Benefits of Targeted Appointment Recall

     Diligent patient recall is of vital importance at almost any time, but is especially relevant during a weak economy when the lifeblood of a practice depends on effective practice management.  Increasing the number of patients that return for appointments with limited practice resources is not only important for maintaining practice volume, but is also necessary for proper follow-up care for patients who need careful monitoring to maintain their health.

     From a cost perspective, marketing and attracting new patients is desirable but expensive.   Because it increases patient volume and replaces patients who are lost because of natural attrition, but maintaining a practice base with effective recall is of greater value.  A successful practice retains between 70 to 80% of patients for recall.  Methods for recall need to be constantly updated and adjusted to maintain effectiveness of recall.

     An effective method of recall involves scheduling patients ahead of time, even when the appointment is in the far distant.  This technique involves scheduling patients for their next exam at the conclusion of their current visit.  Patients who have appointments targeted for a future date are more likely to return, and it becomes more efficient to manage scheduling under these circumstances.

Front Office Personnel

It is important that your front office scheduler understand the importance of targeted recall.  Make sure that your front office person knows how to briefly explain target recall to patients.  Your front office personnel should also be able to explain to patients the importance of regular examinations to patients.  A simple “just for an annual exam” is not sufficient reason for many patients.  Give your secretary a written script that explains reasons for different categories of patients.  For example, an annual exam could be “to monitor for any changes in your overall health including blood pressure, heart, or cholesterol.”  Patients respond to personalized reasons for targeted recall.  Patients are accepting when your front office person says, “We will reserve your appointment for the first week of next year.  We will automatically remind you when that time comes so we can change it if necessary.”  The key if for your office staff to select the target date since most patients have no idea what they will be doing next year let alone next week.

Maintaining Target Recall

     The next step for your office staff is to contact targeted appointment recall in a timely manner.  This gives your office a chance to confirm an appointment and if necessary, reschedule for a different time.  Minimizing no-shows is an important aspect of successful management because of significant loss of revenue from these cases.   Penalizing patients by charging a no-show fee is advocated by many practice management consultants.  However, no-show fees, especially for what a patient perceives as a legitimate excuse, may create ill will and lost patients.  Chronic no-show patients are another matter.  These patients detract from your practice.  Your practice efficiency and revenue stream may be significantly impacted by a large number of patients who do not take their appointments seriously and consistently miss appointments.  You have two practical choices with such patients; either dismiss them with a friendly but firm termination letter that is approved by your liability carrier, or offer to only see them depending on your availability on the same day they make their appointment.


Automated Database Management

     Organized management systems that manipulate your database in a controlled manner are the key to successful patient recall.  This may consist of postcards that are completed by the patient or office staff at the time of a current appointment, and then cataloged according to the month prior to the patient is destined to return to your office.  Postcards are most effective when sent a month prior to their targeted visit.  Postcard recall systems have been the mainstay of many practices over many years.  But highly effective and user-friendly recall management systems are now computer-based.

     A database program may be setup to print a monthly report for patients scheduled for upcoming examinations.  The program may list patients and their addresses for label printing, or used by office staff for labeling postcards.  Labor and cost for postcard reminders is considerable.  The cost of postage, printing, and labor, for the postcard system of recall is about $1.25 for each postcard.


     Modern recall systems take advantage of email communication and text messaging.  Sending recall reminders by email is a highly effective method for appointment recall since there are no postage, printing, and minimal labor costs.  A computer-based system for recall may also keep track of recall rates, recall compliance, and no-show patients.  Additionally, a computer-based systems that send electronic messages to patients may also document recall attempts for medical-legal purposes.

Team Effort

     It is essential that the office staff understand the importance of recall.  Proper recall is necessary to retain patient flow, and maintain to maintain the health and viability of your patients.  Additionally, practices need an easy and formal way of documenting recall for medical-legal protection.  Practices implementing effective recall methods add significant value to their operation.