The Types of Reminders That Just Don't Work Anymore

Written August 29, 2017 by Tashfeen Ekram, MD

Fact: Some mobile reminders leave your patients hanging. Here are a few ways you can change the way you use mobile reminders to boost patient engagement and keep your patients happy.

It is time to expect more from mobile reminder services and leverage them to drive patient engagement.

Mobile one-way communication reminders (where the patient isn’t able to respond to reply and confirm their coming to the appointment), just don’t work—and neither do unintelligent two-way systems.

You know the ones: the automated reminder asks the patient to respond, the patient responds, but doesn’t receive an answer in return.

Both of these types of reminders snuff your patient’s desire to communicate, and that’s exactly what we don’t want. 

Kick One-Way Communication to the Curb

Several providers to this day only offer one-way mobile reminders. The message goes out to the patient and the patient is not asked to respond.

“You have an appointment with Dr. John Doe on Wednesday, 9/5/2017 @ 4 PM.”

Messages like this just aren’t ideal for patient engagement. Asking the patient to respond to a text message means more than you think--it’s asking them to play an active role in their care through that response.

Adding a two-way response feature doesn’t mean more work for you. Luma’s reminder system helps you triage patient’s incoming text messages with you having to lift a finger. For example, a patient replies, asking to cancel an appointment. Here are some actual responses we’ve gotten:

hello, i have an appointment for 4:30 today with dr. xxxx. unfortunately i am going to have to reschedule. i woke up with a stomachache and was only able to sleep two hours. i am texting instead of calling because i have poor cell reception indoors.

hi i am not feeling well today can i do my therapy tomorrow?

good morning. this is john and i have a 2:30 with jim. i have to reschedule this appt. i have been doing the exercises that ashley has given me and have been over working my back muscles. i'm in too much pain to come in today. pain level is up to an 8+ and is causing nausea and making me throw up. pls apologize to john and hope this doesn't screw up his day. thank u.

Instead of just canceling the appointment and leaving it up to the patient to reschedule, we can help them find that next appointment on the spot. As health care providers, we should remove as many barriers to access to care as we can.

Rather being told to come to the appointment without a say, the patient can be asked to confirm the appointment. This goes a long way to empower the patient with the choices that drive patient engagement.

With automated, two-way reminders, we engage the patient in a conversation and help them find a new appointment—all over text messaging.

Scrap Unintelligent Two-Way Reminders, Too

Do you know what’s worse than dead-end, one-way reminders?

One-way reminders posing as two-way reminders. I call these unintelligent two-way reminders. Just take a look at this mobile reminder I received from my dentist:


They told me to “Text C to confirm,” but I wanted to test the service and texted a non-standard response. No one answered. Then, I tried a normal response. Still no answer.

This isn’t rare, but it’s pretty disappointing. Here’s a response I got from another doctor’s office:


I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be the doctor whose patients are firing “blah” and “hello” at his substandard reminder service that isn’t doing its job. It just makes us look inattentive—and that’s exactly what we’ll be if we continue using this kind of system.

See, some patients won’t understand the messages they receive are automated and sent by a computer. In turn, the computer won’t register the patient’s responses unless it’s programmed to. The computer will only understand as much as you teach it to understand.

Just imagine the patient’s experience: the patient takes the time to write a response to the unintelligent two-way reminder your clinic sent. The patient doesn’t receive a response but assumes someone read it. Maybe the patient even wanted an answer on an ongoing therapy they’re on. Then, the patient shows up for his next appointment where he’s questioned about his missed appointment. Oh, and he’s slammed with a late-appointment fee, too.

I wouldn’t be happy, either.

Thankfully, Luma has intelligence built into its service to help triage and engage your patients. Let’s say your patient wants to know about a bill or has a question on insurance coverage. We can tag these questions and send them to your staff. Pretty smart, right?

A Smarter Way to Remind Your Patients

Appointment reminders have been around for a few decades. They started with automated phone calls and worked their way into email and text messaging. Other than the form of communication, not much has changed about them. Luma offers intelligent, automated two-way text reminders that make it easy for your patients to get in touch with you. We think it’s a lot better than unanswered “blahs.”

Picture of Tashfeen Ekram, MD

Tashfeen Ekram, MD, is a radiologist, self-taught coder, healthcare innovator and Co-Founder of Luma Health. Contact him at or on Twitter at @tashfeenekramMD.