Article Date: 2/1/2011

Save Time and Retain Patients
tech time

Save Time and Retain Patients

How can your office benefit from a patient communications system?

Scot Morris, O.D., F.A.A.O.

Where does the time go? I'm referring to the time our staffs spend on the phone confirming appointments — an expensive, yet necessary activity. But what if we could relieve staff members of this duty while impressing patients with our practice's high-tech feel?

Enter patient messaging services: systems that use software, which looks into your database, pulls appointments and then texts, phones or e-mails reminders to patients. Most automatically sync with practice management software without the need for data entry.

These services use 128-bit encryption and meet all HIPAA compliance rules. As most read only from our practice management database, they are virus resistant.

Many of these services allow us to select how we want to communicate with patients: either by text, e-mail or voice. They send confirmations, as well as links to your patients' Outlook or iCal, or even Google maps.

Forget about no-shows

The reality is that most people miss appointments simply because they forget. With messaging services, patients receive timely reminders. The net result is that these services generate income by minimizing missed appointments.

In addition, these messaging services facilitate branding, allowing you to say exactly what you want in the manner you desire. For example, messages can include your logo, mission, photos, maps and links to your practice website.

In most instances, the patient can confirm the appointment electronically — all without using valuable staff time.

Best yet, you can select when messages are sent. We've found that the most effective times to send two-week reminders are at 8:45 a.m. and 1:05 p.m., as people are usually at their desks and in “transition time” — a perfect time to take a minute to confirm or reschedule. Likewise, we send our one-day reminders at 4:30 p.m. for e-mails (when people are still at the office) and 6:30 p.m. for texts (when they're just getting home and starting to plan for the next day).

If you don't pre-appoint, you can use these systems to notify patients that it's time to schedule a visit using any time interval you choose. This is a great way to reactivate “lost” patients, which ultimately improves your bottom line and builds rapport with patients.

Immediate feedback

Also, these services offer customizable electronic surveys, allowing you to track performance by monitoring patient feedback. Patients are brutally honest. Therefore, you can make office changes based on real data, not just on “what you think is wrong.” The net result of these improvements is a high patient retention rate.

Most systems allow you to send customized newsletters, public information, educational pieces, promotional pieces and calendar events, all of which can drive consumers to your practice website. You don't even have to write your own material, as many of the companies offer libraries of pre-written material. These systems can even send patients a birthday wish. Who doesn't like to be acknowledged on their birthday?

If you want to improve your patient retention, office productivity and the level of communication with your patients, consider a patient communication system.

Stay tuned to next month when we discuss how technology can be used in the recruitment process. OM


Optometric Management, Issue: February 2011