Online appointment booking: SMS reminders reduce no-shows

The next check-up appointment at the dentist is due: Especially as a working person, it is not always easy to make an appointment with the doctor by phone during the given opening hours. Rush hours make it difficult to reach the dentist, and often the phones at the reception desk are busy for hours. The same problem arises when doctor’s appointments have to be postponed or canceled at short notice.

The solution to this is obvious: the possibility of an online booking. Popular portals such as Jameda and Doctolib show how it is done. Around 275,000 doctors are listed on the comparison portal Jameda, so the choice is huge. But by no means all players in the healthcare sector also use the online booking service.

People have been buying their train tickets or concert tickets online for many years. Hotels are mainly booked on the Internet. The medium is used to compare different providers, dates and prices. Booking confirmations, delay notices or changes are ideally sent by SMS or e-mail. In this way, the customer is always kept up to date.

Only when it comes to doctor’s appointments is much the same as it was 20 years ago. But the advantages outweigh the disadvantages:

Online appointment booking

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Relieve medical
assistants on
the phone

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patient care

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Efficient appointment management through automatically generated SMS

By using an online appointment booking system, the patient is automatically reminded of his appointment with an SMS. The general process is as follows:

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The patient receives an automatically generated SMS confirming the booked appointment.

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A few days before, the patient is then sent a reminder SMS so that he does not forget the appointment.

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If the appointment is cancelled by one of the two parties involved, the patient will receive a confirmation.

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If an appointment is rescheduled, the patient is sent an SMS with the new appointment.

This ensures that appointments are not missed or canceled in a timely manner so that other patients have the opportunity to then use the canceled appointment. Many patients do not like to cancel by phone for the reasons mentioned in the first section.

As a result, they forget or don’t show up for their appointment in the first place, causing an empty, unused window of time in the practice’s daily schedule. And that’s despite waiting months to see specialists. This can be prevented with automatic SMS notifications as reminders. Jameda advertises 75% fewer missed appointments on its website.

Physicians’ assistants are increasingly stressed when the phone rings continuously and patients also have to be attended to on site. Answering the phone costs time, which Jameda says can be saved by 30%.

Digitization is advancing in Germany, healthcare facilities should use the given possibilities and remind their patients of appointments with automatically generated SMS notifications or inform them of important changes with short and concise text messages. Practices that make appointments online still stand out. This also opens up a new avenue for customer acquisition.

Message Networks, as an experienced mobile messaging provider, guarantees secure and direct delivery of these SMS to patients’ mobile devices. The delivery meets the highest security and data protection requirements through technologies such as IPsec (Internet Protocol Security) and HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure). All SMS are reliably delivered via a direct connection to the messaging gateways of the mobile network operators and without any time delay.

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Structured process flows with the help of the booking system

An online appointment scheduler also benefits other organizational areas. Right from the start, patients can be automatically guided to the right appointment during online appointment scheduling via individual information queries. In this way, the right patients are addressed and a kind of selection takes place directly. For example, if a patient has concerns about a birthmark, he or she will not end up booking a consultation, but will get directly to the skin cancer screening. At the same time, the practice already receives information about its patients via the queries.

If the doctor wants to make sure that no uncontrolled appointment bookings take place via the system, but that these are checked and accepted manually, it is possible to first make an appointment request online. Then, depending on capacity or, in the case of purely private physicians, on the type of insurance, a decision can be made as to whether an appointment will be made bindingly.

Furthermore, information about the appointment can be conveyed. In this way, the practices tell their patients not to forget their insurance card, to wear a mouth guard inside the rooms or to appear sober for treatment.

There is still room for improvement, and not only in the area of appointment scheduling. Sick notes, reminders of due check-ups, examination results – more digital solutions are needed in the healthcare sector. In light of the current COVID 19 pandemic, digitalization is more important than ever. Video consultations are already being used more, and the use of existing technologies will continue to improve patient service in this country.