Marketing

Automated Recall Drives Practice Growth

By Rajeev K. Raghu, OD, FAAO

An effective recall system is a lifeline to practice success. Automated recall notices can keep your exam chairs filled.

ROB Bottom Line
Patient Recall

Rajeev K. Raghu
owner of The Eye Center in Jackson, NJ,
a two-doctor practice

Annual Patient Visits
3,400

Annual Examinations
2,400

Annual Follow-Up Visits

1,000

Average Patient
$300 per visit

Goal

10 more patients per month (one more patient every other day)

=$36,000

minus $9,000 in staff time and automated recall technology

Total: $27,000 more per year in revenues

The more patients you see per day the more revenues you generate for your practice. Patients returning for care is the lifeblood of any practice. Make sure you are effective and efficient in getting patients to return. Reminding patients to schedule future appointments and then reminding them to make it to their pre-appointed office visit is the first step to getting more patients in your chair everyday.

For years the only recall tools available to doctors were paper postcards and the time and effort of a staff member who would call each patient to remind them of their appointment. Electronic health records, practice management software and other technology now allow for automated recall messages that can boost your annual revenues by as much as $27,000 annually.

Recall More Patients, See More Patients and Revenues

If an average patient generates $300 in revenue and you can get 10 more patients a month (one more patient every other day) that is $36,000 more a year!

Editor’s Note: A patient having a comprehensive eye exam, on average, generates $306 in revenue for the practice, according to the Management & Business Academy.

Six Hours of Weekly Staff Time and $9,000

Using traditional recall postcards only is an obsolete methodology. We use our staff to pre-appoint patients at check-out and also to send postcards out to remind patients of their pre-appointed exam. This consumes about six hours per week of staff time. Once a quarter staff will make blind phone calls to past years’ patients–those who haven’t been in to see us in two years or more–in an effort to reactivate them.

The system we use is Smile Reminder, a patient messaging vendor that links into our new Crystal Practice Management electronic health record system and sends reminder e-mail and text messages. All logistics between Smile Reminder and Crystal are automated.

Smile Reminder costs us $3,000 annually and the cost associated with staff time may be another $2,500. Postcards and postage is another $3,500.

Implement Effective Recall

STEP 1: Patient fills out retail postcard when in the office waiting for an exam.

STEP 2: Doctor assigns recall date.

STEP 3: Staff and patient agree on date at checkout.

STEP 4: Send postcard one month before exam as reminder.

STEP 5:Send text/e-mail message two weeks before exam as reminder.

STEP 6: Send text/e-mail message three days before exam as reminder.

STEP 7: Staff member calls two days before exam as reminder.

STEP 8: If the patient did not come in, send e-mail message at one month.

Forty Percent of Patients Successfully Recalled

During our best month last year, 55 percent of patients pre-appointed for annual examination and follow-up office visits were successfully recalled. When I refer to “recall,” I mean the number or percentage of patients from last year who come back for their annual examination. In our profession, when reminder postcards are used, the recall rate is close to 25-30 percent. So, 55 percent of patients from 2010 came back for their annual examination in 2011. Our practice goal is for this percentage of patients successfully recalled to reach at least 65 percent.

Editor’s Note: Forty-eight percent of participants in a recent Management & Business Academy survey reported that their practice routinely pre-appoints patients for their next exam at the conclusion of comprehensive examinations. Seventy-six percent of respondents said their practice routinely telephones patients due for an eye exam to book appointments or confirm pre-appointments.

Implement Multidimensional Recall

Our recall system is multidimensional. At check in we start with a handwritten (patient fills this out) postcard at the day of appointment. At check-out we pre-appoint every patient for their next annual eye examination. We then send the postcard one month out and send text and e-mail messages two weeks out, and last, three days prior to the appointment. If we are not able to receive confirmation with all those messages, then two days prior to the appointment one of our staff members personally calls the patient . Once the patient has confirmed the appointment, an e-mail and text message is sent telling the patient that their appointment has been confirmed. If the patient does not come in for the appointment we confirmed with them, we send a one-month post-missed appointment e-mail recalling them.

Successfully Manage Patient Recall

Implement an organized, goal-oriented plan to make patient recall work for your practice. You can do this in five essential steps.

1. Track how many patients return for their annual eye examination per year.

2. Set a new goal (i.e. 50 percent returning) and implement new systems of recall.

3. E-mail can easily be trashed or end up in a spam folder, so consider also sending text messages.

4. Consider a phone recall service such as 6Calls or DATAppointment for more personalized messages to patients.

5. Keep tracking, keep tracking, keep tracking each month and then for the year overall to prove your recall approach is really working.

Related ROB Articles and Multimedia
Having a Strong Recall Program
Combine EHR System and Recall Software to Make Patient Recall More Effective
Practice Reminders Drive Patient Recall

Rajeev K. Raghu, OD, FAAO, is the owner of The Eye Center at Jackson in Jackson, NJ. To contact him: drraghu@theeyecenteratjackson.com.

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