A dentist’s office is usually a busy place. There are patients waiting to meet the dentist in the waiting room with the dentist and his/her assistant busy seeing patients. This is the schedule from morning to evening, every day at a dentist’s place. Most dentist offices have a busy schedule with appointments fixed throughout the day. What a dentist would hate is a missed appointment. When a patient misses an appointment, it affects the dentist’s schedule and sometimes may even require a re-scheduling.
This is why dentists have a receptionist or office assistant to call patients to remind them of their appointment. Making telephone calls can be a problem, as many people may not receive the call when they are at work. Sending e-mails may not be helpful, as e-mails tend to be blocked by spam filters. Keeping these problems in mind, the most practical solution for a dentist’s clinic is to make use of text messaging reminder patients of appointments.
The problem of missed appointments
A survey was carried out of patients to understand the trend related to missed appointments and the reasons for the same. The study revealed some interesting facts:
• 52.4% of patients who missed an appointment said that this happened because they forgot the appointment or had to cancel.
• 28.6% of patients said that they had noted the time incorrectly because of which they missed the appointment.
• 23.8% said that they missed the appointment because of work-related issues or because they were caught up in traffic.
Sending timely reminders would have helped in preventing the missed appointment. This would have helped the patient make the patient on time. It would have ensured that there would have been no inconvenience to the dentist too.
Using text messages to send reminders
Text messaging can be used to send reminder messages to patients to ensure that they don’t miss the dentist’s appointment. It is easy and simple for a dentist’s office to do this. All they need are:
1) Text messaging software to help them manage the sending of messages in an effective way.
2) A database of patients and their phone numbers (which can be maintained in any simple format like that of Excel).
With these two pre-requisites, dentists can send messages to patients to remind them of appointments, so that a patient does not miss the appointment.
The benefits of using text messaging for appointment reminders are:
• Text messages are sent to the mobile phone and do not require internet access.
• 97% of all text messages would be read by the recipients. This ensures that a reminder message sent would not only reach the patient but would be read.
• The response rate to text messaging is higher as compared to other modes of communication. This is why it is used in text marketing more often. Dentists can use text messaging to send reminders.
• A survey was done of patients to find out, which was their preferred method of receiving reminders. 38.1% of patients said that they preferred to receive reminders through text messages. 23% of patients preferred a telephonic call, while 19% preferred an e-mail. It is clear that even patients prefer to receive text message reminders.
How to send text message reminders?
Text message reminders can be sent as soon as an appointment is fixed. If the dentist’s office is using software to book appointments, the text messaging software can be connected to it. This ensures a message is sent immediately when an appointment is fixed. The details of the appointment can be used to send reminders using the schedule message option of the software.
Some of the guidelines to be kept in mind while sending text message reminders are:
a) The message must clearly mention the appointment reminder of the date and time. This is very important since many patients forget the time. It is important to display the date and time at the start of the message.
b) The name of the dentist and other information related to the appointment can be included in the message.
c) Where the patients need to bring any records, the message can remind them of it.
d) It is possible to use messages for interactive communication. Patients can be asked to reply to the message with Y or N to indicate their confirmation. This would ensure that patients have an option to cancel the appointment and inform the dentist in advance.
e) Messages should ideally be sent between noon and evening when they are relatively free.
f) Reminders can be sent frequently until the date of appointment so that the patient doesn’t forget about it.
Text messaging is the most effective way of reminding patients of appointments. A dentist’s office can use texting to remind patients of their appointments. This ensures the smooth working of the dentist’s office. It also ensures an effective solution for the problem of canceled appointments.