information. Your missed appointments will diminish, as patients understand the value you place on their healthcare and well-being.

Marketing automation allows you to create email workflows that send personalized, relevant messages to your patients, building a positive relationship that reduces missed appointments.

No shows occur for a million reasons – emergencies, forgetfulness, financial issues, misunderstandings, transportation problems, or language barriers. Your patients have stressful, complex lives. That’s not to say there aren’t a few inconsiderate people too, but they’re the minority. By implementing these smart marketing tools, you can make your patients’ lives easier and build positive relationships. You’ll reduce missed appointments and improve patient satisfaction at the same time.

Marketing tools and best practices