When a patient does not show up for an appointment, without cancelling or rescheduling, it not only costs the practice money and staff time — it also affects the patient. Are text message appointment reminders effective in reducing no-shows? Several studies have demonstrated how short message service (SMS) text message appointment reminders are effective and cost-beneficial for reducing no-shows.

Text Messaging is Familiar and Convenient

Pew Research Center reports that nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone and 97 percent of smartphone owners utilize text messaging more frequently than other features or apps. Text messaging is now used frequently by people from a wide range of age groups. During the survey period, 100 percent of 18-29 year old smartphone owners used text messaging at least once, and 92 percent of smartphone owners over the age of 50 used text messaging at least once.

Text message reminders are not only familiar, they are also convenient. Here are a few statistics that demonstrate the convenience of text messaging reminders:

  • Nearly 91 percent of Americans have their cell phones within arm’s reach 24 hours a day
  • 98 percent of text messages are read, and of those messages 90 percent are read within three minutes of receipt

SMS Text Message Reminders Prove to Be More Effective Than No Reminder at All

Another study published by the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine analyzed the effectiveness of implementing SMS text message appointment reminders at physical therapy outpatient departments in metropolitan public hospitals. The authors of the study randomly split patients from two physical therapy outpatient departments into two groups. One group received SMS text message appointment reminders two days prior to the appointment. The message included the office location, appointment date and time, and stated to only call the office if cancelling or rescheduling. The second group of patients did not receive any appointment reminder.

Results:

  • The no-show rate for patients receiving a text message reminder was 11 percent.
  • The no-show rate for patients not receiving any reminder was 16 percent.

The authors concluded that sending SMS text message reminders was more effective than sending no reminder at all. They also noted that one site employed an automated system, while the other site had staff manually send the SMS text messages. The authors observed that the automated SMS text message reminders were not only effective in reducing no-shows, but also in reducing the amount of staff time spent on confirming appointments.

Meta-analysis Shows SMS Appointment Reminders Reduce No-shows in Healthcare

A recent meta-analysis of 28 studies published between 2005 and 2015 was done to evaluate not only the effectiveness of SMS text message appointment reminders, but more specifically the effectiveness in recent years.

Throughout their research the authors found that multiple studies cited forgetfulness, competing commitments, poor health, poor patient-provider relationship, practice error and patient confusion over dates and times as reasons patients did not show up for their appointments. Many of these reasons are preventable with text message appointment reminders.

The meta-analysis lists many benefits to SMS text message appointment reminders such as:

  • Quick message delivery
  • Less intrusive and more convenient than traditional methods
  • Can be sent in large batches to multiple numbers
  • More cost and time effective than traditional methods

The authors concluded that SMS text message appointment reminders are effective in reducing no-show rates, and that this effectiveness has improved in the last five years. They noted that within the 28 studies analyzed, a range of healthcare settings and different specialties were included. This led the authors to conclude that SMS text message appointment reminders are effective in reducing no-shows in a variety of healthcare settings and specialties.

In Conclusion

Most patients fully intend to attend their appointments, but life gets in the way. They forget, have additional commitments come up, or are confused about when their appointment is. Each of these studies show that sending a text message appointment reminder before the appointment prevents a large portion of no-shows.

To learn how PhoneTree can help you reduce your no-show rate, request a consultation.

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