Dental Tribune USA

Study reveals how automated patient appointment reminders affect dental practice no-show rates and production

By Diana P. Friedman and Tim Williams, USA
June 19, 2013

The Internet age has dramatically altered communication patterns. Face-to-face interchanges continue to give way to digital message exchanges. Channels for these digital communications have rapidly morphed and expanded over the past years toward a faster, more interactive means of exchange. This is the reality that faces dental practices: Interaction with current and prospective patients will predominately take place online.

In order to maintain a productive level of engagement, dental practices have to identify effective ways to leverage these new channels of communications.

Patient engagement not only drives retention, but new patient acquisition — two cornerstones of a profitable practice. Research has consistently shown patients welcome the adoption of digital interchanges. A national research study by Sesame Communications documented that 97 percent of dental patients would rather click than call their dental practice. The same study found that 79.5 percent of dental patients prefer SMS text and email reminders over phone calls from the practice.

Automatation reduces no-shows

Sesame Communications pioneered the first automated appointment reminder system for dentistry in 1999. Automated patient reminders enable practices to confirm scheduled appointments via email, text messages or automated voice reminders. Sophisticated patient portals let patients define their preferred method of contact. This service not only provides great convenience and benefit to patients, it can dramatically improve efficiencies for the practice.

Increased production is at the epicenter of a practice’s financial performance, impacting cost structure, revenue flow, and ultimately, profitability. Appointment no-shows have a devastating impact on practice financial performance. In a 2012 national research study, 32 percent of dentists said their top need was to reduce no-shows in the practice. Automated reminders have the potential to cost-effectively and efficiently address this need.

Research shows that today almost 60 percent of practices have some form of automated appointment reminder solution. However, until recently there has been very limited research to document the impact these solutions have on no-show rates and practice production. With advanced systems costing $300 per month on average, the return on investment justification for this investment has, to date, been a challenge.

Sesame Communications recently announced the results of a breakthrough study measuring the impact of automated patient appointment reminders on practice production. The study analyzed five years of performance data and tracked the detailed confirmation and patient attendance rates on 1,604,184 appointments across 64 dental practices.

Study shows how to reduce no-shows

The study tracked no-show rate changes, both pre- and post-implementation, of automated appointment reminders. The study found that dental practice no-shows were reduced by 22.95 percent.

The financial implication of schedule compliance is significant. This research documented $31,456.88 in incremental production for dental practices due to schedule compliance — revenue that would otherwise be lost. The benefits of practice production improvements continued throughout the 36-month post-activation period.

The data clearly demonstrates a positive productivity impact when integrating automated patient appointment reminders into the practice. First-year fees for this service should be recovered within the first six months post-activation. Additionally, time previously used by the administrative team on confirmations can now be leveraged to build relations with patients, market the practice and activate patients.

Conclusion

Automated appointment reminders dramatically reduce practice no-shows and positively impact production. They are the method of communication that patients prefer. They improve efficiency and profitability. And, finally, 90 percent of dental professionals agree that automating reminders gives them peace of mind that all patients are being consistently contacted prior to appointments.

Note: This article was published in Dental Tribune U.S. Edition, Vol. 8 No. 2, February 2013 issue.

 

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