Texting for recalls and preventative health

Scheduling recalls with your existing patients is one of the best ways to keep them healthy, improve goodwill and maintain good cash flow.

Your existing patients or clients are your:

  1. Priority for attention and care
  2. Least expensive appointments to secure
  3. Biggest potential advocates or detractors

Recalls are not for every specialty. They work best for specialties that do a lot of preventative care and routine check ups. When they do apply, they often contribute to quality and  Pay-for-Performance measures. 

You are many times more likely to get an appointment from an existing patient than a new one. As a result, your appointment acquisition cost is better with recalls than general advertising. 

Recalls can substantially increase earnings. Ochsner Health increased revenue by $685,000 by booking preventive screenings for colorectal cancer patients. Exhaust your recall opportunities before devoting a lot of time to other marketing channels.

Texting for patient recalls

The best way to get recalls is for the primary caregiver to request them in person. Physicians do this when they ask their patient to schedule a follow-up in two weeks. Compliance increases in person.

But, as with rating and feedback requests, not every recall will be obtained in person. The caregiver might forget to ask. The patient may not be ready to book a follow-up right away.

In these instances, text messages are a great backup tool to book recalls. They are effective for keeping your patients healthy and schedules full. They are also convenient.

Dr. Keshav Bhat, founder of Union Family Eye Associates, created a patient recall program that greatly increased his appointments.

With a few tweaks, you can follow his best-practices using text messaging.

First, determine a benchmark recall figure for your specialty. What percentage of your patient base should you have seen in the last twelve to twenty-four months? If you are not sure, assume at least 65% within twelve months.

Second, run a report in your EMR/PMS on patients who you have not seen in that same time period. Export this list as a CSV or Excel document to a secure location. Ensure that name, mobile phone number, e-mail and date of last visit are available columns.

Make sure you know your average patient recall time and rate. These figures will help you reach out to your patients at the optimal time for a follow-up. 

You can find out how to calculate your average patient recall time and rate here. Otherwise, we can do it for you.

Third, using a reliable text messaging platform, send one of the following messages to this group. Mark the date that the individual responds in a new column. Once an appointment is scheduled, mark its date in another new column.

  1. [Name], it looks like you are due for your [check-up] with us at [ABC Medical Care]. Would you like to schedule via call or text?
  2. [ABC Medical Care]: [Name], for some reason your [follow-up] wasn’t scheduled. Would you like to schedule via call or text?
  3. [Name], it is time to schedule your [annual wellness visit]/[vaccination]. Would you like to schedule via call or text?
  4. [ABC Medical Care]: your [check-up] is overdue, according to my records. Would you like to schedule via call or text?

Finally, follow-up with each patient two to five times. Ideally, use a combination of text, phone and email. Dr. Bhat provided his staff a small bonus per appointment scheduled. 

He also sent a final letter if patients did not respond after the final follow-up. On your final outreach, place a call or send a letter stating: 

[Name], we have tried to contact you by text and phone to let you know that you are overdue for your continuing care appointment. We can only assume that you are seeking care elsewhere and we want to wish you the very best. If that doesn’t work out for you, you will always be welcome back to our practice with open arms. In the meantime, please let us know where we should send your records so your care may continue uninterrupted.

Texting for patient education and compliance

Texting care-related reminders can be effective for improving care compliance. 

A randomized controlled trial published by Park et al tested text messaging reminders on 90 heart disease patients. They were about 10 percent more likely to take their medications on time and at the right dosage. Texting reminders with supporting education was most effective. 

This finding should not come as a surprise. We already know that patients are more likely to check text messages than emails. Many patients really care about their health. But they need to be reminded often.

Program your text messaging platform with care-related reminders. That way, your patients will receive relevant alerts without you having to remember. Some sample messages, courtesy of Brandon Daniell and the Dialog Health Team, include:

  • Have you weighed yourself today?
  • Are you taking your medication as instructed?
  • Have you completed your knee exercise for 15 minutes today?
  • Have you scheduled your follow-up appointment with us?

Patients may lose printed reminder materials. Text messages, however, will likely be read and retained.

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