Increase Appointments with Patient Recall Programs
Recare, recall, reactivation, outreach—whatever you choose to call it, investing time and effort into a patient recare strategy is much more than just a good idea—it’s an absolute necessity. Even if your practice only has several hundred dormant accounts, that is significant revenue being lost every month. Attracting new patients to fill those empty spots takes a lot of time and money. In fact, studies show it costs five times more to attract a new patient than it does to keep an existing one.
Many practices already have a recare program in place, but it is too time-consuming or difficult to maintain to do the practice (or the patients) any good. With these five easy tips, you can create a recare program that keeps patients returning to your office and your revenue going up.
- Use an automated system. You shouldn’t spend more than 30 minutes a day on your recare activities. Patient relationship management (PRM) software will allow you to automate much of the time-consuming and tedious task of recare. No more wasted time making phone calls that are never answered or addressing postcards that are likely to end up in the trash. An automated system will ensure every patient who is due to be seen is contacted with a recare message.
- Identify needed recare. Your PRM software will help you identify patients who are overdue for regular appointments or have unfinished treatment. However, it’s important to remember that each patient should be treated as an individual, and the same care plan may not be right for every patient.
- Track and overcome objections. When a patient doesn’t follow up with their prescribed treatment, you need to take the time to uncover what is happening behind the scenes. Maybe they lost their insurance, they have a busy schedule with little free time, the treatment is more than they can afford, or they are just nervous. Sending a survey is a quick and easy way to learn why patients haven’t returned to your office, and how you can help them better manage their health.
- Contact patients with purpose. Recare messages should be focused on your concern for the patients’ well-being, not on your desire for more revenue. This will be more likely to motivate them to make an appointment. Make sure your PRM software gives you the ability to customize your messages. Personalized communication makes patients feel more significant to your practice and can go a long way in improving the patient experience as well as your retention rate.
- Recare through ongoing education. Newsletters have been proven to be an effective way to build stronger patient relationships, increase loyalty, and obtain quality patient referrals. If you’re not sending patient newsletters, you are overlooking a valuable tool to reconnect with patients. Consider the types of information your patients will be interested in reading and involves them in their own healthcare. Patients are more likely to follow-up on their treatment plans if they received encouragement and coaching between visits. The best way to do this is through ongoing education.
Developing a successful recare program is one of the most important systems you can organize in your practice. For more tips to reactivate patients, download our checklist.
Personalized Appointment Reminders
Appointment reminders are a common practice in almost every healthcare facility. After all, if a patient has scheduled an appointment, you want to do everything you can to make sure they show up for it, right? Unfortunately, many practices are still using the old-school methods to remind patients of their appointments. This means a member of the staff is usually tied to a phone making calls that are rarely answered, or addressing postcards and wasting stamps on mail that will likely end up in the trash can.
Just like with an effective recare program, the key is to automate as many of these tasks as possible. Some healthcare providers are hesitant to let their PRM software automate appointment reminders because they fear they will lose the personalization. But in reality, automation can provide a more personal experience for patients. Patient communication isn’t one-size-fits-all. Each patient will have different needs and abilities, and automated appointment reminders can factor in every patient’s unique preferences.
The most effective reminders will be sent to patients in the way they want to receive them. Without automation, every patient receives a phone call or a postcard, but is that really how every patient wants to hear from their provider? Our research says no. Some patients may prefer a phone call, but the majority of them want their reminders digitally, through a text message or an email. PRM software can keep track of each patient’s communication preferences, and send reminder messages through the preferred channel.
Although these reminders are automated, they still contain all the personalization that comes with a staff member making phone calls. The reminder will list the patient’s name, appointment date and time, who the patient is seeing, and the location of your practice. And patients can respond right away to confirm their appointment or let you know they will need to reschedule.
Appointment reminders make sure patients don’t forget their appointments, which is great. But what about when patients need to follow special instructions beforehand? Some procedures require patients to fast for a period of time, or bring something (like their medication, a retainer, or their eye glasses) with them. You’ve already done the hard part of getting patients on the schedule for their follow-up care; you don’t want to have to reschedule an appointment at the last minute because they weren’t prepared.
Because these instructions are different based on the type of appointment scheduled, they can’t just be added to every appointment reminder. You want to be sure each patient is prepared for their appointment, but your staff could waste hours of time each day calling patients to remind them of all these extras, erasing the convenience automation gave you in the first place.
