Article Date: 11/1/2000

It's time for Mr. Smith's annual eye health examination. What method does your office use to remind him to make an appointment?

         No reminder, he'll return when his glasses break or when he notices visual changes.

         Postcard reminder to call the office for an appointment.

         "If you will it, they'll come."

         A follow-up phone call near appointment time as an adjunct to preappointment.

If your office doesn't preappoint patients, you're slighting yourself, and I'll tell you why.

Surefire method

I believe preappointment is the recall method of choice for assessing patients' eye health and for a successful practice. This highly effective practice management tool will allow you to better serve your patient's visual needs on a regular, prescribed basis. Preappointing will also help your practice grow and will professionally demonstrate your concern for your patients' visual well-being.

The late G.N. Getman, O.D., wrote, "Your patients don't care that you know until they know that you care."

Recall rate statistics

Statistics from a Harriet Stein practice management seminar indicate that the success rate of traditional postcard reminders yields an average effective recall rate of 5%. That is, for every 100 postcards your office mails, five patients will respond.

I've had a much higher return rate with preappointing, which is why I think it's the best recall method. Based on my personal experience with preappointing patients, I can expect a minimum recall rate of 50% to 65%. We track our success by tallying the number of preappointments or changed appointments and dividing that by the number of patients we reach by telephone.

Try it out yourself

You, too, can achieve great preappointment recall rates, but to do so, both you and your staff must agree that regular, scheduled vision care is crucial to proper patient care. Then you can move on to implementing this method. The following explains how my office goes about doing this.

Implementing preappointing

After a patient's exam, once I've made all the necessary recommendations and have answered all of his questions, I look the patient in the eyes and say, "It's important that I see you in a year. It doesn't mean that your prescription will need changing, but you can get your favorite glaucoma test (the patient usually smiles at this). I'll look inside your eyes and make sure everything's going smoothly."

Invariably, the patient nods affirmatively and says, "Okay."

If he's a new patient, the computer generates a welcome letter, which includes the date and time of his next appointment. To meet annual insurance carrier requirements and to keep the appointment the same day of week, simply add 6 days to the current exam date (for example, if his appointment was Tuesday, June 1, then add six to get Tuesday, June 7, for next year's date).

Four weeks before the recall date, the computer generates a reminder letter by batch to the patient restating the importance of the annual eye health examination and reminding him of the date and time of his scheduled appointment.

The letter requests that the patient call the office to reschedule if the preappointed time isn't convenient. It also explains that if we don't hear from the patient, our receptionist will call in a week to confirm that no changes need to be made.

Only when the appointment is accepted or changed is it added to the appointment book. All appointments are confirmed the day before an appointment with a phone call.

Warning:

Use of preappointing will have a profound positive result in appreciative patients and a robust practice. Are you willing to accept these results?

Dr. Giannone is in solo practice and provides general and behavioral optometric services. You can e-mail him at rucnok2@hotmail.com.



Optometric Management, Issue: November 2000