How Mobile Can Reduce Appointment No-Shows in Healthcare

By David Sawin, Vice President, Product & Marketing, MobileSmith
Twitter: @TheMobileSmith

Missed appointments are one of those not-so-obvious ways hospitals are losing money each year. The reported cost is an astonishing $150 billion dollars per year in missed revenue. When health systems let appointments remain unfilled, it’s time to address these problems with a modern solution. Keeping patients connected throughout the care journey is a challenge many hospitals are constantly working to improve, and getting patients in the door and on time is one of the best places to start.

Keeping patients engaged on mobile
The vast majority of patients are on smartphones, with Millennials currently representing a larger population than Baby Boomers as they continue to enter the health system in record numbers. Does your hospital make appointments as simple as possible for these tech-savvy patients? For most patients, the process usually begins with a bunch of paperwork, and maybe a follow up call or text alerting me that my prescriptions or lab results are ready.

The patient would then log in to a patient portal, and painstakingly navigate through an outdated interface in order to receive the right information. Reminders of upcoming appointments usually take the form of a phone call, typically from a number the patient doesn’t recognize to begin with.

Viewing appointment times through an app, or simply verifying an existing time slot with the tap of a button would make life easier for not only the patient, but any healthcare staff member needing to free up some time.

Implementing technology in healthcare to help address these problems is typically slow, but by implementing an agile mobile strategy, many hospitals we work with are able to launch apps quicker than ever. That’s good news considering the check-in process and consumer experience elsewhere. From banking to travel, we expect an optimized experience from within an app, so why not healthcare?

Setting alerts and notifications
Another benefit to providing an app for patients – whether it be in your OB/GYN service line or any other area, is the ability to push valuable content out to patients as efficiently as possible. Notifications and alerts are perfect for driving attendance to classes or events, as well as reminding patients when to begin certain pre-appointment instructions such as fasting before bloodwork. Using the example of an OB/GYN service line for patients who are expecting, here are a few ideas for using push notifications that have not only helped with patient engagement, but have also proven successful in boosting HCAHPS scores:

  • Milestones – Sending notifications to mothers throughout each phase of pregnancy. After a mother enters her due date, she is reminded throughout the pregnancy process what symptoms she may experience, how large the baby is, and how she can prepare for delivery.
  • Appointments – Tracking appointments is a dedicated function that can be built in to any healthcare app blueprint.
  • Classes and events – Notifications make information related to events like class cancellations, openings, or deadlines easy to communicate to a large audience.

Organizing appointments inside the app
Keeping track of a patient’s appointments from a dedicated mobile app is a really convenient way to manage the entire care process. For example, when scheduling an appointment at my dentist, I usually launch the calendar app to check my availability before adding a new appointment. These appointments often get mixed in with other meetings and would be more convenient to view all at once, especially when multiple follow-up appointments are necessary.

It’s okay for one-off appointments that occur a few times per year, but for keeping track of a series of appointments and tests, being able to view an appointment schedule and anything I need to bring beforehand is key.

Simplifying the navigation experience
Especially for larger facilities, it can be difficult for first-time visitors to navigate to where they need to be on time. Wayfinding is a feature that hospitals can use to help guests arrive on time and avoid getting lost. You can implement this type of solution outdoors – in parking lots or garages – and indoors.

With the goal being to get patients from point A to point B as quickly as possible, wayfinding can help patients find parking easier, find facilities quicker, and not have to stop for directions or view signage.

How to get started
Studies have shown that 23 percent of patients don’t show up to appointments unless reminded, which is why it’s so important to have a long-term strategy in place. There are a number of ways providers can keep patients educated and reminded but many are simply not that efficient, leading to high annual printing costs, such as reminder cards, and extra work for staff members.

That’s why implementing a dedicated mobile app as part of a provider or health system’s overall mobile strategy will not only reduce the number of no-shows but will establish long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with patients while helping improve health outcomes and grow profit margins.