Another guest post from Bronwyn Spira, PT, and Tejal Ramaiya, DPT, CSCS, this one an apt follow-up to my post on Physical Therapist Use of Smart Phones:

One of the most frustrating issues plaguing physical therapy practices has to be no shows and late cancellations of scheduled visits. Poor patient attendance results in lost revenues and poor patient outcomes. Practices traditionally employ rudimentary strategies to counter-balance the impact of missed appointments including reminder calls and charging hefty cancellation fees. Unfortunately, these solutions require additional administrative time and effort and can create poor relations between the patients and administrative staff. There must be a better solution!

The answer may be one that 78% of Americans keep in their pockets or purses: a cell phone. The average American spends 619 minutes per month on their phone and, according to a ComScore study from March 2010: 63% of Americans are using text messaging. The use of SMS or text alerts as patient reminders has been shown to reduce the ‘noshow’ rate by 73% (or 1,837 fewer ‘lost’ visits) according to a recent study for Kaiser Permanente by mobilStorm. Kaiser was able to contain their communication infrastructure costs, while saving $150 per appointment (their no-show cost) which equaled a total cost savings of more than $275,000 at just a single clinic.

Ideally, SMS text and/or email alerts should be integrated into a clinic’s scheduling system; automatically alerting patients to upcoming appointments or schedule changes. And why stop there? The potential impact of these alerts could extend to reminding patients to complete their home exercise programs, or give therapists updates on symptomatic responses to new treatment regimens.

A study conducted by comScore found that daily use of Smartphones to access emails rose by 40 percent in the last quarter of 2010. Laptops and desktops it seems, have become primitive mediums for real-time communication. As our patients become more and more tech-savvy, they will begin to expect these type of mobile conveniences from their service providers. In addition to the considerable cost-saving benefits, automated communication can also serve to improve patient/therapist interaction, increase patient participation in their rehabilitation regimen and thereby improve patient outcomes. Have you considered integrating automated SMS text or email alerts into your clinic?

Bronwyn Spira, PT, and Tejal Ramaiya, DPT, CSCS authored this guest post. They can be found at www.forcetherapeutics.com, www.facebook.com/forcetherapeutics, or www.twitter.com/ForceTherEx.