Do SMS reminders work?

A question I am asked by those who are considering a switch from the time-served system of personal phone call reminders.
And being dentists – you won’t believe anything you are told by the people who are selling the system.
So can I confirm that I’m not on the payroll, legitimate or otherwise, of any company that offers this service.
But 48 hours before any dental appointment, my mobile phone bleeps (well, actually, Yoda says “message from the Dark Side there is”) and I read:

Mr Chris Barrow. Don’t forget your appointment with Dr Carrie Bradburn on 28/09/07 at 10.10am at Meneage Dental. Please call 01326 574006 if you can’t atten

and, by the way, that last word is just as it appears on my phone – spelling mistake or ran out of field space?
So does it work?
Well here are the facts from a client meeting yesterday:

  1. 5-dentists in one mixed practice in an industrial Northern town – fairly rough area;
  2. July – manual reminders – 211 failed appointments – 57 billable hours lost;
  3. August – SMS reminders – 145 failed appointments – 39 billable hours lost;
  4. September – SMS reminders – 142 failed appointments – 38 billable hours lost;
  5. Staff hours spent issuing reminders and chasing – July 10%, August 9%, September 6%.

Average hourly rate in this practice is £150 – so – 57 less 38 = 19 hours gained @ £150 an hour = c. £3000.
That’s £3,000 a month = £36,000 in a full year. Not counting the reduction in staff time.
Sounds like a pretty good investment to me.


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Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.