Dos and Don’ts of Patient Recall Methods

Patient recall is an important part of ongoing care management and patient retention. Successfully managing this is essential to both the business of a medical practice, and also its mission, since continued patient engagement and well-being are directly tied to treatment compliance and patient accountability. With all of the ways that this can affect your healthcare practice, it is important for providers to understand the best practices and common pitfalls that can affect patient retention.

The “Dos”

There’s a fairly short list of features that you “do” want your recall strategies to adhere to:

  • They should be reliable and you should be able to track their delivery to ensure they reach patients.
  • Messages need to be timely, and this includes both reaching the patient well in advance of the appointment and being responsive to the patient’s scheduling needs.
  • The volume of messages should be adjustable, to avoid overburdening staff and to keep the office organized.
  • Patients should find the system accessible and easy to use.

All of these basic principles come together into one idea, and that is that the recalls that most successfully bring patients in for appointments, screenings, and follow-ups are the ones that make the process of appointment-setting flexible and that clearly communicate with the patient in a timely way.

The “Don’ts”

There are a variety of strategies that can meet the best practices above, but that nevertheless turn out to be less effective than they could be for your practice. Avoiding this list of “don’t” features can help you to select the best combination of recall strategies for your practice. Generally, don’t:

  • Invest in a system that becomes more costly with increased use
  • Relinquish control over the spacing or timing of recalls
  • Overburden staff by creating a situation where responding to recalls distracts from other duties
  • Use methods that can not be easily assessed for effectiveness.

What This Means

To put this all together, what this means is that healthcare professionals will do best when they can develop a strategy that is easy to control and customize. Using mailed postcards and pre-appointing scheduling exclusively can create a situation where patients have trouble fitting their treatment to the rest of their schedule. While they are traditional methods and at one time they were the best methods, new automated calling systems can better manage patient contact and scheduling can allow you to space your calls, to time them to the times of day that patients are most responsive, and to provide them with easy-to-access methods for setting or changing appointments. Best of all, automated systems come with strong record-keeping features that make tracking their effectiveness over time easier, and that can help you make the adjustments that help your patients access the care they need in the ways that fit them best.

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