A patient’s perspective: Which reminder type is best?

At Nimblr.ai we believe that easy communication between patients and medical office staff is vital to both parties to obtain best results. Our guest blogger, Lorena Santibañez, tells us about her experiences with reminders and appointments scheduling, as a busy, working Mom. 

By: Lorena Santibañez 

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My memory is getting worse by the day. I forget everything. Nothing sticks to my mind. My memory has a better “non-stick” performance than a Teflon pan… you know, those pans advertised as “non-stick”. In my experience, food does stick to those so-called “non-stick” pans.

I forget what day of the week it is; I forget to take the violin to violin class, the swimsuit to swim class… I forget to pick up shirts at the dry cleaners, which have been there for 3 weeks now, even though they’ve already called me twice to pick them up. I forget to leave the gardeners’ money, I forget that I signed up as a volunteer in my kid’s classroom. I forget these things until I receive that terrifying text that reads "Are you coming?" Then, a breath of air enters my nostrils inflating my lungs to the fullest while I say, "uuussshhhh, I forgot about that". And last, but certainly not least, I also forgot that I had an appointment with the pediatrician.

With the pediatrician, we both share the guilt. I am guilty as charged, for not writing the appointment down on my calendar. The Pediatrician’s Office is also guilty, for notifying me in a non-efficient way. A week ago, they sent me an e-mail reminding me of an appointment the following week. The e-mail arrived while I was at a traffic light. I realized, somehow (once in a while some things do stick), that I had a conflict that day and wouldn’t make it to the doctor. Since my phone’s calendar showed a free slot, I went on to schedule something else. While I was still at this very long red light, I wanted to be super efficient and reply that I was not going to make it and needed to reschedule. The moment I hit “send”, I realized that the account was a 'no-reply@blahblah.com'. Really??!! “No-Reply??” This is completely out of touch.

This is the equivalent of walking on the street, meeting a friend and saying to them, “So, we are meeting tomorrow, right?” And as your friend opens their mouth to “reply”, you interrupt them and respond, “Sorry pal, I’m in non-reply mode” and you just keep walking.

The traffic light changed to green so obviously, the appointment with the pediatrician was lost in cyberspace, resolution pending. I'm sure that it is still there, waiting patiently along with all the other lost appointments that my mind couldn’t recall. I then got distracted and of course, forgot about the need to reschedule the appointment with my pediatrician. It wasn’t until later, that my daughter spent the whole night coughing and no one in the house got any sleep, that I remembered I needed to call the doctor.

I called the doctor’s office the next day. I was not expecting them to have received my e-mail, but I did tell them that I had sent it to the fateful “no-reply” address. I wanted to ring some bells about how useless “no-reply” emails are. I was only beginning to explain how these methods of communication are useless, when the staff member found an open appointment slot for two weeks away. "Ohhh come on!!! I can’t handle another day without sleeping due to my daughters cough, and you expect me to wait for two weeks to see the doctor? Please, help me out here! You have no idea how chaotic my life is. Maybe there will be a cancellation? But of course, just so you know, you will have to get in touch with me at least 24 hours before that appointment because there is no way I could get to your office in a moments notice…” She replied, “The doctor will be able to see you next week”. “Alright, I will take that option but please call me if you have anything before then”.  "Do you want us to call you to remind you of the appointment?” The staff member said. "Yes, call me, although I have to tell you that if you call me while I am bathing children, or fixing dinner good luck with that... because, although I will be saying: oh yes… ...appointment, with the pediatrician, tomorrow ... yes, of course I remember ... at 1:00, yes… at the other office, not the one I usually go to, of course…" My head would be going like: an appointment of something, with someone, sometime soon, at the other place. She did say about another place, right? Where is that other place? Oh no! I will have to call the office again. I hope somebody else picks up the phone so they don’t recognize me and figure out that I mess it up every time. I am beginning to fear the receptionist… Not good.

What would be the best way to remind patients of their appointments? Since emails are frequently lost in cyberspace, and it is almost never a good time to receive a call from the doctor’s office… Text messages would be a much better way of communication. A text will allow me to remember the appointment with the option of rescheduling. It is easy to answer these messages when I want (even at a red light!). They won’t get in the way while I am in the middle of something else. And I'm not talking about those promotional messages or banking notifications, which are usually not helpful at all. I am talking about a text message that would let me interact with a responsive staff member. It would be even better that somehow, the text connects with my calendar and records that for me. That would just be perfect!

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