With PRM software, you can add dynamic messages to your appointment reminders. These messages will let you insert a specific message in the reminder your patient is already receiving based on the type of appointment scheduled. Without spending any additional time on the phone, you can make sure patients not only remember their appointments, but they remember to come prepared.
Download our checklist for six steps to creating the perfect appointment reminder here.
Taking Advantage of a Waitlist
There are few things as frustrating as a patient who doesn’t show up for their appointment, or cancels at the last minute. But in the busy culture we live in, last-minute cancellations are bound to happen. Using effective appointment reminders means it’s more likely that patients will contact you if they can’t make it to their appointment. While that can be a hiccup in your otherwise smooth schedule, those last-minute cancellations don’t have be troublesome if you have a system in place for filling the openings.
One of the biggest complaints from patients is the wait time to get an appointment. With a few simple steps, a waitlist can improve the patient experience and increase the number of kept appointments in your practice.
- Create the list. When a patient schedules an appointment, ask if they’d like to be notified if an earlier appointment becomes available. Make sure you have their contact information on file, and let them know you’ve added them to the waitlist.
- Manage the list. Assign a staff member to be in charge of updating the list every morning. Remove patients who have been seen and ensure the necessary information for all patients on the list is available.
- Take advantage of it. When a patient lets you know they need to cancel their appointment, use the information on your waitlist to replace it. Send a group message to all the patients on the waitlist with the date and time of the appointment, as well as instructions for the patient if they would like to claim the opening. You’ll have that appointment filled in no time.
It really is that easy. Your patients will appreciate your willingness to try to get them in sooner, and you’ll see increased loyalty. The best part is you won’t be losing any revenue from those last-minute cancellations. It’s a win for everybody.
Looking for more tips to keep your schedule full? Check out our blog post here.
Educating Patients on the Importance of Recare
We’ve already talked about how every patient is different and will want to hear from your practice in a different way. But one thing they all have in common is their desire to be educated about their healthcare. Studies show 72 percent of patients look online for healthcare information. We all know how easy it can be to do a quick internet search of our symptoms when we aren’t feeling well. And thanks to Dr. Google, we can incorrectly self-diagnose our symptoms or make assumptions about the necessity of follow-up care.
Patients are already looking online for their healthcare information, so why not make it easy for them. Creating an effective patient education program can not only lead to better outcomes for your patients, but increased loyalty and more appointments scheduled at your office. But how do you decide which messages are most impactful and how often you should reach out?
There is a fine line between providing helpful material to your patients and blasting out irrelevant information. The key to a successful education program and gaining more appointments is personalizing your communication and creating a message your patients will actually respond to.
The easiest way you can create helpful educational material is to segment your patient population based on similar characteristics. These groups can be created based on:
- Treatment plan
- Any other demographic information you have
Creating groups like this allows you to tailor the content sent to each patient, ensuring relevant information is delivered right to their inbox. You patients will begin seeing better outcomes because they are getting accurate information without having to search the internet for it. You can emphasize the need for patients to keep up with their recommended treatment plans, give them signs that indicate a trip to your office is necessary, and let them know how they can contact you to schedule the appointment.
Once you’ve decided on the content and recipients of your educational materials, you need to think about how often you send them. Even if every piece of content is targeted perfectly, you still don’t want to send so many messages that your patients feel overwhelmed. In addition to the educational information, your practice is likely sending a variety of other messages too, such as appointment reminders, recall messages, surveys, notifications about changes to your office hours or location, or information about an event you are hosting. If you aren’t careful, patients will feel like they are getting bombarded with communication from your practice, and stop opening your messages altogether.
Choose PRM software that can help you manage how often each patient receives a message from you. You want to be able to decide how much time will pass between messages from your office so patients don’t feel overloaded, but also so you can build stronger relationships with your patients over a long period of time. Most patients are only coming to your office a few times a year, if that. By sending messages at scheduled intervals between their appointments, you keep your practice at the front of your patients’ minds, and build their trust in you as a provider. So when it’s time for them to schedule their recare appointment, they don’t have to think twice about where they will schedule or who they want to see.
For more tips create a great healthcare education program, download our guide here.
