Automated Appointment Reminder & Confirmation Best Practices
Follow these steps to set up your appointment reminders
Open the Global Setup and head to the Reminders tab
- If asked for the password, type in "password" unless changed
Click the Best Practices button and choose Proceed to install the recommended settings
The Reminders tab should now be populated with our recommended Best Practices
- **Be sure to click the Save button before closing the window**
Your automated Appointment Reminders are all set!
Important: Be sure to have your logo already uploaded to YAPI
See this article for help with uploading your logo
Appointment Confirmation Schedule – Best Practices
Save the Date:
Email is sent when a patient makes an appointment at least 30 days in advance.
A postcard is sent 3 weeks prior to a scheduled appointment to all patients without emails on file to allow sufficient time for postcard delivery. Some offices may choose to send postcards to all patients to assure timely notification.
An email is sent 2 weeks prior to a scheduled appointment.
An email is sent 4 days in advance.
A text message is sent 3 days in advance.
Once a message gets a confirmation, the second message is suppressed so that patients don’t get too many messages.
Practices should make a personal call to all patients with unconfirmed appointments and all patients with history of excessive broken appointments 1-2 days in advance.
Same Day Reminder:
A text message is sent 2 hours before an appointment.
Best Practices Explained
First and foremost, it should be noted that the most common reason why patient miss or cancel appointments last minute has little to do with forgetfulness. Rather, it’s due to the fact that some patients are not truly committed to their appointments in the first place. For most patients, going the dentist is pretty low on a priority scale. They have the best intentions to keep their appointments but cancel easily when something more important comes up, like a kid’s soccer practice, office meeting or a hair appointment. Some patients may actually be looking for a reason to cancel because they have concerns that were not addressed properly at the time of scheduling: fear of going to the dentist; financial concerns; poor understanding of the need for treatment, etc. None of these problems can be addressed with automated appointment reminders. These issues have to be addressed directly with the patient in the office or via phone.
A trained scheduling coordinator can detect hesitation in a patient’s voice when confirming over the phone and may be able to salvage an appointment by addressing patient’s concerns. This is why we want to get our automated confirmations done early enough to allow office staff enough time to contact patients who are on the fence about their appointments. We also want to allow enough time for the office staff to fill in last minute cancellations.
Email is probably the least reliable form of communication. In general, open rate for marketing emails is only about 19%. Most of our patients have burgeoning email inboxes where a confirmation email can be easily overlooked. In addition, some patients don’t check their personal email often enough or not at all. On the plus side, some patients prefer email because they can respond to email on their own time to either confirm an appointment or request a change.
Despite what you may have heard, postcards are still very effective. They are very effective with older patients and, because most people still look at their mail daily, they are very easy to spot. It’s very important to make sure that all postcards are marked “return address requested” so that the practice can collect forwarding addresses for patients who moved away. The drawback with postcards is that most people open their mail at night when it’s too late to call the office with a question or to change an appointment. Some patients may receive a card and decide to call the office in the morning only to forget about it when they wake up and face another busy day. If you use postcards, it’s a good idea to include your email address and office mobile number for patients to contact you when the office is closed. Another possible disadvantage with this mode of communication is the cost. This is why it’s best to use more affordable means of communication such as email to communicate with patients whenever possible.
Text messages are very effective. The very nature of this communication demands that text messages are answered as soon as they are received. It’s so easy for patients to reply with a “c” to confirm an appointment or send a message back asking to reschedule. Because it’s so easy for a patient to respond to a text message with a confirmation, we must question every appointment that was not confirmed after a text message was received. We must recognize that there may be a good reason preventing this patient from keeping his appointment. The sooner we reach out to this patient in person, the sooner we can help him or her resolve the issue or, at least, fill this potential last minute cancellation with another appointment.
It’s important that we don’t abuse the automated system and only send the communications necessary to get in touch with patients. With YAPI, once a patient receives an appointment confirmation message and confirms, no other confirmation message will be sent out. If they don’t confirm on your first attempt, sending additional messages will not solve the problem. Instead, we must be proactive and contact this patient by phone to find out what is preventing this patient from keeping his or her scheduled appointment.
Keep in mind that patients don’t like to get too many messages. This is not only true of patients who have perfect attendance but also those who cancel or miss appointments routinely.
If you ever have a patient who complains about receiving too many messages, you may say: “I understand. Please accept my apology for frequent communications. I’ll be happy to adjust our settings to make sure that you don’t receive too many reminders. How would you prefer to be reminded of your appointment?” Then, set this particular patient’s communication preferences in YAPI or PMS to accommodate his or her request.
Save the Date Email:
We recommend that this email is sent the same day an appointment is made. This email helps patients add appointments to their calendar or organizer when they get home. It’s also something that they can search their inbox for in case they forget some important detail about this appointment. We recommend that when an appointment is scheduled, the patient is advised to expect an email from the office. This way, they expect it and they can change settings with their email provider to make sure that our messages don’t end up a Spam folder or other hidden folder in their email.
We recommend that postcards are sent to all patients without an email address on file at 3 weeks in advance to allow the time for delivery and response. This is an important reminder for patients who schedule their appointments 3-6 months in advance. Some offices may choose to send postcards to all patients. This is acceptable because we already know that emails don’t have a high open rate and some patients with an email address may overlook their email reminders.
Confirmations are sent 4-3 days in advance. Sending them more than 4 days out will result in more patients forgetting their confirmed appointments. We send email at 4 days (usually in the evening) because we allow time for the recipient to open and respond. Text messages are sent 3 days in advance because we expect an immediate response. Text messages should be sent during the day when the office can respond to them immediately. We recommend that any patient who received an email or text message and didn’t confirm, is contacted by the scheduling coordinator by phone at least 2 days advance. In fact, we recommend that any appointment that is not confirmed after a text message was sent is considered “in jeopardy.”
This schedule is designed for offices with 5-6 days a week phone coverage. Offices that don’t have phone coverage at least 5 days a week should consider adjusting this schedule by sending messages earlier and sending an additional reminder message over the weekend to make sure that patients who confirmed 4-5 days in advance still have their appointment top-of-mind.