Remember the old days when a day or two before your scheduled doctor’s appointment you’d receive a phone call from a person confirming your appointment? The reminder calls still happen, but more frequently than not, the calls are automated. It’s no secret that I don’t like to talk on the phone so an automated option is fine by me.
Recently, I had an appointment scheduled. It had been scheduled several weeks in advance and as it got closer, I had a conflict and knew I was going to have to cancel it. But I kept forgetting to call. Then I thought maybe I could avoid talking to anyone by using the patient portal. I tried several times, but even after resetting my password, I couldn’t login.
After more procrastination mixed with general forgetfulness, I still hadn’t canceled my appointment. Luckily, a few days before my appointment was scheduled I received a reminder phone call. It was an automated call asking me to “press one” to confirm or “press two” to cancel or reschedule. I pressed two to cancel. The automated system confirmed my appointment was canceled and that I would need to call the office to reschedule. Excellent! My appointment was cancelled and I didn’t have to talk to anyone. Disaster averted!
Or so I thought.
On the day of the appointment, about 15 minutes after I should have been there, I received a voicemail from the doctor’s office. They asked me to call them back because I was a no-show for the appointment.
But wait, I canceled my appointment when I received the automated call, remember?
Because systems weren’t communicating correctly, the doctor’s office lost revenue and had extended downtime because they were not made aware of the opening in the schedule when I canceled my appointment. Additionally, I’ll have to find a new doctor, since now the office thinks I’m a bum who doesn’t show up when I’m supposed to…I’m kidding. Kind of.
The good news is, this whole situation could have been avoided by allowing patients to engage with their providers via a fully automated, interactive SMS channel which is a step ahead of the automated call, that clearly malfunctioned anyway. Digital self-service allows healthcare providers and any business that sets appointments to maximize their reach and deliver a superior level of patient or customer engagement.