Online Scheduling Increases Recall
Appointment scheduling can be a pain for practices and patients alike. In many offices, scheduling is still done manually through a combination of phone calls, spreadsheets, electronic scheduling tools, and in some cases even paper, that don’t provide full visibility for administrative staff or patients.
It takes just over eight minutes to schedule an appointment over the phone. For the patient, that’s time on the phone that could be spent doing something more important. In addition, they may need to call back and repeat the process all over again if they need to reschedule. For the practice, eight minutes per call can quickly add up to hours spent on the phone for staff—and that’s in addition to time spent phoning patients for appointment reminders, recalls, and confirmations.
Online scheduling can solve these issues. Patients want the ability to view the provider’s schedule online, at a time that is convenient for them. They want more control over their healthcare, and their expectations of their provider are rising because they are used to the instant technology available when interacting with other businesses and service providers. When patients find a provider who makes things easy and convenient for them, they are more likely to stay loyal, and make and keep their recall appointments.
Online scheduling tools can be quickly set up and configured with minimum effort and training, and the process can fit easily into the existing workflows of your practice. The link for patients to schedule online can be included in many of the resources patients already use, such as:
- Your practice website
- Google searches
- Social media pages
By providing access to the available appointment times and eliminating those long phone calls, the eight-minute scheduling time can be cut down to 30 seconds or less. This is beneficial for your practice too, because it gives your staff the ability to spend less time on the phone and more time face-to-face with patients in your office. And patients who have a great experience all the way through the appointment process, from scheduling to the time in the office to the follow-up afterwards, are less likely to look for another provider when it comes time to schedule their recare appointments.
Interested in more information about online scheduling? Download our guide here.
Patient Surveys Improve the Experience
Your practice has a lot to gain by making sure patients are happy with their healthcare experience. Across all specialties, less than half of patients are completely satisfied with their provider. And it’s more than just the competency of the doctor or the level of care they receive that impacts that satisfaction. Additional factors like practice wait time, interactions with the staff, accessibility to the practice, communication, and ease of scheduling all play a part in how patients feel about their provider. But how do you know how patients feel about your practice? The easiest way is to ask them.
Customizable patient surveys are a powerful tool and can provide the feedback you need to fine-tune the patient experience. The loss of one patient due to their dissatisfaction can lead to $200,000 in lost revenue over the lifetime of your practice. So not only is it important to find out what patients are thinking, but also to incorporate their feedback into your processes to ensure they continue returning to your practice.
Automated tools can help you distribute surveys with minimal effort on your part and eliminate the time spent mailing and reviewing each survey. With PRM software, you can create a survey and have it automatically sent to every patient, or just a specific group of patients. The software will also help you collect and analyze the results, so you can continuously improve your practice.
Effective patient surveys have a few things in common. Follow these tips to ensure your surveys will help you retain your current patients and encourage them to schedule recare appointments.
- Watch the length. The rule of thumb when creating a survey is that it should take less than five minutes to complete. Keep your questions to a reasonable number so your patients will take the time to answer them.
- Focus on one topic. Don’t try to ask everything in one survey. Not only will it increase the length of your survey, patients will feel overwhelmed and will be less likely to answer every question. Decide what information you want to get from your survey, and only ask questions that will provide that information.
- Make it personal. Patients are more likely to click on a link if the message has been personalized. Use PRM software to customize your survey invitation, and send the message via the communication channel each patient prefers.
- Use the information. Review every survey response and be open to changes you can make in your practice to improve the patient experience. Surveys can bring to focus patients who aren’t satisfied with your practice. Take this opportunity to connect with them and address any specific concerns they may have.
- Make updates. The questions you ask should be regularly updated to best reflect what is happening at your practice. If patients receive the same survey every time they visit your practice, they won’t feel like you are listening to their answers and will stop completing the surveys.
Building strong patient relationships is key to ensuring patients return to your practice. For ten steps to create the perfect patient survey, download our checklist here.
Increasing the number of visits in your practice by making processes easier for your staff and improving the patient experience plays a key part in driving your bottom line. When patients receive the needed recare, they see better health outcomes and are more loyal to their providers. Taking the time to build strong patient relationships means more patients will continue to return to your practice.
You can download this guide to take the content with you, or learn how Solutionreach can help your practice schedule more appointments here.