The government of Western Australia reported that 160,000 outpatient appointments were missed in 2018, resulting in $8.2 million in inefficiencies and an estimated $18 million of Commonwealth Government activity-based funding not received as a consequence (source).The WA government has deployed an Outpatient Reform Program to address the issues, with an App to be piloted in July for patients and families to notify the healthcare provider if they cannot attend appointments or need rescheduling. We don’t yet know if this App is going to help hospitals in WA to reduce no shows. We do know that SMS reminders do a great job in offering a low-touch, low-cost solution for businesses and organisations looking for effective ways to remind their customers and patients about their upcoming appointments. The Behavioural Insights Unit of NSW, for instance, partnered with the Department of Justice and NSW Police Force between 2016 to 2018 to run a trial and found that SMS reminders helped reduce 23% of non-attendance in domestic violence courts.
The content of the message matters
Have you ever wondered whether the content of your SMS impacts recipients’ behaviour? Well it does, and by quite a large margin too. The St Vincent’s Hospital did a trial to test whether different versions of text message reminders could affect the rate of people attending outpatient appointments. The results showed that SMS reminders that told patients the financial impacts of a missed appointments had the greatest result – 19% reduction in the number of people missing their appointments, saving the hospital more than $68,000 a year (source).
Leveraging recipients’ mobile calendar
Research found that 70% of Australians aged between 18-64 rely the most on a digital calendar to manage their life, of which 46.7% of respondents said they depend on their mobile calendar. If you’d like to leverage your customers’ mobile calendar to ensure your appointment is in their schedule, SMS Landing Pages can help. SMS Landing Pages are essentially web pages designed for viewing on mobile devices. So you can expect the same kind of visual elements such as images, brand colours, logo and call-to-action buttons etc. But there’s one feature that’s unique to SMS Landing Pages – the ability to include personalised content that‘s specific to each recipient. In the case of appointment reminders, information like date and time of the specific appointment as well as any particular instructions for the recipients can be added to the SMS Landing Page easily by using dynamic fields. Combining that with the “Add To Calendar” button, the recipient will be able to add the appointment into the calendar on the mobile phone with one simple click. The “Add to Calendar” button enables you to fill out how the event is going to display in the recipient’s calendar (Event Title) and add any additional information (Event Description) you see fit.To set up the personalised “Add to Calendar” button, all you need to do is to add the start time and end time columns to your excel datasheet. And as you are ready to send the campaign, you’ll be directed to choose the matching data in the Calendar Variables section where you can match the date/time format of your file to our system.To maximise the effect, we suggest organisations send the SMS Landing Page with the “Add to Calendar” button as early as 4 weeks before the appointment to enable recipients to check and plan their upcoming schedule. Then an SMS reminder should be sent 24 to 48 hours before the actual date of the appointment to confirm their attendance. If you’d like to trial SMS or SMS Landing Pages to see if they can help reduce the number of missed appointments in your organisation, please contact us at 1300 764 946 or email us at [email protected].