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Making the most of SMS in Front Desk
Making the most of SMS in Front Desk
Steven avatar
Written by Steven
Updated over a week ago

Front Desk includes several SMS features that go beyond simple, one-way appointment reminders. To follow is a brief overview to help you setup and make the most of the extended SMS features in Front Desk®. We will cover;

1. Creating SMS Templates
2. Setting up Patient Files to Receive SMS Reminders
3. Sending SMS Appointment Reminders (Manually)
4. Sending Automated SMS Appointment Reminders
5. SMS Reply Path
6. Automatic Appointment Status Update
7. Add to Calendar Links with Practice Logo
8. SMS Delivery Receipts
9. Sending Bulk SMS via Reports
10. Fixed SMS Numbers
11. Using a Sender ID

1. Creating SMS Templates

SMS templates in Front Desk can be created for different scenarios including appointment reminders to marketing communications. They are designed to allow you to customise your individual SMS messages using data stored in Front Desk®.

To create an SMS template, select System > Standard Messages > Standard SMS

Click Add to create a new Standard SMS template

Enter a Description for your template followed by a SMS message in the Text area. Importantly, as part of your message you can include Letter tags which will appear in red and enclosed in the following brackets << >>. Letter tags will automatically be replaced with data from Front Desk®. In this case the patient’s preferred name, their next appointment time and the practitioner's name who they are seeing on the day.

A list of available Letter Tags can be found in the Help menu in Front Desk.

Below are some SMS Template examples that you can use either directly or as the basis of your own custom templates in Front Desk. Simply copy the text between the dotted lines and Paste into the Text box as seen in the step above. If you require any assistance with setting up your SMS templates please submit a support request at

General Appointment Reminder
Hi <>. Your next appt with <> is
on <>. Reply YES
to confirm or please call 8361 2666 Smartsoft Clinic

Inactive Patient Marketing SMS
Hi <>.We’ve missed you! Book an appointment this
month and receive a gap free treatment. Call today on
1800 18 18 20 regards from Smartsoft Clinic.

Note that Front Desk® offers flexible and powerful formatting of dates and times in letter tags so that they can be view in various formats. Some examples follow;
Mon 24th June at 9.00 am
Monday 24/6/2016 at 9.00
Mon 24 June at 9 am

For information on formatting the date and time of your SMS Reminder see the following post or contacts for assistance:

2. Setting up Patient Files to receive SMS Reminders

Front Desk allows you to flag an appointment for an SMS reminder individually using the Right-Click options on the Appointment Book.

However, you can set up a patient file to always be flagged for an SMS reminder on an individual basis or for the entire clinic.

To set up a patient file to always have receive appointment reminders via SMS, open their Patient File and go to the Appointments tab, select the SMS Reminder tick box in the Remind Patient of Appointment: drop-down menu. Please note that any existing appointments prior to this change remain unaffected.

To set up a clinic-wide default for SMS reminders, open System Information and click on the Defaults tab, ticking the SMS Reminder box will ensure that any new patient files you that are created will have the SMS Reminder option ticked by default. To make this change on your existing patients, select the Update Existing Patients button.

Tick the Set default SMS Reminders for all patients with a mobile number and Add SMS Reminders to all future appointments and select OK to make the changes respectively.

3. Sending SMS Appointment Reminders (Manually)

With patient files set up to receive SMS Reminders, the next step is to send the reminders to your patients. This is completed from the Reports and Utilities menu on the Front Desk appointment book and selecting the SMS/Email Reminders utility.

Please note, if you intend to use the Auto SMS feature to automatically send your SMS appointment reminders there is generally no need to send reminders manually. Sending SMS Appointment Reminders manually while Auto SMS is enabled may result in duplicate messages being sent.

First select the date range for the appointment reminders you need to send. You will notice that the default date is the day you have open on the Appointment Book. You can use the filters on this screen to narrow the criteria for who should be sent an SMS reminder.

Set your template using the drop-down and click Send to get to the final screen.

The final step when sending your SMS reminders is to decide when to send them. You can send them instantly by selecting Send SMS now or you can specify an exact date and time to issue your SMS by selecting Delay Send option.

When ready, click OK to send the reminders to the Smartsoft SMS Server.

4. Sending Automated SMS Appointment Reminders

Auto SMS allows SMS appointment reminders to be sent automatically, based on set rules. With this feature there is no need to manually send your SMS reminders each day.

Please refer to Auto SMS documentation below:
Front Desk - Auto SMS Guide

Below is the critical information you need prior to using this feature:

  • The Auto SMS feature can be enabled from the SMS tab of System Information by clicking Auto SMS and enabling the option to 'Automatically send SMS appointment reminders'.
    By default the SMS reminders will be sent at a pre-defined time on the day before the appointment, using the selected template. Please see the documentation for more advanced options.

Please ensure an appropriate Default Reminder Template has been set under SMS Templates, before clicking OK.

This is the template that will be used to send your automated SMS.

