The Truth About Patient Recall Notifications:

How data analysis influences communication strategies

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Data Reveals 3 Key Truths about Recall

In order to increase appointment bookings and patient outreach efforts, many healthcare organizations consider sending reminders and notifications of needed treatment (often called recall or recare messages) to their patient base. However, when done manually, it’s taxing, which is why 40 percent of practices that don’t have patient relationship management (PRM) technology in place don’t do any form of recall. Even some with the technology worry their efforts may not be effective. This is because there hasn’t been much data regarding the effectiveness of most commonly used recall strategies—until now.

The problem has been that for important things like the best timing, frequency, and information to include in a recall message, even so-called “best practices” are often established based on gut feeling and anecdotal experiences among individual organizations rather than solid data. Solutionreach analyzed 120 million recall notifications over a 12-month period to provide greater insight into what really works as part of a patient recall communication strategy.

The analysis returned three key “truths” surrounding effective recall outreach. Implementing recall strategies that leverage these truths will give healthcare organizations greater confidence when building and delivering upon patient communication strategies.

What did the data analysis find?

#1 Success happens overnight.

When sending an automated recall message to a patient, how soon should you expect them to respond and schedule an appointment? As with every type of communication, response time will naturally vary from patient to patient. But on an overall level, data analysis shows that the majority of responses to recall outreach (70 percent) come in within 24 hours of the message delivery.

The lag distribution for response shows that an additional 15 percent of responses come in between 24 and 48 hours, and nearly all responses will happen within the first week. In fact, only one percent of responses to recall communications come in after the seven-day mark.

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#2 Weekends are a weakness.

 Weekend communication is often the subject of debate among healthcare providers. While most scheduling offices are closed over the weekend, a large percentage of patients are also not occupied with work hours of their own. Thus, many feel that weekends could be the perfect time to ensure patients attend to recall messages and book the appointments they need.

It’s important to note that analysis here is not whether an appointment was scheduled on a weekend day, but rather that messages sent on these days ultimately resulted in a booking either immediately or days later (i.e., when the office is open again).

The data show that weekends simply do not work. Recall booking success peaks on Tuesday, and dips from that Tuesday peak by 36 percent on Friday. Saturday is down 79 percent from Tuesday, and Sunday performs at an even lower success rate—93 percent worse than the midweek peak.

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#3 Appointment links increase booking rates.

A “best practice” that organizations should consider is including scheduling links within the body of a recall communication. Whether through a text message or an email to a patient, that message can include a link that allows patients to self-schedule their recall appointment.

Data analysis found that messages including a scheduling link are 25 percent more likely to result in a booked appointment. Why are these links effective? One reason is that they remove the obstacle of waiting for a scheduling office to be open for an appointment to be booked. Scheduling can now happen at a patient’s convenience, such as in the evening after business hours or on the weekend. Another reason appointment links work is that they allow for immediate, convenient patient action. Patients can often view appointment openings without needing to speak with the scheduling staff. It’s important to note that this best practice is more efficient for healthcare organizations as well, since staff members spend less time on the phone scheduling these patients.

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How do these findings influence recall strategy?

Based on the truths proven by the data analysis, here are actions that can be taken to maximize automated recall outreach efforts:

  • Be ready to follow-up on outreach with individual patients after one week. Ninety-nine percent of recall outreach response comes in within seven days of the message being sent. That follow-up can be another automated message or manual outreach from staff.
  • Avoid sending recall messages on weekends to maximize response rates. Remember that 70 percent of recall success happens within 24 hours. So deliver those messages at a time when patients can take immediate scheduling action, and let the percentages work in your favor.
  • Include an appointment scheduling link in the automated message. This best practice increases booking rates by allowing patients to further leverage the convenience of an automated message. It creates a more efficient recall scheduling workflow for staff as well.

Conclusion

Recall communication is an extremely important component of both patients’ ongoing care and an organization’s profitability—important enough that gut feelings and anecdotal experiences cannot be trusted to drive communication strategies. These three data-supported truths point to areas that healthcare organizations can optimize in support of improved appointment booking results.