Text Message Reminders vs Calendar Reminders: Which is the Best Choice for Your Software?

Author: Kristina Proffitt

30th August 2018

Text message reminders are a common way for companies to remind customers of appointments. It’s no wonder when 95% of the US owns some sort of cell phone. They’re a cheap and effective way for businesses to remind customers of upcoming appointments.

The cost of missed appointments adds up fast, costing the US healthcare industry $150 billion every year.

One study found that sending text message reminders resulted in patient no-shows being reduced by 5%. This small reduction in do not attends (DNAs) could save the US healthcare industry $50 million a year.

Calendar reminders offer similar benefits to text message reminders: they’re cheap, they can be sent automatically, and they can help to reduce DNAs. But what are the differences between calendar reminders and text message reminders?

Let’s take a look:

Text reminders work for everyone, calendar reminders work for those with smartphones

It’s estimated that 2.87 billion people worldwide will have smartphones by 2020. That’s up from 1.86 billion in 2015.

In 2015, 98% of the US had 4G coverage. While we couldn’t find more recent stats, this coverage will have inevitably increased since then. This doesn’t mean that 98% of the US population have smartphones, though. 95% own some sort of cell phone, while 77% own a smartphone.

No matter what cell phone you have, you can receive a text message. That means that companies don’t need to think about their target audience’s adoption of smartphones when implementing text message reminders.

Calendar reminders, on the other hand, only work for those with smartphones. This means that customers who don’t have one could miss out on important updates. It’s therefore important for companies looking to add calendar reminders to think about their target audience and what their adoption rate of smartphone technology is.

Text reminders can get expensive, calendar reminders are free

When you use a text message API, you’re charged for every text that’s sent.

While this is usually only a few cents, when you have hundreds or thousands of patients to contact every month, it quickly adds up.

Text messages are also limited to 160 characters per message, which means businesses need to think carefully about what they put in those messages. This means important location information, or details on what someone needs to bring to their appointment, sometimes gets left out.

Calendar reminders are free to send. This means multiple reminders can be sent for the same appointment at no extra cost.

While the text of the push notification needs to be kept short to grab a user’s attention, additional information can be added to the calendar event itself to inform patients of everything they need to know.

Patients also have more control over calendar reminders – they can set up a notification for when it’s best for them instead of (or as well as) when the software decides to send it.

In calendars, geolocation data can be added to events at no extra cost. Information such as what to bring with them can also be added to the notes of the calendar event. This could be anything from a list of their current prescriptions to samples to be sent away.

Text reminders only come through to phones, calendar reminders can automatically sync with other devices

The average text message is read within the first three minutes of delivery. However, unless you’ve got text message forwarding set up on your Apple devices, your text messages will only come through to your phone. It’s easy for them to get lost or forgotten in a sea of texts from family and friends.

Calendar reminders are visible on multiple devices if someone has synced their calendar. This means everything from a laptop to an Amazon Echo can remind patients of their upcoming appointments. All their calendar events can be synced across multiple devices, making it easier for them to remember their schedules.

Text messages require sending another message when changes happen, calendar sync can be updated at any time

If an appointment needs to be rescheduled, canceled, or otherwise amended, text message reminders require another message to be generated so that users are aware. This costs more money, particularly if multiple people are affected.

Calendar reminders can be updated an infinite number of times for free. This means additional information that isn’t known when the calendar event is created – such as the location – can be added at a later date. These are then pushed to the calendars of affected users.

Text messages require knowing a customer’s phone number, calendar reminders don’t

While 90% of text messages are read within three minutes of delivery, some may feel uncomfortable sharing their phone number out of fear of sales calls and survey texts.

Businesses now also have the option to send users messages via WhatsApp instead. Unlike text messages, messages sent via WhatsApp don’t have a character limit. This means companies can send more information in one message.

However, like with calendar reminders, messages sent via WhatsApp are dependent on a user having a smartphone. While 84% of 25 to 34-year-olds and 78% of 35 to 44-year-olds use WhatsApp, messages sent via this platform are much more likely to get lost when customers are in the middle of conversations. We’ve all been caught up in a group conversation with 124 unread messages when friends are discussing their latest holiday antics…

WhatsApp allowing business customers to use it for free also puts text message service providers in jeopardy. It’s a more cost-effective way for businesses to stay in touch with customers, meaning more businesses can take advantage of it.

However, it relies on customers actively installing WhatsApp on to their phones.

Calendar reminders don’t. All smartphones have calendars, meaning that there’s little effort on the end user’s part once their phone is set up.

Companies also don’t need a customer’s phone number to send them a calendar reminder. This can be done using a Smart Invite instead. This looks like an ICS file to the end user, but it allows the business sending the invite to track if the appointment has been accepted or not.

Calendar reminders are a less invasive way to inform patients of upcoming appointments. Customers don’t have to share personal data such as their phone number, but they are guaranteed to always have the latest information.


Text message and calendar reminders have similar uses, but they fit different target audiences and use cases.

Text messages can be useful to remind patients to book check-up appointments, while calendar reminders are more cost effective for medication or appointment reminders, particularly when synced with other smart devices. Recurring appointments could even be added to patients’ schedules automatically, saving receptionists and patients time booking appointments.

Whether your company can benefit more from calendar reminders or text message reminders really depends on how you’re looking to help your users. Different services require different things. However, there’s no reason you couldn’t use both if you felt it was the best option for your customers.

To find out more about adding calendar reminders to your software, contact us today.

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Kristina Proffitt

Date: 30th August 2018 | Category: API, Product Management