Should doctors follow up with their patients? Short answer: yes. The longer answer has to do with finding ways to provide the best possible care to patients. Follow-up calls are an essential part of any healthcare practice and often have the purpose of setting scheduled appointments.
There are certain professions where customer interactions basically begin and end in-store. Follow-ups are rarely necessary when customers buy a loaf of bread, fuel up a car, or even install a home entertainment system, just for example. Even so, many brands go out of their way to follow up with consumers in order to make sure they had a pleasant experience, and to find ways to improve so that they can encourage ongoing patronage.
As a healthcare professional, your situation is a bit different. You may find that patients only contact you when they are in need, as when they’re experiencing some sort of health anomaly or crisis. Do you really need to contact them between visits? If you want to create a trusting relationship, it’s important that patients know you care.
In truth, you’ll find there are many benefits to follow-ups, not only for patients, but for your practice, as well. Here are just a few reasons why you should always follow up after a patient visit.
Confirm Scheduled Appointments
At the very least, you should follow up with patients to confirm scheduled appointments. Since visits may be scheduled weeks or months in advance, it’s easy for patients to simply forget. With follow-up contact you can confirm scheduled appointments in advance, say a few days beforehand, to ensure that patients remember to show up.
The best part is that for this simple task, you needn’t necessarily add follow-up calls to an already busy schedule. If staff members don’t have the time to call, you can use a service that sends automated calls, emails, or text messages for patients willing to approve such contact. These messages can provide patients with the opportunity to push a button to reply and confirm an appointment, or to reschedule if necessary.
This type of follow-up is beneficial for patients and practices alike. Patients won’t be surprised when they get a call wondering why they’re not at their appointment, and practices will have fewer missed appointments that they don’t get paid for.
It’s not uncommon for patients to need refills on prescription medications, whether they have ongoing health concerns like allergies, asthma, or high blood pressure, or they’re dealing with short-term issues like a lingering cold. If you suspect refills will be needed, you could plan follow-up calls designed to remind patients before they run out, or to check if they actually need a refill.
This service helps you out in a couple of ways. First, it prevents panicked phone calls from patients who run out of needed medications. In addition, however, it adds to the value of the service you provide by increasing convenience and satisfaction for patients. Being proactive where prescription refills and renewals are concerned is a great way to show patients you care, while also reducing the number of proverbial fire drills you have to deal with when patients fail to plan ahead.
You may prescribe any number of at-home treatment regimens to help patients recover from illness or injury, or to improve overall health. If patients come in with flu-like symptoms, they might go home with antibiotics, or at least with prescription medication to alleviate symptoms in the event of a viral infection. Or you might prescribe long-term medications or lifestyle changes to reverse early signs of heart disease, diabetes, and other health concerns.
Following up with patients helps to remind them of what you discussed in the office setting. When patients leave the office, they could easily forget important information they received, especially in stressful scenarios where they’ve just found out they’re facing serious health issues. Follow-up communications can help to reinforce the information you provided in the office setting so that patients follow a prescribed home care regimen to the letter.
These calls also give you the chance to see how treatment is progressing and determine whether patients should proceed on course or if adjustments need to be made. If problems persist, you may want to schedule another appointment, run additional tests, or try a new treatment option. Without speaking to patients, you might not know a patient’s status until something else goes wrong or they come in for their next scheduled visit.
In addition to learning more about how patients are progressing and whether or not prescribed treatments are helping to improve health issues, following up gives you the opportunity to get important feedback. If you want to know whether patients are satisfied, as well as ways you can improve your practice, going right to the source is usually the best solution.
Once you’ve spoken to patients regarding their recent visit, diagnosis, and treatment plan, you could ask a series of targeted questions aimed at improving the customer experience. What if patients don’t feel comfortable giving an honest opinion in person, so to speak? There’s no reason you have to put them on the spot during a phone call.
Instead, you could send an email reiterating the high points of their recent visit, and include a button that takes them to a third-party survey or review site. This way you not only get the feedback you need, but you have the power to choose which reviews get posted for your business. If they’re positive, you can post them to encourage prospective patients, and if they’re negative, you can try to work with patients to rectify problems and improve their overall experience.
There are certain cases in which you’ll want to take the time to call and check in on a patient yourself, but for the most part you’ll be pleased to find that there are services available to manage average follow-up contact for you. This can save a lot of time for both your practice and your patients, reducing potential hassles all around and furthering patient relationships and positive reaction to your services.