When you make an appointment, how likely are you to keep it?

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The acts of making and attending a doctor’s appointment are becoming disconnected in today’s world.  Most of us have good intentions, but sometimes life gets the best of us.  That appointment we made 2 months ago for 4pm tomorrow now conflicts with our kid’s soccer practice, volunteer work, work trip, meeting that we feel is now WAY more important. Or we ACTUALLY FORGOT, even though they emailed and texted us 2 days ago to remind us. Whatever the reason no-shows happen all the time!

So, how can we change this behavior? How do we keep the appointment and intention connected, how do we keep the Patient engaged in our practice?  The answer may very well be as simple as using good customer service to create senses of responsibility and loyalty in our patients.  Putting effort into making personalized reminder calls, or taking notes to remember specific things about patient’s personalities/likes/activities.

Here’s the case for having a staff member conduct personalized phone calls reminding patients to attend their appointments. A recent study by the American News Medical Journal “suggests that patients may be more likely to show up for their appointments if they get a telephone call from the office — a call from an actual person, not a machine. Approximately 23.1% of patients who received no reminder call missed their appointments. The number went down to 17.3% if patients were contacted by the HouseCalls automated appointment reminder system offered by TeleVox Software Inc. in Mobile, Ala., the system used for the study. But the no-show figure went down further to almost 13.6% if an actual staff member made the call.”

A few reasons for the decrease in no-shows are patients feel more responsibility when speaking to another human being additionally it allows them to not only speak up and say they can’t make the appointment but immediately schedule another one instead of just canceling.

Perhaps your staff is too busy to make personalized phone calls, there are other ways to create good customer service or invoke a feeling of loyalty. Upon meeting with your patients be sure to engage with them personally, ask them what they are doing for the weekend or comment on a sports team shirt they are wearing and then make a note in their file to remember for next time.  I can recall bringing one of my younger children to the doctor’s office with me for one appointment and the staff have never forgotten.  To this day when I have an appointment they ask me how she’s doing and it keeps that connection and sense of loyalty going. As a doctor or staff member you only have a few moments to engage with the patient while they are in the office, so make the most of them to invoke a connection

In our hurried society of flat communication, it’s nice to talk to people who recognize us, who greet us warmly, and who show good intentions toward us.  Treat your patients as you would want to be treated.

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