Improving the Doctor-Patient Relationship: The Power of Pre-Appointment Messages

A fundamental part of any good relationship is solid communication—especially when it comes to the doctor-patient relationship. The doctor-patient relationship plays a major role in both patient satisfaction and patient engagement, two key pillars of the patient experience.

At Vital Interaction™, we understand that the patient experience begins long before patients walk in the front door. Clear, efficient communication before and after the appointment is critical to not only quality healthcare but also quality doctor-patient relationships.

That’s why we’ve created a patient communication system that leverages state-of-the-art technology to contact each patient via cell phone, landline, or computer, allowing them to respond to custom messages using their preference of communication.

We offer a number of different Message Kinds to optimize patient communications and strengthen the doctor-patient relationship, including our Pre-appointment messages.

Let’s take a look at ways that medical practices can use Pre-appointment messages, specifically, to nurture the doctor-patient relationship.

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Improving the Doctor-Patient Relationship Through Pre-Appointment Messages

As the name suggests, Pre-appointment messages are sent prior to patients’ appointments. Pre-appointment messages can be sent via email, text, or even voice call, a new feature we recently added.

How and when a practice sends these reminders will be based on what they want to accomplish, whether that’s sending a welcome message, a set of special instructions, or an additional or even last-minute reminder.

We work with several practices, for instance, that book annual exams or visual field visits a year in advance, which leaves plenty of time for patients to forget about these appointments. And normal appointment reminder messages are designed to be delivered no earlier than one week prior to an appointment. But patients benefit from—and appreciate—receiving at least one reminder of their appointments a few weeks before their appointment.

This is where Pre-appointment messages come into play. To give patients ample time to prepare for their visit, we suggest sending Pre-appointment reminders between two and four weeks prior to their visit.

These messages, then, serve as helpful additional reminders, which in turn not only strengthens the doctor-patient relationship but also improves your patient retention and no-show rates.

Strategic Message Delivery Further Strengthens the Doctor-Patient Relationship

In a previous post, we discussed the differences between a reminder message vs. a confirmation message. While both message types work to ensure patients show up for their appointments, each message type has a distinct role to play in the appointment process.

Typical appointment reminders and confirmation messages are sent close to appointments, generally within seven days. However, Pre-appointment reminder messages are sent farther out from appointments, typically within two to four weeks of an appointment. Because of this, we recommend removing confirmation options from these messages and using them as friendly reminders.

There is no one-strategy-fits-all when it comes to patient contact. Your patients’ preferences may include receiving multiple reminder messages or just one, in addition to including all forms of communication or just one form. Finding balance can be tricky, but by focusing on your patients’ needs and preferences, you will eventually find it. It just takes some trial and error.

Our customers have a wide variety of needs for their practices. Some of our customers prefer to send a Pre-appointment text message between four and 24 hours before an appointment. In these instances, a patient receives a reminder message that cannot be confirmed or declined.

On the other hand, many of our Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC), for example, often have high no-show rates. Even though their delivery schedule includes all available message types, more pointed/strategic contact is often necessary. If this sounds like your practice, you may want to consider sending multiple Pre-appointment messages to improve your no-show rate and ensure more patients are being seen and cared for.

And we also work with some practices that do not schedule appointments very far in advance but still prefer to send Pre-appointment reminders at certain times before appointments.

Regardless of how far or near appointments are made, Pre-appointments can play a major role in doctor-patient communication and, ultimately, in improving the doctor-patient relationship.

Additional Ways to Enhance the Doctor-Patient Relationship Via Pre-appointment Messages

In addition to reminding patients of their appointments, there are various other ways to leverage Pre-Appointments while staying relevant in the age of instant communication.

These simple but helpful reminders can serve a number of purposes, including:

  • referring patients to your patient portal for faster check-in
  • reminding them to arrive 30 minutes prior to their appointment
  • bringing their updated insurance information
  • sending a thank-you for booking an appointment
  • linking patients to certain forms or even maps and directions for their visit

As you can see, there really is no limit to the ways that you can use Pre-appointment messages to communicate with patients. These simple and friendly messages can go a long way toward keeping your practice in touch with patients and nurturing the doctor-patient relationship.

Haven’t made use of your Vital Interaction™ System’s Pre-appointment Messaging feature? Contact our Support Department or your account manager to get started using this feature for your practice today.

Our Automated Patient Interaction System can help your medical practice improve the doctor-patient relationship while reducing operating costs. Let the Vital Interaction™ System go to work for you—get started today by calling (512) 487-7625.

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