The financial health of your medical practice depends as much on attracting new patients as it does on retaining a significant portion of your patient base. But reconnecting with patients who have fallen off the radar can be a challenge for medical practices that are working with limited time and resources. Here are four steps your practice can take to re-engage inactive patients and secure ongoing therapeutic relationships.
- Stay in touch
The best way to stay connected with patients throughout the year, even in times when they may not need acute or ongoing care, is to remind them that your practice is there to safeguard their health and wellness. Send periodic newsletters that outline the unique services that your practice offers, staff additions and achievements, and the availability of any innovative treatments or procedures. If your practice uses a patient portal, the monthly or quarterly newsletters should remind patients that signing up for the portal is a good way to get in touch with physicians and staff and receive prompt attention. Email, text, and postcard reminders should also be part of any practice’s toolbox for patient engagement.
- Personalize care
Most practices will encounter “noncompliant” patients. In addition to describing patients who choose not to follow the recommendations of their care team, this term has been applied to those who do not follow-up with their providers or repeatedly cancel appointments. Identifying potential obstacles to patients’ adherence to care plans is a key step toward reaching patients and helping them stay engaged in their own healthcare. Follow-up with noncompliant patients and let them know that your team can develop individualized treatment plans that address issues such as social determinants of healthcare and economic considerations. If patients are willing to discuss their challenges, personalize therapies to meet their needs and direct them to community resources that may provide help or guidance.
- Explain risks and benefits
When patients fail to respond to follow-up calls despite your team’s best efforts and avoid face-to-face dialogue, an “at-risk letter” can remind patients about their responsibilities and encourage them to assume a more active role in their own care. Letters should identify any noncompliant behaviors, list the benefits of following treatment plans and the potential risks of nonadherence, and provide a plan that can help patients get back on track. Tailor the content of the letter to each individual case. This strategy can help to get patients back on track while also reducing the risk of a negligence claim against your practice.
- Enlist the help of other professionals
While practices may lose revenues because of discontinuation of care and collection balances associated with inactive patients, the staff seldom has the time and resources to make monthly phone calls to all inactive patients. Your practice can save time and reduce overhead expenses by enlisting the help of HIPAA-certified professional care coordinators. If outside care coordinators receive remote access to your system, they can find the prespecified inactive patients in your database and make follow-up calls from your office number. Patients can be scheduled directly into your software or receive voicemails reminding them to call your direct number. “The goal is not to message everyone, which is what you are likely doing now,” said Jason James of Get Alpha. “It’s to land only the ones you want back in your practice and [who are] paying you for your services, which, in reality, requires a high-volume of phone calls. It’s like having that one ‘dream staff’ whose only responsibility is to make you more money.”