Whether you want your patients to schedule another appointment, or you are simply looking for their opinion regarding their visits, reaching out shows that you truly care and are invested in their health–thus assuring them that they are in good hands. Even when there is no change in a patient’s care, he or she will be comforted to know that you show interest in their experience. In following up, you can:
- See how treatment is going for the patient
- Make sure he or she is following prescription directions correctly
- Clear up any of the patient’s misunderstandings
- Gauge overall satisfaction with your care
There are countless ways to follow up with a patient. To guarantee a follow-up appointment, it is most convenient for both you and the patient to schedule their next visit as they leave, and to be sure there is a reminder system set in place.
As for reminders and follow-up inquiries, patient preference varies. If your office intends on sending text messages or emails, make sure the patient consents to receiving information that way. A text message or email that is interpreted as intrusive may deter a patient away from communicating with you.
Consider the following methods to decide which means of following up is best for you and your patients.
Mailed questionnaires and reminders: Your patients may prefer a tangible reminder of their next appointment, or a questionnaire on paper. This gives them ample time to look it over, and they can respond on their own accord. However, for convenience’s sake, a patient may not want to fill out a form and mail it back. Some may prefer to do that electronically or in-office. It’s also important to consider cost. It may not make sense for your office to pay for mail that doesn’t guarantee a response.
Telephone calls: Old-fashioned phone calls may be of good use for checking in on patients, since it is quick, timely, and personal. If you do use this method, make sure to ask each patient to provide blocks of time where they are most reachable by phone, since calls have the potential to seem disruptive. If you don’t use the phone as a means of contacting your patients, it may be useful in a case where a patient has not returned previous follow-up requests.
Automated phone call: These are extremely convenient (not to mention cost-effective) for appointment reminders and other announcements, such as for flu season. However, they run the risk of seeming offensive and impersonal to your patients.
Text message and email: Extremely cost-effective and timely, these messages are ideal for those patients who are looking to instantly reply to a follow-up inquiry. They give patients control in regards to response time, and can be easily organized in your contact system. This method may be preferred by busier patients, but for others, it could appear to be disruptive.
It may be ideal to follow up with a patient any time their care plan changes or when entering different stages of care, such as when they are prescribed a new medication, or after laboratory testing. In properly managing patient follow up, you can better assess your own care, and see if there is room for adjustment or improvement.
What do you notice yields the best response from your patients? Comment below!