What are the terms we use when talking about following up with our patients? Do they mean the same thing? If not, what makes them different? Below is a list of all the terms we use when we talk about patient follow ups:
- Patient retention
- Check up
- Continued treatment planning
- Appointment reminders
Follow-ups are difficult in most cases because there is no system. Reporting can be time consuming and following a standard 6-10 pre-appointment follow-ups takes up valuable time. Let's focus on some solutions for these problems.
Business Management and KPI's
If you aren't already using a business management tool you should ASAP! You shouldn't be spending lots of time printing and sifting through reports when you could use live reporting that can easily be viewed online. This tool is needed for efficiency. Most softwares like this will sync with your current practice management system. This boosts efficiency because you don't need to enter information twice. It's all right there automatically. Then, you can go in and review the data. You can even sort it by patient value or last completed appointment date.
Based on the filters you use, you'll create a task list. One for reaching out and one for following up/appointment reminders.
Task lists are another great policy you should be implementing. There are automated task list tools that can help you implement this effectively.
An automated task list is something your entire office can benefit from for multiple daily tasks and specific projects. An automated task list or task management system will lay out everything that needs to be done, show who has completed what, and remind you of the things that are needing to be done.n
This brings clarity to what's happening in the practice overall. Everyone can see what needs to be completed and what needs to be worked on...which keeps your practice running smoothly and consistently.
Part of being efficient in task management is learning how to prioritize. In your task management system, you can rate tasks by priority level. You can also rate which follow ups are a priority. You could base this off of collection opportunity, when their insurance is changing, or when they were last in. These are just a few examples of how you can streamline your tasks.
Follow Up Automation
One of the tasks should be setting up and monitoring your automated follow ups. What's great about automated follow ups is that they're instant and can go through multiple channels. Cross-channel marketing includes a mix of direct mail (postcards), social media, email marketing, and phone calls. These are all channels you can have automated to remind your patients of their appointment.
If you can easily have an automated email, text or voicemail go out, why not do all 3? Or more? Being pro-active with reminders for your pre-appointed patients will save you the time of trying to fill broken or un-appointed patients. If it's automated, it'll save you even more time!
Find out what works by tracking it in your KPI's. Ask your customers when you pre-appoint them how they prefer to be reminded. Note specifics and track them to see if there is a majority of patients who have a contact preference method. If there is, make a point to always use it.
Monitor your automated messages. If someone has confirmed their appointment, you'll want to change your reminder messages to something more fitting. For example going from "you have an appointment coming up please call to confirm" to "we are excited to see you Friday the 23rd." Changing the tone makes it feel human...even though it's automated.
You can even send a message to a patient who misses their appointment with an available time slot and give them an opportunity to re-book. This puts the ball in their court and allows them to pick when they're free to come. If this doesn't work, you can always follow up with them.
Automation doesn't only mean computers. Having a strict time management schedule causes a kind of automation for you. If you know that at 10:30am everyday you will be working on patient follow ups, you'll no longer need a reminder to do it. It will become automatic!
This flows into filling appointments as well. If you have a constant list you are working on for 30 minutes everyday, it will no longer be this massive and daunting task that no one has time for or wants to do. I think often when people say they don't have time for something, what they mean is capacity. Consistency is also a form of automation. Being consistent with follow ups and filling your schedule will bring more results and reduce our stress. Consistency-automation broadens your capacity by allowing your mind to rest in a rhythm and giving you more "thinking space." See our blog on scheduling coordinators for more.
The benefits of automating your patient recall system is that it provides better service. Your service will become more consistent, and personal with your patients if you use automation correctly. Customer satisfaction boosts patient referrals and word-of-mouth. So, now you've not only have your current customers back in the door successfully, you've also grown your business by using recall task automation!