  • You may notice your SMS balance suddenly decrease when activating this functionality. This is because your Front Desk system is uploading the next two weeks of appointment reminders to the SMS gateway, ready for delivery at the appropriate time (based on your settings). This means your business can be closed for extended periods (such as the Christmas and New Year holidays) and your SMS will still be sent at the correct time.

  • If you delete or change an appointment, the associated SMS that is Queued for Sending will also be deleted or changed appropriately.

  • As the SMS reminder process is now automated, it is important that you set an appropriate SMS balance notification level.

    If this level is reached a message will appear on the Messages tab of the Appointment Book.

  • At this stage, it is still necessary for you to purchase SMS through the Smartsoft website when needed.

  • To minimise the resources used by this feature, SMS are sent to our gateway as part of a background process. This process can take up to 15 minutes, so please do not be concerned if you do not see your appointment as 'Queued for Delivery' immediately.

5. SMS Reply Path

When an SMS message is sent from Front Desk a reply path is established allowing your patient to reply to your message, which will be delivered directly back to Front Desk. You can also choose to have replies sent to an email address. You can control this setting under the SMS tab of System Information

Patient replies appear in the Messages tab on the Appointment Book. You will also notice a mobile icon on the appointment to indicate that the patient has replied to your message. If you hover over the appointment with your mouse, the reply message will appear in the tooltip windows associated with the appointment.

6. Automatic Appointment Status Update

You can ask patients to reply with a short message that will trigger a change in the appointment status, commonly used to confirm appointments. For example ... respond with ‘Yes’ to confirm your appointment..., which can automatically update the Appointment Status to ‘Confirmed’. Take a look at our previous article linked below for more information:

7. Add to Calendar Links

Front Desk has the ability to include a calendar link in SMS appointment reminders. When a patient taps the link on their smartphone, the appointment details and your practice location will be entered into to their smartphone calendar. As an added bonus, the majority of smartphones will provide a calendar alert 1 hour before the appointment is scheduled. iPhone users will have the added ability to receive an alert when it is time to leave to arrive on time, in addition to navigation information to your practice.

To include calendar links, simply tick the Add a calendar link to SMS reminders option when sending your reminders.

Note that adding the SMS Calendar link to the bottom of your SMS reminders may increase the size of your SMS messages and result in additional SMS credit charges. It is possible to shorten message templates to the point where you can include a calendar link and still be within the 1 SMS credit (160 characters).

To make changes to what the calendar reminder will display, open up your Practitioner file and select the Reminders tab. From here you can customise the Appointment Description, the Address and add some Appointment Notes that will be included in the reminder on the patient’s phone.

8. SMS Delivery Receipts

For a history of all SMS sent to a patient, replies received and handset delivery receipts go to the SMS tab on the Patient file. By using delivery receipts, there is no more guesswork if a patient has received your SMS appointment reminders.

9. Sending Bulk SMS via Reports

SMS messages can also be sent from the standard patient reports in Front Desk for mass communication and marketing purposes. You can send SMS to patients from the following reports: Recall Patient List, Active/Inactive Patients, Birthday List, Patient Referrals, Patient List and the Events Report.

Using the Active/Inactive Patients report as an example, it is possible to contact patients that attended the practice last year but have not had an appointment since. Using SMS reminders to engage these inactive patients is an effective way of rebooking them.

Select the Active/Inactive Patients report from the Reports menu

Select the relevant criteria, in our case Inactive patients that had a transaction last year but not since and then select SMS

It is easy to select a template created in step one and then preview the message by clicking <<>> ABC button. Finally, click Send to send your messages.

10. Fixed SMS Numbers

Smartsoft offers an optional fixed SMS number service for a small monthly charge. This means that your SMS will always come from the same number and that your patients will be able to send messages to this number, which return directly to Front Desk. For more information, contact the Business Care team at:

11. Using a Sender ID

The phone number used to send your SMS can be overwritten with either an alternate mobile phone, which you own, or some text up to 11 characters in length. Note that due to carrier limitations, if you override the Send ID, you will not be able to receive an SMS response directly into Front Desk. When using a mobile number to override the Sender ID, responses will be sent the handset using this mobile number. Because of this reason, overriding the Sender ID may be appropriate for marketing, information or greeting type SMS rather than SMS reminders.

Where an SMS reply from a patient is not necessarily required, you can give SMS a professional look by using the Sender ID option with a label that reflects your business name profession. In the example below we have overwritten the Sender ID to Smartsoft.

To set a Sender ID, select System Information and navigate to the SMS tab. Check the Show Sender ID option when sending SMS and enter in a Sender ID. Note that the maximum length of a Sender ID is 11 characters and cannot include spaces. To override the Sender ID with a mobile number - add the country code (61 for Australia), drop the leading zero (0) and enter the remaining digits. For example 61412345678.

When you send the SMS tick the Use Sender ID box when appropriate

These features are all present in the latest version of Front Desk. For assistance with upgrading please submit a support case to our helpdesk team using the below link:

For help setting up an SMS account in Front Desk please call our Business Care team on 1800 18 18 20, pressing 2 at the prompt.

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