Earlier this year, we at Shorehaven Behavioral Health decided to move forward with the implementation of electronic appointment reminders for our clients through text messages and e-mail. Some of the goals of this project were to increase attendance rates, reduce no-shows and late cancels, and increase the timeliness of our clients scheduling their medical transportation. We collected each clients' preference (text message or e-mail reminder), entered their response into our Electronic Health Record (also stores our client demographics, clinical charting and documentation, clinicians' schedules, and billing system), and determined how much advanced notice the client needed (2 hours, or 1, 2, or 3 days before the appointment). While some clients only need a one-day notice of their upcoming appointment, the clients that rely on medical transport need a two- or three-day advanced reminder in order to schedule their ride 48 hours ahead of time.
After the first few months of using these automatic appointment reminders, things seem to be going smoothly, though it's still a little early to quantify the difference in attendance/cancellation rates. Later this summer, we will collect our data and review the results in a more detailed report. Generally speaking, many clients have reported to our reception staff that they love the reminders and find them helpful in keeping their schedule with us. On the other side, there are still some obstacles that we are working to overcome. For example, we are limited to 160 characters for the text message reminder so the reminder comes in one message. This leaves the reminder message short and sweet (which some are okay with). Another issue is outdated or incorrect e-mail addresses in the system. No matter how often we confirm this information with the clients, we are still receiving the bounce-back of our messages being "undeliverable." We are able to contact the client directly by phone when we receive the bounce-back if the client's e-mail address identifies them somehow, but for the more abstract e-mail addresses, this becomes difficult. As the automated reminder system becomes more developed onsite, we hope to work out as many of these kinks as we can so we are able to increase the effectiveness of the program.
I am curious to know how many behavioral health clinics use electronic appointment reminds for their clients. If you do, have you encountered other obstacles that we difficult to resolve? What benefits has your company noticed with your system, both for your staff and your clients? Other than technological issues, do you feel electronic reminders are not worth the time of the implementation?
I came across this research article on electronic appointment reminders and found the results pretty interesting. In a research environment similar to the set-up we have taken on, this study found that text message reminders, specifically, were not effective at all in increasing show rates. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1352465813001173
Here's to hoping we have a better turn out!