“[Twilio] has been a massive improvement over the old system I built with a phone card, landlines, a server, and the MS-TAPI.”
team leader of Systems Development Group, Arkansas Children’s Hospital
Keeping patients in the loop with voice reminders
Attending to the hospital’s nearly 400,000 annual outpatient appointments each year requires a significant outlay of time and resources. It takes a team of 500 physicians, 95 residents in pediatrics and pediatric specialties, and 4,400 employees to make sure kids get the care they need every day.
Due to the high fixed costs of operating the facility, the hospital incurs significant losses when patients don’t show up for appointments. With 80,000 annual no-shows, costs add up quickly.
Arkansas Children’s Hospital has long had issues with appointment reminders. The hospital went online with its first phone system in 2006—a single Windows PC with a simple interactive voice response (IVR) dialogue and phone lines. When the hospital sent out hundreds of thousands of appointment confirmation calls, the calls were split between four phone lines. The system would chronically break down under the call load, only contacting a small percentage of patients. The patients who didn’t get a call reminder would be added to the next call load, putting more stress on the system and resulting in yet another breakdown.
The hospital tried to address the problem a different way in 2012, investing more than $250,000 in sending appointment reminders by mail, but the no-show rate didn’t budge.
Eventually, Arkansas Children’s Hospital turned to Twilio Programmable Voice and SMS to help create proactive appointment alerts. The move freed the hospital from dealing with the fickle, costly on-premises call center along with the $250,000 in mailing costs. “The man-hours for maintenance and support for our old phone system were very high, and vendor solution estimates to replace it were ridiculous,” says Stewart Whaley, team leader of the Systems Development Group at the hospital.
Within weeks, the hospital had appointment reminders powered by Twilio Programmable Voice up and running. Now when patients book appointments, they can opt in to voice reminders. The hospital’s call script will contact patients a day before their appointments, reminding them of the day, time, and location and asking if they’ll show up. If the response is “yes,” the IVR will confirm the appointment time once again and hang up. If they say “no,” the script will remind patients to reschedule and give them a number to call to make a new appointment.