While the band “Naked Eyes” may long be forgotten, their song “Always Something There to Remind Me” could be the theme song of my patient care management. Thanks to advances in technology and communications in the 36 years since I was diagnosed with Lupus, when it comes to appointment reminders things have changed. From the ‘80s and ‘90s, when I would get a call from my doctor’s assistant, have a personal interaction, and essentially have a pre-exam conversation, to today when (depending the physician) I will get a text, email, or RoboCall reminding me of the upcoming appointment.
These methods may save time for practice staff and for some patients may be fine, but for me they lack the personal connection and human interaction of those I had in the past in the past. As a person living with many chronic illnesses, now instead of talking to a healthcare professional about “how I am doing” before my appointment, I reply to a text message with the letter “C” to confirm that I have received the message informing of my upcoming appointment.
While technology increases efficiency, appointment reminders alone are not the answer to improving the patient experience. One of my specialists will send me a text reminder, followed by a Robo Call, and then a human from his office will call to remind me of one appointment. The appointment itself was for a check-up that lasted 14 minutes. I spent more time being reminded of the appointment than the actual time of the appointment itself! Another specialist simply sends an email reminder 24 hours beforehand. Between my calendar and reminders that I set when making the appointments with my various physicians, my schedule looks like that of a medical center.
Different patients have different needs. It’s important to think about the patient. If I could improve on the current technology, as a person with plenty of patient experience, I would add a way for the patient to engage in a pre-appointment communication (if necessary or desired). Add a phrase like “if there is a question or concern, please call or e-mail the office directly,” before the text tells the patient how to reply. Or provide a way for patients to text directly back and forth with the practice. If the health professional sends e-mail reminders, offer to engage with their patients via e-mail all the time.
I believe new methods of appointment reminders have created many innovative companies and technologies to sell to medical practices as wonderful ways to engage with their patients. But to me, true patient engagement begins with a collaboration of physician and patient-- people who are working together toward a common goal—and technology is just one piece that needs to be combined with other ways to interact.
Find out more about how to rock your reminders in our free guide.