Keeping your practice running smoothly and providing an excellent patient experience is a constant challenge. Bringing patients into the office on a regular basis has a meaningful impact on their health outcomes, but getting them to book and keep appointments can sometimes be complicated. Taking steps to ensure your patients are visiting your practice as often as they should requires setting up effective recall & reminder systems to let patients know it’s time for them to have their annual check-up, or receive follow-up care.
A healthy database
So who needs an appointment, and how can you keep track of recalls and reminders for each patient?
Recall visits are generally based on test results. Any abnormal or clinically significant result from an x-ray, blood test, biopsy, bowel or cervical screen should automatically trigger a recall notice.
Reminder visits can be as simple as flagging a yearly physical, but are also relevant regarding vaccines and other preventative medicine, chronic condition management, and regular health care and medication reviews.
This is one place where technology can help. Ideally, your patient database should actively identify and flag patients who are due for a visit. Your system may then automatically generate a list for reminder letters or recall cards as well as displaying on-screen reminders to help staff during patient phone calls.
A reliable notification system
Once you have a system in place to identify who needs a recall or reminder, you need a reliable way to get the message out. Building redundancy into your notifications is the best way to make sure that nobody gets overlooked. It gives patients multiple chances to book necessary appointments, and then safeguards your schedule by reminding them of those appointments, which leads to a decrease in missed visits.
Phone calls, letters, and SMS notifications all have their place, and simple recall postcards and appointment cards are a cost-effective way to give your patients a nudge towards the office. Work out a specific agenda of recalls and reminders, and make sure your administrators follow through every time. You may wish to begin with a letter, check in with a phone call, and then send a final reminder card or text message just before the visit to confirm.
Beyond the obvious health benefits of encouraging regular visits, setting up smart recall and reminder systems can have the added advantage of streamlining your schedule. There are so many factors that go into improving patient satisfaction, but reducing wait times will always be close to the top of the list. Minimizing the amount of time each patient spends in the waiting room requires a well-organized schedule with just enough flexibility to respond to unexpected events. Appointment scheduling is both an art and a science. Getting it right means knowing your patient base and designing effective organizational and notification systems to make the booking process easier for everyone.