By Justin Bazan, OD
Effective recall requires that you create a sense of urgency–and make scheduling convenient. Contact patients 13 months after their last annual examination to remind them that they are overdue for their check-up. Then provide a link for easy self-scheduling.
It is common practice to send patients reminders to schedule their next annual comprehensive examination 11 months after their last annual exam. But my practice does things a little differently. We find that if you wait just over a year after their last exam and can let them know at that point that it’s been more than a year, a sense of urgency is created. The patient seems to think: “Oh, shoot. I’m overdue. I can’t believe it’s been so long since my last check-up.”
We have the results to prove that our approach works: 20 percent of patients recalled made an appointment within a week of receiving our reminder message. Here are some of the other ways we have created an effective recall process.
Immediate Need + Easy Way to Immediately Book
Creating a sense that the patient must act now to make an appointment won’t work unless there is an easy way to book it. We do that by featuring a link in the recall e-mail that the patient just needs to click on to be taken to our online appointment booking page, powered by Genbook. If you don’t include a link to book immediately, then there is a good chance the patient will forget that sense of urgency before getting the chance to make an appointment. For that reason, providing a phone number or simply your web site URL is not enough.
Dr. Bazan posts this ad on the Facebook homepage of patients overdue for annual exams. He uses Facebook’s Custom Audiences tool, which costs him about $1 each time the ad is clicked on.
RESULTS: 56 CLICKS for $46
Recall Patients By Finding Them Where They Reside Online
Many of your patients spend a lot of time on Facebook. That means that in addition to having a frequently updated Facebook page, you should use your patients’ use of Facebook for recall. The way we do that is by using Facebook’s Custom Audiences tool. The technology is available to all Facebook users through the Power Editor tab on each user’s Ad Manager page. The way it works for us is using my electronic record files, I do a search for all patients who are overdue for an annual appointment and then I upload those patients’ e-mail addresses into the Custom Audiences tool. Custom Audiences then searches for all patients in the Facebook database with a matching e-mail address who are current Facebook users and who still live in Brooklyn, NY, where my practice is based.
Patients who meet that criteria then are presented with an ad from my practice on the right-hand column of their Facebook homepage. The ad shows a picture of me sitting in an exam chair with the caption, “Remember this?” This light-hearted rather than scolding message presented exactly to the patients who are overdue for an appointment in a place–their Facebook page–where they are spending a lot of time, works. Like the e-mails that we also send to all overdue patients, the ads feature a link patients can click to be taken to our online appointment booking page.
I am charged about $1 every time a person clicks on my ad.
Stay Top-of-Mind Throughout Year
Recall messages at the point of greatest urgency is key, but another important factor to recall is making it a continuous effort. That means staying at the top of your patient’s mind all year long, not just when it’s time for their next annual exam. We do that by maintaining an active Facebook page that is updated at least once daily with everything from videos and photos to links to my blog entries. I also go into our practice Facebook page every day to comment about other local businesses we are connected to on Facebook. Sometimes I just post a favorite quote or a link to an article I found interesting. The idea is to try to make it into your patients’ Facebook homepage news feed every day–not just with eye health or practice-related news, but with content they may just find entertaining. Once you get into the habit of updating your practice Facebook page everyday, it doesn’t take long. In fact, I estimate that it takes me no longer than 10 minutes a day to update our page.
A patient who sees you, along with your practice name, on their Facebook homepage at least every week, if not a few times a week or more, is less likely than others to forget to book their next annual exam.
A Fun Office Experience Makes Recall More Likely
All of your recall efforts will be for nothing if the patient has a bad memory of their last visit to your office. Giving patients a satisfactory experience isn’t enough. Think of ways to make the experience memorable for patients. For example, we personalize the experience with little touches like having the patient’s favorite station from online radio Pandora playing in the office, with our office environment which often includes the work of local artists and by offering patients favorite refreshments–even beer.
Recognize When a Recall Method Doesn’t Work
Not all of our recall experiments have been successful. For instance, we found recall via text message to be ineffective. Patients let us know through online reviews and through a low response rate, that texting recall didn’t work for them. Some indicated that it felt too intrusive to have an eye doctor sending them text messages about the need to schedule an appointment.
Another problem with texting was the inability for us to provide a direct link to our online booking page. Without the ability to provide them with an immediate way to book an appointment, texting recall was a failure. If I figure out a way to text with the inclusion of a direct link to our online booking, then I may give it another try.
Related ROB Articles
Justin Bazan, OD, owner of Park Slope Eye in Brooklyn, NY, started his own practice cold four years ago. He speaks regularly on strategies for marketing your practice via social networks. To contact him: firstname.lastname@example.org